A WORD ABOUT MUZZLES and PREY DRIVE

I wish I had a fifty dollar bill for each time I heard someone remark:
“The reason Greyhounds wear those muzzles, is because they’re vicious.”

Now anyone who has even the slightest familiarity with the National Greyhound Association racing Greyhound, might be astounded by such an absurd notion. How could anyone think such a thing? These dogs are universally acclaimed for their placid, sweet and gentle nature.
Well, to understand how this characterization became part of the racing Greyhound’s pop narrative, we have to go back to the earliest days of anti-racing activism. Even then, the people who knew the least about the Greyhound were writing that narrative, and making it up as they went along–as they continue to do today.

There was a time when most young Greyhounds were given the opportunity to course after live game (the pestilence of jackrabbits), prior to beginning their racing careers. The anti-racing activists of the 1970s and 80s, focused much of their energy and effort toward banning the practice of live game coursing by Greyhounds. Eventually, they succeeded, in some locales.

The way they went about getting their point across, however, was to portray Greyhounds as having been “trained to kill”, and as a result of such savagery, having been made bloodthirsty and entirely unpredictable. Naturally, they wore muzzles.

Needless to say, the old media had a field day spreading this nonsense far and wide, and thus was born the Genesis book of Popular Greyhound Mythology. We won’t delve into the problems this toxic propaganda created for racing’s own early adoption pioneers, or the retired Greyhounds who were to be the first generation (and several later generations) of the organized, retired Greyhounds-as-pets phenomenon.

In their real world, Greyhounds wear muzzles so that they can’t injure one another during play or roughhousing sessions, and for their own safety, should one of those sessions become a little too animated. Having extremely thin skin, and storing relatively little body fat, that thin skin is quite easily penetrated and torn, as most owners of retired racers have learned. They do not, and have never worn them, because they pose a common and imminent threat to humans.

Now, racing professionals insist that their greyhounds be muzzled at all times during turnout sessions, when there can be as many as 25-30 greyhounds in one turnout area. This, again, is for the Greyhounds’ own protection.

Photo courtesy of Joanne Wirtz

Muzzles are not punitive devices.

The dogs can drink water, and can still sniff around the turnout pens–or their neighbors’ nether regions–to their heart’s content. The muzzle simply provides a protective barrier against injury, when the occasional scuffle or fight breaks out. And that can happen in a flash, when fiercely competitive Greyhounds, in the prime of life and in peak physical condition, take exception to the antics of one another.

Now, we occasionally read of the misfortunes of Greyhound pets, who have been allowed to play as part of a group, un-muzzled. A fight breaks out, turns into a donnybrook, and before order can be restored, one or more of the participants is in dire need of emergency vet care–or worse. And it can be much worse.

So once again, we have to view the Greyhound though the prism of thousands of years of selective breeding toward a specific function. They are genetically hardwired to chase prey (or prey effigies, as in racing and lure coursing), and upon seizing that prey, to quickly dispatch it. This genetic hardwiring is what we commonly call “prey drive”.

Now all canines are prey driven to one degree or another. In the case of the sporting Greyhound, however, that irrepressible desire to sight, chase and dispatch prey, lurks just beneath their very thin skin—and it can demand to be let out at the slightest provocation. Thousands of years of selective breeding toward a specific function will do that.

The trigger for projection of that prey drive need not be a moving object, nor the cries of a hare in distress. It can be the “yelp” of another dog, who has simply been stepped on during a light galloping session, or while passively standing still.

It is not anything the Greyhound can control, or that you can train or wish away.

The larger the play group, the more chance there is that un-muzzled greyhounds might do some real damage to one another, should things get even slightly out of hand. Once the frenzy begins, it isn’t controllable by anything other than physically interjecting oneself into the melee, and moving the dog(s) who is under attack, to a safe space. It goes without saying that the chances of things escalating to that degree, are significantly reduced when all potential participants are muzzled. It’s basic, common sense.

I know it may be hard for some of you to envision your dozy, elegant, demure, needle-nosed sofa ornament, as a fierce and fiery hunter, capable of committing mortal acts at the mere pitch of a sound. But they can, and they may, particularly if we decide for ourselves, that there is but a single, passive dimension to them. That is most certainly not the case. And it is why, in the case of muzzles, an ounce of prevention is worth a shipload of cure.

We are dealing with real flesh and blood hunting dogs, who have been bred to do just that (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) for countless generations, and thousands of years. Whatever whimsical notions you have about your Greyhound, true as they may be in their home environment, remember that their essence, as a sporting breed with an unusually high prey drive, and the capacity to act on that in the blink of an eye, is no less the case.

When in doubt, get the muzzles out.

Dennis McKeon  copyright, 2016

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   For more information:

http://www.awesomegreyhoundadoptions.org/  

Or

https://www.facebook.com/AwesomeGreyhoundAdoptions

This organization is located in Florida.

 

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Five Dangerous Christmas Plants!

Seasonal plants can give the Christmas season that extra jolly feeling. But some of them can make your hounds feel really sick. For example, Poinsettias are mildly toxic to both dogs and cats. The milky white sap contains detergent like substances that can cause vomiting and diarrhea when ingested and skin irritation on contact. 
Holly, especially the Christmas and English varieties, is even more toxic to pets. Its spiny leaves and toxins can cause severe gastrointestinal upset if ingested. You want to promptly head to the vet if you suspect your hound has gotten into any.

Likewise, Mistletoe might get you a kiss, but several varieties will also make your pup sick. A mild poisoning from Mistletoe can result in gastrointestinal upset. Ingestion in larger amounts can cause abnormal heart rate, collapse, hypotension (low blood pressure), ataxia (walking drunk), seizures and death. Keep it hung high, out of reach and check to make sure it is secure often.

 
Amaryllis is also mildly to moderately toxic, with most of the toxins concentrated in the bulb. When ingested by a dog, the phenanthridine alkaloids contained in the plant cause vomiting, hypotension and respiratory depression. 

And finally, pine needles (even fake ones), while not usually considered toxic, can cause irritation and ruptures in the gastrointestinal track when ingested. So be sure your tree is well maintained, and out of reach!

 
It’s natural to be busy with family and friends during the holiday season. Remember to keep an eye on your pets to make sure they are staying out of trouble. Even ingestion of nontoxic plants can make them sick to the stomach, and nobody wants to feel poorly when Santa comes! If you suspect your pet has eaten something he shouldn’t have, please be in touch with your vet right away! If your vet closes for the holidays, make sure you know how to get to the closest ER vet just in case.
Article from Greyhound Adoption League of Texas, Inc. (GALT) December Newsletter

 

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