The Greyhound are unique individuals from a unique population of canines. The Greyhound breed is steeped in antiquity and history. The supreme speed and skill of the greyhound attracted the notice of sportsmen and agrarians, who coveted them for their superb athleticism, their utility as killers of vermin and pests, as providers of game for the table, and who devised competitions for them, coursing after small game.
These “coursing” competitions were extremely popular, and became a major sporting attraction to spectators as well as to Greyhound breeders. The pinnacle of Greyhound athletic achievement soon became victory in the esteemed Waterloo Cup coursing competition. Our modern Greyhound is are the direct descendant of those old Waterloo Cup winners and competitors.
Most Greyhounds today, in the USA, are whelped and raised on sprawling, elaborate professional breeding establishments, called “farms”, as evidence of the rural origins of the Greyhound in America. These farms have special areas and outbuildings to accommodate sires, dams, newborns, growing puppies, saplings, and greyhounds who are about to begin their race-training in earnest. As they approach what we might say is canine adolescence, the puppies begin to exhibit the dramatic speed for which the breed is renown and prized, and the litters are usually placed together in extremely long, straight runs, so that they can stretch out and gallop, and begin to find their racing legs. This sort of competitive urge is bred into them, from centuries of meticulous and high selectivity. They don’t need to be taught to compete. It is a part of who they are. Even the most shy and retiring of Greyhounds can turn into a rip-snorting, hell-bent-for-leather competitor once the gauntlet is thrown down.
Everything needs to be done on a tight and precise schedule. Greyhounds have remarkably accurate biological time clocks, and like any other athlete in serious training and competition, they thrive on punctuality and routine, and do less well with the random and the novel.
The trainer is responsible for everything that affects the Greyhound’s physical conditioning, his emotional contentment, and his overall well-being. The better trainers treat each and every Greyhound in their care, regardless of that Greyhound’s ability, as if they were the greatest racer who ever set foot on the Earth—or flew over it.
A poor trainer, even those who try their best, can completely undo the grandest design that nature and selective breeding might engender.
Good trainers do everything within their power to make sure that stresses within the Greyhound’s environment, both existential and exercise-induced, are kept to a bare minimum. Content, relaxed, stress free Greyhounds are happy greyhounds, and with all other things being about equal, they will outperform Greyhounds who are less so.
The wise trainer always tries to maximize the potential of each and every Greyhound in his/her care, and makes sure to place them in situations where they will succeed.
Greyhounds in good health and condition are amazingly consistent and willing athletes. The more the trainer gives to them of his/her attentions, wisdom, empathy and experience, the more he/she will receive in return. A trainer who bonds with his/her Greyhounds is always in a better competitive position than one who does not, or one who cannot.
No trainer in the world, however, can turn a Greyhound who lacks the skills, speed, stamina and desire to become a great athlete, into one who does.
When the Greyhound reaches the point where he is to be retired, provided the breeder or owner does not plan to use the Greyhound as a sire or dam, the trainer is often the one who makes arrangements with the adoption kennel or group to place the dog.
Trainers can provide the adoption agent with useful information about the Greyhound’s disposition and temperament, his quirks, his likes and dislikes, and his history. This can be a help to them in placing the Greyhound with the right adopter, in the most appropriate setting.
We already know that Greyhound “personalities” are individual and variable, and that many of their tendencies are genetically predisposed, and to some degree, predictable.
The adoption group is staffed with volunteers who, like successful trainers, usually have a great deal of experience and intuitive acumen in placing Greyhounds in a situation where they are likely to succeed.
These volunteers have often placed Greyhounds from previous generations of the same Greyhound families and from the same breeders, and inasmuch as there is a familial (and rearing) component that tends to run in families and in certain strains, they can provide unique insights to the adopter.
There are many challenges ahead for both the Greyhound and his new adoptive owners. Your Greyhound is about to embark on a voyage to an entirely new and alien universe.
He has left behind his littermates and pack members, some of whom he has been with since birth. He will confront environments, situations, places, objects, and people with whom he is entirely unfamiliar.
He has bid fond farewell to his human familiars and caretakers, their voices and their touch, to the regimented, predictable routines and the security of his racing environs, and he is now faced with novelty at every turn.
The Greyhound no longer has the outlet of training and racing—“hunting” with the pack, to expend his excess energies, and to express himself in the fashion that forged his very being.
Even the food he will eat in his new home is likely to be strange and unappealing.
As we have previously mentioned, Greyhounds thrive on punctuality and routine. They prefer the known to the unknown. Novelty can be their undoing. Novelty is what they face when beginning their lives as house pets.
Greyhounds, because they are sight-chase-and-kill hunters by nature, have extremely keen powers of perception, and a 270 degree field of laser-sharp vision. They notice things that we may not perceive, and they perceive things from the vantage point that in any given moment, they might be both predator and prey.
As a new adopter, you must be careful not to place your new Greyhound in a “sensory overload” situation.
The track trainer knows that when preparing a Greyhound to race, never to allow that Greyhound to overextend himself. Training is done by increments, gradually increasing the intensity and duration of the workout, over a period of time, until the Greyhound is finally ready to compete.
When introducing your new Greyhound pet to novel situations, environments, objects and people, you can approach it the same way. We never know how much is “enough”, until we know how much is “more than enough”. Take your clues from your Greyhound, before it gets to that stage. He is communicating things to you all the time.
He has to learn the boundaries and rules of life within your family unit, and you have to learn to interpret his signals and body language, and to react in a calm, compassionate manner.
Your adoption representative has likely given you the basic “do-s and don’t-s”. It is up to you to remember them, and to provide a structured and predictable routine, which will be a great help to your Greyhound as he re-habituates to his entirely new life outside of racing.
There are ample resources on social media, where some of the world’s most experienced adoption reps, veterinarians, veteran adopters and even racing and breeding professionals are just a simple, typewritten question away.
There is no such thing as a foolish question, and when your preliminary feeling is one of perplexity or doubt, it is always better to ask before forging ahead, or failing to make necessary accommodations.
Reprinted by Permission of Dennis McKeon 2017
Interested in Adopting?
There are so many recently-retired greyhounds ready for adoption. So please friends if you want a loving and loyal companion who doesn’t require much grooming and no more care than any other dog ADOPT A GREYHOUND. You will never be sorry!