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The Handing Down
by Dennis McKeon

It would be useful if more adoption groups and their representatives, stressed the importance of understanding the nurturing of greyhounds, done by other greyhounds—the handing down.
This is the essence of the canine culture by which all performance greyhounds have been deeply informed and affected. It is highly unlikely that your adopted pet, prior to your having adopted him/her, was ever without the company of other greyhounds for even a few seconds.

Photo courtesy of Crossland Farm: -Dyna Nalin-and-Luxurious Trent litter-photo-by-Nicole-Crossland-4-2015

 

The impacts of this pack-oriented and colonial culture upon the greyhound, are as indelible to them, as are the circumstances of our own upbringing, growth and development, within a culture and a segment of society.
So the experience of being adopted, and suddenly finding themselves without everyone and everything they have ever known— the “lone wolf”, for the first time in their lives— is a form of culture shock, if not an outright trauma for some of them. Acting independently, outside the dynamic of the pack or colony, is a concept unfamiliar to them.
Much has been said and done, as it regards the adopters’ perception of “separation anxiety” and coping with it, should a newly adopted greyhound exhibit signs of stress when they are left alone. It is a wonder that we often fail to perceive the first instance of separation anxiety—that being, when the newly adopted greyhound is suddenly separated, or perhaps in his mind, expelled, from the colony to which he belonged— only to be confronted with a virtual universe of novelty and uncertainty, much of which is beyond his understanding.
We will never fully appreciate or understand the greyhounds we adopt, unless we can begin to wrap minds around the unique experience they all share, as purpose-bred canines– the effects of a nurturing canine culture, and the handing down of collective consciousness, which is predicated upon their co-existence within the pack or colony unit, and the supports, securities and bonding it affords them.

copyright, 2019

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THE FOOD CONUNDRUM

One of the most frustrating problems for the new greyhound adopter, is choosing what food should they should use, from among the incredible array of dry, kibbled foodstuffs that are readily available, to nourish their recent arrival.
These foodstuffs are often questionably marketed as “complete nutrition”, and the prices can range anywhere from half a dollar, to well over a dollar a pound. So the new adopter decides upon one or the other, and presents it to their new greyhound, for his/her approval.
Often, the greyhound’s reaction is less than enthusiastic, if not bordering on downright incredulity. When the greyhound does deign to choke down this foreign and unpleasant concoction, just as often, the result is an even more unpleasant, intestinal catharsis.

 

So the adopter, wanting to do the best he/she can for their new greyhound, then decides to buy a more expensive and more hyperbolically marketed kibble— some of which can cost quite a bit more per pound than real meat—only to have Mister or Miss Persnickety Needlenose, raise that needle-nose skyward in disgust, and either refuse to eat, or once again, grudgingly consume the substance, only to turn it into a repulsive, gurgling, projectile liquid, hours later.
So the understandably upset and frustrated adopter turns to social media for advice. There, he or she is subjected to a virtual barrage of suggestions, which span the known universe of dog foods and additives, from the most astonishingly expensive “designer” concoctions, to the most basic, inexpensive, rancid-smelling commercial kibbles—all of them, incidentally, severely lacking the sensory and visceral appeal of the raw meat-based diets that greyhounds are used to consuming.

Photo courtesy of Leslie Glynn, her greyhound Zee.

 

The racing greyhound’s “staple food”, which can comprise 60-70 percent or more of its diet prior to retirement, is almost always beef.

 

Photo courtesy of A Ray Kennel

 

Racing greyhounds in America are fed “not fit for human consumption” beef. And that is because greyhounds are not human, and “not fit for human consumption” doesn’t mean that it isn’t perfectly fit for canine consumption. This beef comprises the basis of their diet, along with kibble of choice, and a variety of other additives, like vegetables, fish, pasta, barley, rice, peaches, buttermilk, yogurt, molasses, or bone meal, to mention a few, depending upon the trainers’ or breeders’ preference.

Photo courtesy of A Ray Kennel

 

(It should be noted at this time, that there is no FDA or USDA classification of meat by “letter grading”— and thus there is no FDA or USDA classification called “4D”, as you may have been led to believe by various and sundry greyhound mythologists. Meat is graded on a “pass or fail” system, and is either deemed fit, or not fit for human consumption—in the latter case, it may be used to feed priceless and rare zoo carnivores, processed into commercial dogs foods used by the vast majority of pet owners, or used to feed racing greyhounds).

Photo courtesy of The Greyt Hound

 

Be that as it may, greyhound breeders and trainers have had hundreds of years to experiment with their greyhounds’ diets. Everything from soup-to-nuts has been tried, at one time or another, in order to gain a legal performance advantage over one’s competitors. It is pretty much agreed upon, by trainers and breeders alike, that beef, as the basis of the greyhound’s diet, produces the best results.
Now, when I trained them for a living, I never handled a greyhound who exhibited symptoms of chronic digestive problems.
Greyhound trainers spend a lot of time assessing the volume, shape, color and consistency of their greyhounds’ digestive output, as it is often reflective of how well the dog is feeling, or whether or not there are internal parasites afflicting them. If one had a greyhound who was discomforted or otherwise indisposed by their food, it would be quite apparent, via the trainer’s ritual stool examinations and observations of the dog in performance, or in day to day activity.

Photo courtesy of A Ray Kennel

So it would seem that for many greyhounds, transitioning from a meat-based diet as an active racer, to a kibble-based diet as a retired pet, is fraught with possibilities. Not many of them are particularly promising or pleasant.
We often read of adopters who have tried a daisy chain of relatively new, excruciatingly expensive, “designer” kibbles. Novel, cleverly marketed versions of these products seem to spring up every month or so, and may become “flavor-of-the-month” choice for frazzled greyhound adopters and their disgruntled greyhounds. It is unclear to me where the research, development and testing of these products is done—and who does it, under what conditions, and under whose supervision.
Nevertheless, with any luck, after trying a dozen or so various foodstuffs, the adopter may happen upon one which agrees with his greyhound, and with which the greyhound is comfortable. Many adopters can’t afford them, and “settle” for a less expensive, commercial kibble.
Whether they are adequately nourished by any of these products, is another question, for another day.
Unfortunately, due to the scarcity of pet meat wholesalers, and to the expense of store bought meats, many adopters have no choice but to resign their greyhounds to an unappealing diet of dried kibble, whatever the brand, or the hype that goes along with it.
Some pet owners have found that the BARF diet—bones and raw food—is a panacea for the retired greyhound’s digestive complications. This sort of diet, or variations upon it, have become popular among aficionados of many breeds, and it more closely resembles the sort of diet that greyhounds are fed while actively training and racing.
There are ample online resources which explain this diet, or “raw feeding” for those who feel it may be of benefit for their greyhounds, and it is not my intent here, to go into detail explaining it. However, the feedback I receive from greyhound adopters who have transitioned their pets from kibble-based diets to “raw” diets, has been unanimously positive.
Now, if you have found an affordable kibble diet that pleases your greyhound, and if your greyhound is happy, healthy and otherwise thriving, there is no need to change or experiment. Each and every greyhound is a law unto themselves. What works for Rover may not work as well for Clover.
For those adopters who are struggling with finding a foodstuff or foodstuffs that suit your greyhound, my advice is to keep in mind what grew, nourished and sustained your greyhound prior to his/her retirement, and brought them to the point where they seized control of your couch.
copyright, 2017
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THE LATE, GREAT, RACING GREYHOUND

By Dennis McKeon
Sifting through the innumerable social media messages posted by adopters, about their retired pet greyhounds, it has dawned on me, through no fault of their own, that the vast majority of “Grey-Nation”, has no idea whatsoever as to just how and why their greyhounds are bred. I’m not speaking of the physical act of mating, which is more often done by means of artificial insemination these days, anyway.
I’m referring to the selective process itself, and how and why it works the way it does. Now you may be asking yourself, “What the heck is a selective process?”
To understand the selective process and what it means to the breeder of racing greyhounds—and to the greyhounds, themselves–one must first understand that the selective process itself is predicated upon one, fundamental, overarching and immutable principle of transference and inheritance. Five simple words:
“LIKE TENDS TO BEGET LIKE”
Let that sink in for a moment, and keep in mind that the operative word here is “tends”. Breeding is always more about tendencies than it is about absolutes.
Let’s also remember that just about every breed of canine was developed to do a job, or to perform a service or a function for people. There are dog breeds that were made to specialize in herding and/or protecting livestock, in pulling carts and/or sleds, in pointing out and/or retrieving successfully hunted game, and in the case of greyhounds, in hunting and dispatching that game, themselves.
Now, the breeder’s goal is to enhance the capacities of the dogs he breeds, to perform their function, whatever that happens to be. Ideally, his goal is to have each new generation surpass the previous generation, in their abilities to do their job. Now, keeping in mind our fundamental principle—our five simple words–“like tends to beget like”, he then “selects” a female and a male who are to be mated, with that goal in mind.
The key to this entire concept, of course, lies in the ability of the breeder to make accurate selections. His subjective impressions of the individuals he might select to be mated, with the intent of achieving generational improvement in functionality, are not often enough. He requires information. He needs an objective method to qualify an individual as having been an extraordinary example of the breed at performing its function. One who has demonstrated, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he or she has performed that function with a high level of efficiency and consistency.
Toward that end, we have designed competitions among canines, to objectively qualify and to accurately identify those individuals who have distinguished and proven themselves, in competitions with their peers, as having been among the best of their generation or era, at the performance of their respective functions.
In the world of the greyhound, these competitions today, take place among racing greyhounds–and on a much smaller scale, between coursing greyhounds. For the great majority of us, the greyhounds with whom we are familiar, have emerged as a direct result of these racing competitions.
There are few sports that are more focused on performance results, data and statistics, than greyhound racing. This information is critical to greyhound breeders in making their selections as to which greyhounds are to be bred, and with whom they are to be mated. He needs to know which individuals, from which bloodlines, have proven, in head to head competition with their peer group, that they were among the very best performers of their generation. Guesswork and subjectivity are no substitute for hard performance data, for the breeder who desires to engender generation-to-generation improvement of his bloodstock.
As an adjunct to the reams of performance data readily available to the breeder, there is a pedigree database, maintained by Greyhound Data dot com. This pedigree record allows the breeder to investigate which bloodlines have proven to be compatible with which other bloodlines, and the results of various matings between members of different strains and families of greyhounds.
He can also see which greyhounds, sires and dams, have proven to “breed to type”. That is, to produce greyhounds who possess many of the same desirable attributes and aptitudes that distinguished them. All of this information is crucial to the greyhound breeder’s selective process, in identifying which greyhounds, and which families of them, are on the cutting edge of performance adaptation.
In the final analysis, each breeder, whether he realizes it or not, is trying to bend the adaptational curve more sharply than his competitors. In other words, he is attempting to breed greyhounds who have “out-evolved” those of other breeders.
Needless to say, the common misconception is that the greyhound breeder is interested only in speed. But it isn’t quite that simple. While many sports are correctly referred to as “a game of inches”, greyhound racing would be more accurately defined as “a game of nano-seconds”. Even greyhounds who are only capable of competing at the lowest echelons of their sport, are remarkably fast and athletic animals. The difference between a world-class racing greyhound and a bottom grader at the smallest race track, is a little less than one second, over the course of a 550 yard race, lasting all of about half a minute.
So there must be some other considerations that the breeder takes into account. These are what we commonly refer to, when speaking of athletes, as “intangibles”. The most sought-after intangible a breeder wishes to engender in his prospective racers, is what we commonly refer to as “heart”. That is, the will and the character to persevere in a race, despite adversity. Speed alone, without this “heart”, or desire to lead the pack, is a bit like intellect without curiosity.
Because greyhound races are contested by a “pack”, the breeder’s ideal greyhound must possess what we call “track sense”, or “track craft”. That is, the ability to avoid bumping and jamming, and to be able to thread his way, seamlessly, through traffic, when the situation presents itself.
Racing is a stern test of a greyhound’s physical organism, as well as his intangible qualities, and particularly his courage. Racing into a turn at full bore, often surrounded by other greyhounds, requires a greyhound with steel nerve, to hold his line and to maintain his position, while refusing to shirk or sulk.
Along with the breathtaking speed that the breed is famous for, all these intangible qualities of greyhound character are, to a greater or lesser degree, heritable. And as we have noted, “like tends to beget like”.
So the breeder of greyhounds has an exhausting job, when employing the selective process. He must choose individuals for breeding, from among a vast array of diverse bloodlines, and who possess all or most of the speed, stamina, and intangibles we have noted. And he must decide which combination of bloodline is most likely to yield the result he hopes for. It requires a great deal of study, skill, intuition and acumen. Not to mention physical labors of monumental dedication.
As the controversies swirl around them, presenting a clear and present danger to their future, we would do well to keep in mind the highly selective and objective process that went into creating that elegant love-seat adornment, you see dozing so peacefully as we speak. It wasn’t by accident or serendipity.
copyright, 2018
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POPULAR GREYHOUND MYTHOLOGY—THE TOP TEN POPULAR GREYHOUND MYTHS, EXPOSED, EXPLAINED, AND DEBUNKED

Having been a participant in various greyhound-related discussion venues on social media, for almost as long as it has been ongoing, I’ve come to a conclusion.

Nothing has been more problematic for the new or would-be greyhound adopter, than the litany of disinformation and greyhound mythology that exists within the popular culture. Greyhound mythology permeates all forms of media, and particularly, social media.

The counter-intuitive and false narratives that abound throughout greyhound-related social and mainstream media, have become an impediment to the adopter’s capacity to understand, intuit and to cope with a plethora of perfectly normal and manageable greyhound behaviors. Perhaps even more unfortunately, this mythology has become an inhibition to understanding, embracing and advocating for the essence of the greyhound breed itself, as a unique, high-functioning, genetically-diverse, yet especially vulnerable population.

So in the spirit of debunking the many fallacies and myths about greyhounds (myths that have been popularized by those who are as far removed from the everyday lives of those greyhounds, as you and I are from everyday life in the halls of Camelot), I’ve decided to compile a Top Ten list of greyhound myths that are likely to confuse adopters. So let’s get started–critical thinking caps placed on heads, turned to “activate”.

MYTH # 10.

“GREYHOUNDS ARE THE ONLY BREED MENTIONED IN THE BIBLE”

While this is a very romantic, alluring notion, thanks to a liberal translation by good ol’ King James, it simply isn’t the case. Now, there were long-limbed, aerodynamic sight hounds in the Middle East that may have lain at Pharaoh’s feet, and which would have been the inspiration for their inclusion in the Bible story–but they weren’t Greyhounds.

Modern investigations into the canine genome and DNA, have shown us that Greyhounds, aside from their canine connection to wolves, are unrelated to the ancient Saharan breeds, like the Saluki and the Afghan Hound.

Greyhounds, genetically, are the foundation breed of a “clade” or family of canines, that includes the Saint Bernard, Belgian Malinois, Irish Setter, and Whippet, among others, originating within the sphere of Celtic culture and influence. The greyhounds we know today, are almost certainly descended from the dogs of the Celts, a culture which flourished in central Europe, from Austria, to northern Spain, to the British Isles, from 1200 BC to the time of the Roman conquests. See Martin Roper’s excellent article, entitled “Everything You Know Is Wrong”, which expands upon these relatively recent revelations.

MYTH # 9.

“GREYHOUNDS WEAR MUZZLES BECAUSE THEY ARE VICIOUS AND/OR OF UNRELIABLE TEMPERAMENT”

This myth was promoted and popularized by political activists who were working to outlaw the coursing of live jackrabbits by greyhounds, or other sight hounds. In the 1980s, this was a well-orchestrated movement that received quite a bit of media attention, and was even successful in some locales. Unfortunately, the greyhound and his reputation were casualties of the attendant, activist propaganda. It mischaracterized the greyhound as having been “trained to kill” and made “bloodthirsty”, through performance of what had been its original and traditional function in America, as a controller of crop-destructive vermin. The unwitting public, naturally, assumed that greyhounds could not, therefore, be trustworthy pets.

At the time, many greyhounds were briefly exposed to the coursing of live game, before being exposed to training for formal competition chasing artificial lures. None of this had any effect upon the greyhound’s nature, temperament or disposition, and they were then, as they are now, good-natured dogs, who are ordinarily quite biddable and easy to handle and manage. They wear muzzles to prevent mouthing or nipping injuries when at play–or when socializing with one another in large groups, where minor disputes might otherwise escalate into major ones.

MYTH # 8.

“GREYHOUNDS ARE NATURALLY LAZY”

We all know the popular stereotype of the greyhound as a “45 mile-per-hour couch potato”. Unfortunately, due to the insidious nature of the popular mythology, this has become a self-fulfilling prophecy for many retired greyhounds.

Canines, as a species, have been widely observed, whether in domestication or in the wild, to sleep anywhere from 12-16 hours a day. This is perfectly normal behavior for a canine, and particularly when they are actively training for, or competing in any running sport, as greyhounds do. Greyhounds don’t develop and maintain their rippling, bulging, powerful muscles by being kept in state of suspended animation. When training and competing, they lead very busy and active lives, and thrive on the attention and activity—as well as the downtime.

Any dog, greyhound or otherwise, can become lethargic, lazy and/or even depressed, without adequate mental and physical stimulation and sensory engagement. I’m afraid that far too many “45 mile-per-hour couch potatoes” are being “made”, nowadays, for they are certainly not born into being static sofa adornments.

Greyhounds thrive on activity, like walking, galloping, swimming, or even training for sports, such as lure coursing, flyball or agility competition. While not every adopter has the inclination or ability to participate in organized, amateur competitions with their greyhounds, most adopters can and should provide at least a fair amount of healthful recreation and exercise for their pet greyhounds, if only to begin and nurture the bonding process. It should go without mentioning, that a reasonably fit and active greyhound will be healthier, and experience a better quality of life, than an entirely out-of-shape, sedentary one.

MYTH # 7.

“MY SHY GREYHOUND MUST HAVE BEEN ABUSED”

As time goes by, we seem to learn more and more about how many facets of ourselves, our personalities, and our nature, are often somewhat a matter of inheritance, or of genetic predisposition. Greyhound breeders have long known that things like disposition, temperament, and other aspects of greyhound nature, are highly heritable, and greatly influenced by a greyhound’s own ancestry.

Likewise, breeders of dogs whose main “job” is to be a cute, friendly and loving companion, or a family pet, realize these same things. Just as greyhound breeders do, they select their breeding stock with the intent of either amplifying the most desirable aspects of the breed’s nature, or modifying the less desirable ones. The difference being, of course, the greyhounds aren’t bred to be companions or pets.

Greyhounds are bred to perform a function.

There have been many painfully shy and reactive greyhounds who were never abused, but who excelled at their function, and who went on to produce greyhounds who were just as excellent and influential as they were–and just as shy–sometimes, even more so. “Like tends to beget like”—Chapter 1, Verse 1, in the breeder’s manual, concerning any domesticated animal.

It is not necessary for a greyhound to possess an outgoing, gregarious nature in order to be a superior performance dog, or a prolific producer. In fact, that never even enters the equation for a breeder of performance greyhounds.

Highly accomplished, productive, and hugely influential greyhounds, like Westy Whizzer, Unruly and Representation, to mention only a few, were known to have been unusually shy and withdrawn individuals. Yet it is almost impossible, today, to find an American greyhound pedigree in which they and their descendants do not figure prominently, or in which they have not had significant input and impact.

So there are some strains and families of greyhounds who tend toward being “hot-blooded”, skittish and/or mercurially reactive, and to a greater or lesser degree, shy, introverted, and sometimes, even withdrawn.

While greyhounds of this sort eventually become accustomed to their human familiars, and will behave quite normally among them, they can become extremely upset and fearful when faced with a change of venue, where they are confronted with often intimidating novelties at every turn, including strange humans.

Such is the case for many of these types, going from the kennel to the adoptive environment. They require structure and punctuality to their routine, and patience on the part of their new owners, when introducing them to strange people, objects, environments and situations. They will eventually bond with their new human(s), as long as they are not repeatedly confronted with a sensory or stress overload– and expected to cope with that all at once.

MYTH # 6.

“GREYHOUNDS ARE ‘FORCED’ TO RUN”

Greyhounds are bred to run, and to run at exceptionally high rates of speed. This desire and need to run, and the love of running, is etched on their DNA. They have, after all, been bred to run and compete with one another for thousands of years. Speed has always excited man, and it isn’t too hard to envision even ancient, tribal societies, designing competitions among their game-coursing dogs, to test their speed, agility and mettle.

Since the 18th century, greyhounds have been bred to compete in formal coursing competitions. In the early part of the 20th century, the focus of greyhound breeders gradually changed from coursing, to the breeding of greyhounds who were willing and able to chase a motorized, artificial lure around an oval-shaped track.

In either case, breeding greyhounds who possessed the desire and ability to run and compete with one another was paramount in the minds of breeders.

Today, our modern greyhounds are so steeped in the genetics of their high-functioning ancestors, they are virtually born knowing how to chase, and with the desire to compete while chasing. They don’t have to be taught any of that. It comes as naturally to them as barking does to a terrier.

The job of a professional breeder or trainer is to provide ample opportunity for the young and developing greyhound, to hone and sharpen his natural-born skills. As with any other athlete, repetition is the key to the ultimate refinement of one’s innate abilities. Practice makes perfect.

There is simply no way to poke, prod or otherwise “force” a greyhound to chase after a prey effigy, if that greyhound doesn’t want to do so. He runs on his own, and makes the decision to participate in or carry on with the chase all by himself. The vast and overwhelming majority of greyhounds are more than willing and eager, but very occasionally, one will emerge who lacks the desire to partake of the chase. He either takes no part in the chase, or quits the chase soon after it begins. It’s as simple as that. No one can, nor would they be so inclined as to try and “force” them. How could you? At that point, it’s out of your hands, and entirely up to the greyhound.

Incidentally, the sofas of America and nearby Canada are literally teeming with young greyhounds who didn’t quite have the skills to successfully compete, or were simply not inclined to do so.

MYTH # 5.

“GREYHOUNDS LACK ‘SOCIALIZATION’ ”

I doubt that there is any population of dogs, who are more well-schooled in canine social graces, or more fluent in canine body language, stress signaling, and comprehension of such things. The reason for this is simple. Greyhounds are kept with their dams for much longer than most puppies, and their “pack” remains intact, even after they are separated from their dams–usually at about 16 weeks, sometimes a bit earlier, sometimes later–depending upon how much their dam can tolerate. She teaches them pack manners and deportment, as well as monitoring their interactions with one another.

Later on, when serious training begins, the litter will be introduced to a larger pack or colony, where their early social training will stand them in good stead, as they integrate with the others in the pack/colony. It is critically important to their success, for greyhounds to co-exist within that pack or colony, peacefully and without stress. Managed properly, they do this splendidly, precisely because they are so well-socialized, perceptive, and fluent in communicating with one another.

As adoptees in retirement, when greyhounds experience difficulties with strange dogs, it is often because those dogs lack the refinement of social skills, and the fluency in canine communication that the greyhound already possesses–and is used to encountering in other greyhounds.

Greyhounds, raised to be performing athletes, are handled at very early stages. It is imperative that a greyhound be amenable to and comfortable with being groomed or checked for injury, and mannerly when on lead, if the trainer is to maintain any type of efficiency and order in the kennel. Or when taken to perform, that the greyhound is accepting of inspection and handling by relative strangers.

What greyhounds lack, and what is sometimes confused with “socialization”, is habituation—that is, habituation to strange environments and less structured or unstructured lifestyles. Greyhounds are highly-socialized creatures of habit. Fortunately, they have the intelligence and adaptability to adjust to a radical life change, well beyond their formative stages, provided their humans are correctly informed, prepared, patient, empathetic, and willing to meet them halfway.

MYTH # 4.

“MY GREYHOUND MUST HAVE BEEN NEGLECTED, BECAUSE HE DOESN’T KNOW HOW TO PLAY WITH TOYS”

From the moment they learn to walk, greyhounds spend their lives playing with one another. They run themselves ragged, frolicking, chasing one another, wrestling and play-fighting. They get into all sorts of mischief, and can quickly exhaust their human familiars with their boundless energy, competing with one another for attention and affection.

Greyhounds are creatures of the chase. Their favored “play” consists of chasing and catching things that appear to run away from them. So, when the adopter presents the greyhound with an inanimate object that he is expected to play with, often the greyhound shows no interest in it. This, of course, if we understand what motivates greyhounds, is entirely predictable.

Now, if the adopter were to make a simple “lure pole”, which is only an old broomstick with a stuffed animal or rag attached to one end by a short rope–the greyhound would be jumping out of his skin to chase, catch, and play with it, as the person extended the lure pole and walked briskly away from the dog, in long circles.

Still and all, most breeders and some trainers do provide their greyhounds with inanimate “toys”, which are sometimes shredded to bits in nanoseconds, or in tugs-of-war, or flung around in an attempt to entice them to try and escape. or simply forgotten about and ignored.

Inanimate objects, with the exception of the sofa, are not always of much interest to greyhounds. They like to chase things that are in motion. For a greyhound, they are not a critical life value of which they are cruelly deprived. Greyhounds get ample opportunity, every day, to play with one another, or to play at chasing a lure. For them, it’s all fun and games.

It should also be mentioned that there is no medically recognized malady such as “Stair Deprivation Syndrome”, afflicting greyhounds to the extent that there is any loss in the quality of their lives. They are simply unfamiliar with stairs, and they require time and practice to learn to negotiate staircases. Greyhounds who reside in single story homes are not known to suffer any ill effects from having been deprived of stairs.

Likewise, veterinary medicine does not recognize “Glass Door Deficiency” as a mitigating factor to the greyhounds’ ultimate happiness and contentment. Greyhounds encounter glass doors all the time in their pre-adoption environs, and they are not the only breed or animal that sometimes fails to recognize that a glass door is between them and wherever they are headed. Glass doors can be illuminated for animals by simply affixing some duct tape, in an X-pattern, to the glass itself.

MYTH # 3

“GREYHOUNDS ARE FED CONTAMINATED MEAT”

The beef which greyhounds and many rare and priceless zoo carnivores are fed, and which is processed into commercial dog food, is beef that is deemed “not fit for human consumption”. Greyhounds, as we know, are not human, and if a foodstuff is determined to be unfit for human consumption, that does not imply or mean that it isn’t perfectly fit for canine (or other animal) consumption. The beef greyhounds are fed, is most often sourced from non-productive or aged dairy cows, from cows who have met with misadventure or injury, or from cows who are dying of natural, incurable causes. Exactly the sort of animals most predators prey upon, left to their own devices. Despite what you may have read or heard, there is no American food inspection department or bureau that grades meat by letters and/or numbers.

Per the fact-checkers at Snopes…

”…in the USA meat is not graded on a scale represented by letters, so one would never see crates of meat labeled Grade D (or any other letter grade).
In order to protect the public from food borne illnesses, meat products (a group which includes beef, pork, lamb, and veal) sold in the U.S. are inspected by the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), to ensure that they meet U.S. food safety standards for safety, wholesomeness, and accuracy in labeling in accordance with the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA). However, the FSIS does not “grade” meat as part of the standard inspection process: inspection is strictly a pass/fail system, and meat products either pass or are rejected as unfit. There is no such thing as “Grade D but edible” or “pet food only” grades of meat”.

Canines are known carrion eaters, and can handle a much higher bacteria load in their diet than we humans can. Their digestive systems are a marvel of adaptation and efficiency. For example, all manner of pet dogs have been well known to bury or hide their fresh meat bones for periods of time that render them foul and putrid smelling—or what we would likely term “rotten”–and then, to find, chew and ingest them, days or even weeks later, to no ill effect.

In my career as a greyhound trainer, I never encountered a greyhound with chronic digestive issues. Such an affliction would render any greyhound unable to perform and compete. Nevertheless, we read every day, on social media’s greyhound related pages, of adopted greyhounds who have chronic diarrhea, and who are fed all manner of extremely expensive custom, “designer” kibbles, none of which seem to rectify the problem.

The only greyhounds I have ever known who suffer chronic intestinal catharses are pet greyhounds–who are not fed the beef with which greyhounds are raised, grown and maintained, prior to and during their performance careers.

Greyhound breeders and trainers have had hundreds of years to experiment with various diets, and to judge, via objective performance results, which foodstuffs yield the best results, and maintain the greyhounds in the absolute best health and condition, with uncomplicated digestion and elimination habits. They all seem to agree, in the intensely competitive performance marketplace, that the much-maligned, lean, red, minced beef viscera, deemed “not fit for human consumption” is the best choice as a staple food.

The trendy and popular BARF (bones and raw foods) diet, which many breeders and owners of pet and performance/working dogs of other breeds have lionized and swear by, is simply an improvisation upon the basic greyhound diet.

“Raw feeding” has proven to be a panacea for many retired greyhounds who have simply not been able to adjust to or cope with an all kibble diet. Raw feeding is what greyhounds have been used to all their lives, and for countless generations of greyhounds that preceded them–which has resulted in a breed that is quite well adapted to this sort of diet.

Given the hundreds of processed pet food recalls that we see each year, the traditional greyhound basic diet of meat, meal, water, stewed vegetables and various other additives, begins to make even more sense for greyhounds who are experiencing significant difficulties adjusting to what for them, is an abnormal (and unappealing) diet of pure kibble.

MYTH # 2

“GREYHOUNDS ARE CONFINED TO THEIR CAGES FOR 23 HOURS A DAY”

To begin with, performing greyhounds in the USA, are bedded down in compartments called “crates”, not cages. These crates are no different, other than being larger (by mandate) than most of the crates you can purchase at your local pet emporium. They are identified on the boxes they come in as “crates”, and many adopters use them with great success when they are away from the home, or sleeping.

A crate is the greyhound’s “safe space”, where he cannot be disturbed by the others in the colony, but can still see and hear them and his human caretakers. The open air design allows the greyhound to remain cool in the hot weather, and warm in the cold weather, as kennels are climate-controlled. This open-air design also allows his trainers to maintain visual contact with him, so that they can always see what he is doing, and tell immediately if something is amiss with him, or troubling him.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, the more pertinent question is…

“For how many hours of ‘awake time’ each day, are greyhounds confined to their crates?”

The answer to the question is, about 2-4 hours per day, on average, depending upon what the individual greyhound is scheduled to do that day.

As we have already discussed, greyhounds are world-renown, world-class sleepers, who require significant downtime, often as much as 16 hours a day of sleep, to replenish the enormous amounts of energy they expend while training and performing.

Greyhounds lead very busy and active lives as performing athletes. They are usually turned out in large groups, to play, socialize and to take care of nature’s calls, 4-6 times per day, for anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.

Their everyday routine might also involve significant time spent training, galloping, walking, swimming, performing, and/or being groomed, massaged, checked for injuries–and even taking whirlpool baths. There are few dull moments.

Again, simple common sense tells us that greyhounds don’t develop and maintain their impressive, dense musculature by spending their awake-time laying around, hangin’ out, playing video games, and eating Doritos.

MYTH #1

“GREYHOUND BREEDERS ARE ONLY INTERESTED IN BREEDING FOR SPEED, SPEED AND MORE SPEED”

If only it were that easy. While speed is a necessary attribute for any successful greyhound who competes in running sports, it is far from the only necessary attribute. Greyhound breeders wrack their brains trying to come up with just the right combination of bloodline, traits, aptitudes and attributes between a prospective sire and dam that they would prefer be passed on to the prospective offspring.

Perhaps the most important attribute a greyhound can possess, maybe even more than pure speed or pace, is what we refer to as “heart”. It’s what sportswriters and pundits call an “intangible”. Heart, in the case of a greyhound, is an all-consuming desire and will to lead the pack in the chase, despite any adversity he/she may encounter. A greyhound who possess brilliant pace or speed, will not succeed in a big way, if he or she does not also possess a great deal of “heart” and desire to lead the pack.

Likewise, a greyhound who can flash incredible speed, will not be very successful if he/she does not also have sufficient stamina to “stay the course”, for however long the event takes.

Having a great degree of natural athleticism is also a requisite for any greyhound to become a successful competitor, in whatever greyhound sport they do participate.

A greyhound who lacks the nerve and courage to hold his line in the chaos of the pack, when turning at high speeds, will never amount to much of a competitor. Similarly, that also applies to a greyhound who lacks the aptitude and skill to weave his/her way through congestion to lead the pack.

So we can see that the breeder has many things to consider, besides speed, when planning a mating.

He not only wants to breed greyhounds who are fast and agile, but who are also smart, brave and tenacious chasers, and who possess the character of the classic greyhound.

All of the above are some of the very reasons greyhounds make such fascinating and unique pets. These desirable aptitudes and attributes, these intangibles, are part of the makeup of all greyhounds, to a greater or lesser degree. A greyhound doesn’t need to have been a world-class competitor to be a fine example of traditional and classical greyhound temperament and disposition. There are many common, blue-collar competitors who give every last measure of their ability, each and every time they are asked to perform.

When they become your pet, they will display those same sterling attributes and qualities, as your life-long, dedicated companion or family member, giving you every last measure of their love and devotion.

And that is why they are so well loved themselves, the world over.

Written by Dennis McKeon
copyright, 2018

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Hanks Goin Crazy (Hank)

What’s In A Name?

 

We often hear from new adopters of retired greyhounds, that the greyhound they have adopted doesn’t respond to its “call name”. A call name is the name that the trainers and the assistants use when training, handling and addressing an individual greyhound.
Many times, the greyhound’s call name bears no resemblance to the dog’s registered, official, racing name, but sometimes it is a derivation or abbreviation of that name. Nevertheless, it is to both the greyhounds’ and their adopters’ benefit, if the call name is known. Sometimes, the greyhound’s call name is lost in the transition from track, to adoption kennel, to adopter, however.
Irrespective of all that, given that the newly adopted greyhound is about to go through (what for some of them is) a cataclysmic change of venue and lifestyle, it can be of some, small comfort to them, to hear their familiar name spoken and used by these complete strangers–who will soon become the focus of their new lives. There are many challenging adjustments ahead for the newly re-homed greyhound, and having to learn to respond to an unfamiliar name, can only serve to complicate making those adjustments.
Now there are some greyhounds who may choose not to respond to a strange voice, or to a person with whom they aren’t familiar, or with whom they aren’t yet entirely comfortable. This should not be interpreted by the new adopter as a personal rejection. It’s just that some greyhounds can be almost cat-like in their aloofness, or their reaction to new people within their sphere and environment. That aloofness can be amplified by their shocking discovery that their environment is now entirely unfamiliar, full of strange, and often, mysterious or intimidating sights, sounds and objects. Their call name may be the only familiar thing they have to hold onto, at that stage of the game.
Back in the day, when I was plying the trade, most of the time greyhounds would arrive at the racing kennel with their call name taped or otherwise written on their collars. Since it was a racing commission rule that the greyhound’s official racing name could not be in any way affixed to their crate (so that no stranger could tamper with them in order to affect a dog’s performance), the call name was usually printed on a piece of masking tape, and then affixed to the dog’s crate.
The popular misconception among some adopters, is to infer that in cases where the greyhound is unresponsive to what they were told was its call name, that he or she must not have actually had one. While I suppose that it might the case in very isolated instances, I can assure you, that in my experience, they all had familiar names. It would be virtually impossible for any trainer to maintain order and efficiency in his/her kennel, if the individual greyhounds in their care, were not responsive to their trainer’s call or commands.
Looking back on it all now, there are times when I can’t recall the racing name of a greyhound I may have handled, but I can almost always remember their call names. That’s how we knew them.
For example, there is the curious case of one red-brindle, 76 pounder, called Lamont. He had the most vexing habit of racing on the outermost part of the track, right next to the grass apron—all the way around. He didn’t simply veer wide on the straightaways, and then drop down to the rail to shotgun the turns. Au contraire—he parked himself as wide as was canine-ly possible, and stayed there, for the entire race.
Because he was giving up gobs of ground to his rivals, he had some difficulty recovering that ground in a 550 yard race. And while he was gifted with otherworldly speed and stamina, he just couldn’t get up in time to beat good dogs, given his bizarre, extreme fixation on the outer lane of the racetrack. No amount of training, high, holy novenas, sorcery, witchcraft, or even trying to reason with him, was about to change that.
So I decided that his future success would probably be more easily secured with a change in distance–to longer distance. Even though that would present him with another, additional turn, on which he would inevitably give away even more ground, there was no doubt in my mind that he would easily stay for 770 yards (marathon distance), eventually. The plan was to give him a few races at 660 yards, see how he handled that, and then, go onto the longer, marathon distance.
Now, you have to let the racing secretary know when you wish to change a greyhound from one distance to another, and there was a standard form to fill out, so that he could draw him into a race at the distance you had indicated you preferred. I did that, and went to work on Lamont, getting him ready for yet a new adventure in practiced ground-losing.
Normally, the dog will not miss a day in rotation, and might even draw in to race a day earlier, when you switch from shorter to longer distance (there are always fewer greyhounds entered for distances longer than the standard, 550 yard “sprint”, so the turnaround can be faster). For some reason, Lamont didn’t draw in at all. I guess I waited about 5 days before I decided I had better inquire of the racing secretary, just what was the problem.
But I didn’t have to. That evening, after weighing in the night’s racers, in my message box in the racing office, was a note, from the racing secretary himself. It read simply:
“No dog named Lamont on roster”.
I was god-smacked. I had, mindlessly, entered the dog by his call name!
Lamont wasn’t Lamont, to the public or to the racing secretary. His official racing name was—ironically enough—Beyond Recall.
copyright, 2017 by Dennis McKeon
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The Eaton Greys, Cooper, Newt and Jed.

 

 

Understanding Separation Anxiety in Greyhounds

 

One of the most common complaints we hear from new greyhound adopters, has to do with what is known as “separation anxiety”. What it means, is that when the new adopter leaves the home, the greyhound becomes extremely stressed.
This behavior can manifest as “fretting” (hyperventilating), whining, barking, or all of the above, as well as engaging in less creative behaviors–like chewing things, and/or other not quite constructive expressions of angst or agitation. While there are sedatives that the vet may prescribe for extreme cases of anxiety, it may be of some help to look at why a greyhound might exhibit this upsetting behavior.
From the moment he or she came into this world, your greyhound was probably never alone, for even a moment. They are raised in the constant company of their dams and littermates, and while the dam will be separated at some point, the littermates usually remain together. There are often dozens of other pups on the breeder’s premises, and they are kept in kennel runs adjacent to one another, where they can be seen, barked at incessantly, and/or goaded into dashing competitions, or display-of-fierceness contests.
Then, in the racing kennel, often the litter remains together, and the larger pack is introduced to them. There, they learn to do everything in concert with their pack/colony, and their handlers, and the atmosphere is quite social.
Even in their crates, they remain in visual contact with their kennelmates and their handlers. Quite often, littermates may spend their entire lives at the same venues, with the same handlers, and remain together until one or more of them is retired.
So, is it any wonder that a newly adopted greyhound, suddenly thrust into what for them is an alien universe, full of strange things and unfamiliar people—and perhaps without the company of other greyhounds, for the first time in his life—might feel some uneasiness?
There can be much more than meets the eye to a greyhound’s anxiety. Any number of triggers might induce anxiety in the new adoptee, from the strange new objects and appliances in the home, to the new smells, sights and sounds of the neighborhood, to any of the many changes in his established and ingrained routine, to which he/she must now learn to adapt.
The most overlooked of these triggers being, that the greyhound has no idea what he did wrong to have suddenly been picked up and plopped down into this entirely new, and (often) intimidating situation. There is a blind spot among some adopters, which can fail to perceive even the possibility that the greyhound may have been perfectly happy with things as they were, as a racing athlete, one among many—a pack member.
Contrary to popular greyhound mythology, the vast majority of racing greyhounds, are quite content and fulfilled doing what it is that they have been bred to do, within a colony of their peers. Working dogs are generally that way. Most relish and thrive on their work, and the physical and mental stimulation it provides.
Greyhounds prosper with routine, punctuality and repetition. They blossom when they are as free of all stresses as we can make them. But they often have some reservations about novelty. They are used to regimentation and predictability, and their whole lives have revolved around the narrower confines of the breeding, raising, training and racing environment, as opposed to the brave new world of the adopter’s home, social outlets, and leisure time activities, in which the dog may now be included. Regardless, he no longer has the outlet of training and racing to pleasantly fatigue himself, and to relieve pent up stress—a very important factor to be aware of.
The new, retired adoptee was likely already bonded to one or more of his/her handlers, and often, to one or more of their kennelmates—who are now, suddenly, gone. It’s a huge void to fill for most of them. This bonding, by the way, generally happens over a period of time, where the greyhound learns who, in their circle, can be relied upon and trusted. Just because a newly adopted greyhound may resign himself to the fact that you are his new human, and even be amenable to it, doesn’t mean that you have bonded with him–or he with you. That may or may not happen, with time, depending upon your individual greyhound’s adaptability—and your own.
The point is, of course, that separation anxiety can be more of an
“I simply can’t deal with being alone, and I miss my job and my friends” anxiety—especially for the new adoptee.
Smothering the dog with toys, treats and attention won’t usually be a panacea for the anxious, newly re-homed greyhound. That elusive panacea is more likely to be routine, punctuality, stress reduction in the home environment, physically and mentally engaging the dog in stimulating, healthy activities–and time–time for the greyhound to learn to trust, to rely upon, and then to eventually bond with their new person(s).
copyright, 2017 ( credit to Dennis McKeon)
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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.

Photo Courtesy of The Greyt Hound

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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