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There are few dog breeds as well-known as the legendary Greyhound. Known for being the fastest of all the dog breeds, these lean, sinewy creatures also make excellent pets (although they may not be like any other pooch you’ve owned before).
Sadly, though, many racing Greyhounds are mistreated both during and after their careers, so there’s been a recent focus on adopting these dogs and giving them a loving home for their golden years.
Unless you’re a dog racing enthusiast, you may not be familiar with everything this wonderful breed has to offer. In this guide, we fill you in on everything you need to know about Greyhounds — and we promise to be fast about it.
Greyhounds are somewhat unique among dog breeds in that more people tend to adopt adult dogs than puppies. In fact, many people never spend time with Greyhound puppies at all.
That’s a shame because they’re delightful as babies. They’re not nearly as graceful as they are when they’re full-grown athletes, though, so expect them to trip over their own feet while playing.
Adult Greyhounds are known for being sedate most of the time, but puppies don’t seem to have an “off” button. They play and run around non-stop for roughly the first 18 months of their lives, so don’t adopt one if you’re hoping to take things easy.
You’ll need to spend a good amount of those 18 months training and socializing these dogs, as Greyhounds tend to get set in their ways as they age. Any bad behavior that you tolerate in your puppy is something that you’ll likely have to deal with once the dog’s full-grown.
Greyhound puppies are also notoriously destructive, so you’ll need to keep your valuables out of reach. You should try to provide them with plenty of exercise so they have a non-destructive outlet for their excess energy, but know going into the relationship that you’re going to have to deal with damaged valuables at some point.3 Little-Known Facts About Greyhounds
3 Little Known Facts About the Greyhound
1. They have eyes in the backs of their heads.
Well, not literally, but they do have extremely good peripheral vision due to their thin heads and wide-set eyes. This gives them 270° vision, allowing them to see some of what’s going on behind them (humans, meanwhile, have a measly 180° vision).
This certainly came in handy for Greyhounds when they were doing their original jobs, which was chasing rabbits. Rabbits are known for their ability to stop and change directions on a dime, so if you overrun your prey, being able to see where it went will allow you to keep the hunt alive when other dogs would have been forced to quit.
2. Greyhounds don’t like to sit.
No, it’s not because they’re too hyperactive to sit down (far from it, actually). These dogs are little tightly-bound balls of muscle, and it’s actually quite uncomfortable for them to sit the way that many other breeds do.
When they do sit, they usually have their butts hovering a few inches above the ground rather than resting on the floor. If you’re training the dog to sit, don’t punish them for this — recognize that they’re doing their best.
Instead of sitting, most Greyhounds spend some of their time standing and most of their time laying down.
3. They’re fast — really fast.
We’ve already covered the fact that they’re the fastest of all dog breeds, but they’re actually the second-fast land animal — only the cheetah is faster.
Greyhounds can routinely reach speeds over 45 mph, which can get them a speeding ticket in many neighborhoods. However, they’re natural sprinters, so they’re not capable of covering long distances as well as some other dog breeds.
A Brief History of the Greyhound
Many experts believe the Greyhound to be the oldest purebred dog still in existence, as their origins date to at least the time of the Egyptian Pharaohs some 8,000 years ago. In Egypt, their elegant appearance and skill as hunters caused them to be revered as gods, and only royalty was permitted to own them.
That reverence would continue for quite some time and across several cultures. Greyhounds are the only dog breed mentioned by name in the Bible, and they also made appearances in both Greek and Roman mythology. In fact, in “The Odyssey,” Odysseus’s Greyhound, Argus, is the only one to recognize him when he returns home after his long journey.
They maintained their popularity — among the ruling classes, anyway — throughout the Middle Ages. Once again, their skill as hunters made them useful, and owning a Greyhound was seen as a sign of nobility.
That popularity dipped somewhat as coursing began to fall out of favor among the elite. Hunters used guns instead of dogs to hunt rabbits, and what hunting dogs were used were chosen for their ability to flush out and retrieve game rather than run it down.
The Greyhound’s exceptional speed still made them a valuable commodity, though, and they started to be used as racing animals rather than hunting companions. Today, dog racing is still a popular sport worldwide, and Greyhounds continue to be the most commonly-used racing dog. They also make fantastic pets, as more and more regular citizens are learning every year.
Greyhound Racing: Barbaric or Good Clean Fun?
While it’s not quite as commonplace as horseracing, dog racing is still a popular sport all over the world. Given its relative ubiquity, you’d think that it was a sport that’s as fun for the dogs as it is for the spectators.
The truth is different, however. Many racing Greyhounds are abused and neglected, and when not racing, they can be confined to tiny crates for up to 23 hours per day. Most race tracks are as barbaric as puppy mills in this way.
Their diets aren’t exactly high quality, as they’re often fed rancid meat rather than premium cuts. As a result, salmonella poisoning occurs with frightening regularity.
Once they make it to the track, their fortunes don’t often change for the better. Serious injuries are common, and since the primary goal of their owners is to maximize profits, many dogs are euthanized rather than given expensive medical treatment.
That’s not even counting the dogs that are exterminated for the simple crime of losing either. Thousands of Greyhounds die every year as a result of dog racing, and just about every one of those deaths could be avoided. Is all that worth it for a little bit of entertainment?
Should You Adopt a Retired Greyhound?
Given how horrible a racing Greyhound’s life can be, it may be tempting to rescue a former racing dog in order to give them a pampered life in their senior years.
That’s undoubtedly a notable sentiment — but it’s also a decision that shouldn’t be made lightly. The fact is that retired racing Greyhounds have challenges that a puppy won’t.
For one thing, you have no idea what kind of treatment the dog has received in the past. You may trigger them accidentally and cause them to lash out, or you may have to deal with behavioral problems due to their lack of proper love and socialization as puppies.
Also, since most racing Greyhounds were never given the opportunity to play and develop as puppies, they may have a second adolescence if given the chance. Many retired racing dogs exhibit behavior more commonly found in young pups, like destructiveness, excessive playfulness, and nipping.
Finally, most racing Greyhounds have spent their whole lives surrounded by dozens of other dogs. They may not be emotionally equipped to handle being the only dog in the house or being left alone for hours at a time. You may need to adopt several at once if you don’t already have other dogs at home, and few people are prepared to make that big of a sacrifice on behalf of a new dog.
Temperament & Intelligence of the Greyhound 🧠
By nature, Greyhounds are friendly and docile, with little tendency toward aggressiveness. However, they can be slow to warm up to strangers, so don’t expect them to be as warm and outgoing as a Labrador or Golden Retriever.
It should also be noted that if you’re adopting a former racing dog, there’s a decent chance that they’ve suffered some abuse. As a result, you should introduce them to your family and new situations slowly, rather than throwing them right into the middle of a crowded welcome wagon.
They can be incredibly intelligent but they’re also stubborn and independent. These are all important traits for a hunting dog to have, as a Greyhound needs to be able to make decisions on the fly without relying on constant input from their owners.
That can make training them a struggle, though, as they’ll often be convinced that they know better than you do. As a result, Greyhounds may not be the best breed for a first-time dog owner.
Fortunately, their bad habits tend toward refusing to follow orders or destroying valuables, not attacking people, so even if your training isn’t completely successful, you shouldn’t have a dangerous dog on your hands.
Are These Dogs Good for Families? 🏡
Once they reach adulthood, Greyhounds tend to be serene, mature dogs. They’ll usually tolerate young children without issue, but they’re not necessarily enamored by their presence either.
However, they’re not prone to snapping or lashing out; instead, they often choose to just remove themselves from situations that make them uncomfortable.
Still, these dogs are best-suited for families with older kids or none at all. If you do bring one around small children, it’s essential to teach the kids how to behave so they don’t provoke the dog in any way.
Greyhounds are among the most laidback dogs on the planet, assuming that they’ve been properly exercised. That makes them a good choice for apartment dwellers and homeowners alike, and since they’re not especially vocal, you don’t have to worry about them waking the neighbors.
It’s important to remember that these dogs are sprinters, not endurance athletes, so they don’t have daunting exercise needs. You just need to give them enough room to get their zoomies out every day, so even seniors and those with mobility issues can own Greyhounds.
Does This Breed Get Along With Other Pets? 🐶 😽
Greyhounds get along well with other dogs, but they don’t feel like playing around the clock. If you have a high-energy dog that constantly harasses the Greyhound for playtime, your Greyhound may quickly get tired of the arrangement.
Fortunately, that rarely ends in aggression. The Greyhound is much more likely to just avoid the other dog rather than trying to fight, but the situation could be frustrating for both animals, so it’s best to be careful.
They can be hit-or-miss with cats and other small pets. Many Greyhounds get along beautifully with small creatures, as the dogs prefer to lounge on the couch rather than chase something around the house.
There’s a powerful prey drive lurking inside these dogs, though, and that can’t always be turned off. If you bring home a Greyhound that immediately takes off after your cat, you’ll almost certainly need to re-home one of your pets.
This situation can be especially problematic, since any animal that runs from a Greyhound will simply encourage them. In fact, even a Greyhound that has never shown any aggression toward small pets can lose control if they see that animal running around, so you may want to hide the catnip.
Things to Know When Owning a Greyhound
Despite being one of the oldest dog breeds on Earth, Greyhounds are fairly misunderstood creatures. Many people think that they love to run constantly or that they’re mindless hunting machines.
While they certainly do love to stretch their legs out and chase things, there’s so much more to these dogs than you might think. However, they also have foibles that make them a bit of a challenge to own, so it’s best that you know what you’re getting yourself into before you add one to your menagerie.
To help you make the transition to owning a Greyhound go as smoothly as possible for both you and the dog, we’ve put together a guide that covers everything you need to know about owning these fantastic pups.
Food & Diet Requirements 🦴
Greyhounds are athletes and their diets should reflect that. They need to be fed a high-quality food that can support them when they’re reaching maximum speed.
In our opinion, that means a high-protein kibble filled with premium meat sources like chicken, turkey, or beef. You should also look for one that has quality fruits and vegetables inside, like blueberries, spinach, and broccoli.
Avoid anything that uses low-quality fillers like wheat, corn, soy, or animal by-products. These are included by manufacturers to keep costs down, but they won’t help your Greyhound perform at a higher level (or do anything for their health).
You may also want to add bits of lean meat to your dog’s kibble, especially if they’re a picky eater. This will give them a delicious treat in addition to extra protein, as well as ensure that they get all the important amino acids found in animal proteins.
Greyhounds can be quite sedentary animals, so be careful not to overfeed them. Obesity is terrible for these dogs, as it puts quite a strain on their slender skeletal system and increases the risk of all sorts of diseases. As a result, you shouldn’t let your Greyhound free-feed but instead, offer them sensibly-portioned meals at regular intervals.
Despite being incredibly athletic, Greyhounds don’t have excessive exercise needs. You won’t need to spend hours in the backyard throwing a tennis ball or take them for miles-long hikes in order to tucker them out.
They’re sprinters, not distance runners, so they’ll be more inclined to run at top speed for a few minutes and then go take a nap rather than to lope around all day long. This makes it fairly efficient to exercise them, at least.
Generally speaking, though, you can get away with just taking your Greyhound for a long, leisurely walk around the neighborhood once or twice a day. This usually provides all the physical and mental stimulation that they need, especially if you let them sniff around a bit while they’re out there.
They can be sensitive to the weather, so you may need to put a sweater on them in the cold or give them plenty of breaks when the mercury rises. Make sure they have plenty of water on hand as well, regardless of what the weather’s like.
These dogs can be prone to bloat, a potentially fatal twisting of the intestines, so don’t let them run too hard immediately after eating. Instead, let them rest for at least an hour before they start tearing around.
Training a Greyhound can be a frustrating experience, as they are both stubborn and intelligent. They can make things difficult for you if they feel like it, so it’s best if you have experience training dogs.
You’ll need to hold their attention, which can be difficult if you’re outside, since these sighthounds can get distracted by almost anything that happens in their field of view. That means you may need to vary up the training sessions, as they’ll quickly grow accustomed to the same old things.
Their background as hunting animals has made them fiercely independent, so they’re not going to do something just because you told them to. They’ll need to be convinced — and if you can’t be persuasive enough, you’re not likely to be successful.
They’re sensitive animals, so any sort of punitive training style will likely backfire. Instead, you’ll need to use plenty of praise and positive reinforcement to convince them to do what you’re asking.
Be careful not to overdo it when using treats as rewards, though. You don’t want your Greyhound getting pudgy, and they can be experts at extorting treats.
Greyhounds have short, bristly coats, so you may not think that you’d need to brush them very often. You’d be mistaken, however, as these dogs are heavy shedders, so expect to take a slicker brush to them regularly.
They often suffer from dental disease, especially later in life, so taking good care of their teeth is of paramount importance. Brush them daily, and you may want to give them bones or toys designed to keep their teeth clean as well.
Given their height and inclination to suffer from bloat, you may want to put their food and water bowls on elevated surfaces so they don’t have to stoop to access them. This also prevents them from having to sport an unhealthy posture, and that could pay health dividends down the line.
You’ll need to pay special attention to their feet as well. They’ll likely need to wear booties if you’re taking them outdoors on extremely hot or cold days, and you’ll have to trim their nails regularly to prevent injuries.
You can get away with only bathing them when they’re visibly dirty, but you should clean their ears out once a week or so with a damp cloth or cotton ball.
Health and Conditions ❤️
Greyhounds are fairly healthy dogs, as they’re not prone to many congenital medical issues. If you feed and exercise them properly, you may be able to go their entire life without encountering any serious health complications.
You do need to make a few concessions to their body type, however. Consider raising their food bowls, and provide them with a soft place to sleep. If they sleep on hard surfaces, they can develop skin sores, so be sure to buy them a bed (or share your own).
They have delicate immune systems and can be sensitive to insecticides. This means that not only should you be careful about what you spray in your yard, but you should also check what flea and tick treatments you use. Fortunately, many major treatments like Advantage and Frontline seem to be tolerated well.
These dogs aren’t built like many other breeds, and as a result, it can be difficult to anesthetize them. If your dog needs major surgery, you’ll want to find a vet who’s experienced in giving anesthesia to Greyhounds or similar dogs.
However, one of the good things about their health is that they have more red blood cells and fewer platelets than many other breeds. As a result, Greyhounds are often used as universal blood donors for other pooches.
Male vs. Female
Male and female Greyhounds are similar in most ways, although the boys tend to be physically larger than their feminine counterparts.
There are a few temperamental differences as well. Females tend to be more independent and stubborn (traits that are already problematic within the breed), while males are more likely to be affectionate and clingy.
Those differences are fairly slight, though, and shouldn’t inform your purchasing decision too much. If you’ve got your heart set on one of these dogs — and you’re prepared to handle them — then it makes little difference whether you bring home a girl or a boy.
While many people may think of Greyhounds simply as racing or hunting dogs, they can make fantastic pets as well. They’re loyal and lovable, and they have relatively low exercise needs. Most days, they’ll be perfectly content to spend the entire afternoon curled up next to you on the couch.
They’re not without their flaws, though. They can be headstrong and difficult to train, and their powerful prey drive might make them a dangerous addition to a home with cats or other small pets.
If you’re confident in your abilities to harness their willfulness, though, you can have a goofy, athletic dog to share your life with.