Greyhound Adoption - Good Pets for Good People
Every dog that goes up for adoption has a story. A greyhound’s story begins in dog racing, where he lives the life of an athlete. But greyhounds are much more than just working dogs—they are gentle, sensitive animals that can become loyal, loving pets. The more that people hear the greyhound story, the more they want to be part of it.
When a greyhound is adopted, it is hard to tell who feels luckier—the dog or his adoptive family. The greyhound has been given a new start after life in the fast lane of dog racing. The new owner has found a wonderful pet. Together, greyhounds and people are a winning combination!
REASONS TO BE REVERED
Greyhounds have been held in high regard throughout their long history for their good nature and hunting abilities. The ancient Egyptians, who carved images of the dogs on tombs, considered the birth of a greyhound to be second in importance only to the birth of a son. King Tut and Cleopatra kept large numbers of greyhounds. The English also revered these regal dogs: For 700 years, only people of noble birth were permitted to own them.
English settlers brought greyhounds to America for their hunting skills. Because they hunt by sight rather than scent, greyhounds belong to a group of dogs called sighthounds or gazehounds. Greyhounds can spot movement up to half a mile away and take off in hot pursuit at 40 miles per hour, which is why they are preferred for racing. When greyhounds run, they spend more time in the air than on the ground!
Dog racing originated in ancient Egypt in competitions that the English later called coursing—chasing game across the countryside. This led to modern dog racing, in which dogs chase a mechanical rabbit around a track. When greyhounds are 2 to 5 years of age, their racing days are over because they are not as fast as they used to be. That is when they need to find new homes. Thousands of people every year discover the joy of greyhound adoption when they rescue a racer that becomes a wonderful pet!
Greyhounds are winners not only as racers but also as pets. “Greyhounds make the best pets,” says David Wolf, director of the National Greyhound Adoption Program Inc. and lecturer on greyhound health issues. His program finds homes for about 500 retired racers every year. “It makes me feel good to save as many dogs as we do every year, improve their health, and make many people happy,” he says.
Greyhounds are quiet, gentle dogs that are adored by their owners. They love people and rarely ever bark. Their special qualities make them almost addictive. “With greyhounds, there is a potato chip effect—you have to have more than one,” says Wolf.
Because greyhounds are raised with other dogs and handled since puppyhood, they usually get along well with other pets (especially other greyhounds) and people. “You can have six of these dogs lying around your house and not have a circus,” says Wolf. Nevertheless, selecting any pet requires careful consideration, and children must be taught how to interact with all pets. “Greyhounds respond well to training, which helps them adjust quickly to family life,” says Wolf.
Greyhounds have been bred and trained to chase, so some may be unsuitable for homes with small pets, such as cats or house rabbits. With trainer-approved techniques, greyhounds can be taught to become friends with indoor cats. Over 60% of the dogs from Wolf’s agency are in happy homes with cats.
In addition to their good nature, greyhounds are low-maintenance dogs. They have short haircoats and shed very little, so they don’t need to be bathed or groomed very often.
Greyhounds weigh 50 to 80 pounds and stand 26 to 29 inches tall at the shoulder. However, they don’t eat any more than other big dogs. Most require around 2 cups of food per feeding twice a day.
Regular walks and an occasional sprint are usually enough for greyhounds to maintain good health and fitness. They can be gradually conditioned to jog with their owners but would probably prefer to sprint at 40 miles per hour (if you think you can manage that!). Because they can go far fast, they should always be fenced or leashed.
Once a greyhound is adopted, new owners quickly learn how wonderful these dogs are. Adoption agencies ensure that new owners also know about the needs of these unique dogs.
Greyhounds are raised with many other dogs and handled only by trainers and kennel helpers, so some must be coaxed to act like a normal pet. These dogs need someone who is willing to spend time making friends with them. With a little encouragement, greyhounds do extremely well at making the transition from racing dog to loving pet.
Since greyhounds are used to living at the dog track, they may not be used to slick floors, screen or glass doors, or stairs. Newly adopted dogs need an adjustment period to get used to these new things. Flat adhesive runners can help with slick floors. “To help greyhounds avoid collisions with screen or glass doors, place a decal or piece of tape at a low level on the door,” suggests Wolf. “Owners can use treats and encouragement to teach the dogs to use stairs,” adds Aggie Kiefer, a veterinary technician who has owned greyhounds and worked with an adoption agency.
Greyhounds live 12 to 14 years and stay quite healthy. Dr. Johnny Hoskins, a veterinarian in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, says that just as in other dogs, proper oral care is the most important health issue for greyhounds. “These dogs require regular dental checkups and teeth cleanings,” he says.
Because of their racing days, some greyhounds may have orthopedic injuries. Those that do usually get around just fine, but owners should talk to their veterinarian about any problems and monitor their dogs.
Last but not least, greyhounds like to be warm (can you blame them?). They have a thin haircoat and very little body fat, so they prefer the indoors, and it is important to provide them with a soft, warm place to sleep. When it gets cold outside, don’t send them out without a dog coat. “In snowy areas, they may even appreciate boots!,” says Kiefer.
GIVING GREYHOUNDS A NEW START
If the greyhound story is speaking to you, there are many ways to be a part of it:
- Spread the word that greyhounds make great pets.
- Support a greyhound adoption agency with your time, money, or supplies (for example, you can donate blankets, towels, dog dishes, and food).
- Become a greyhound foster parent by taking in a dog that is waiting for an adoptive family.
- Adopt a greyhound!
If you are interested in adopting one of these wonderful dogs, start by doing some research. Meet some greyhounds and talk to their owners. There are over 200 greyhound adoption facilities throughout the United States. Find the best agency near you through one of the organizations listed on this page. You can fill out an adoption application online, in the office, or at a “meet and greet,” where potential owners meet greyhounds and their adopted “parents.”
The agency will meet with you to discuss the supplies you need to adopt a greyhound (a dog cage, a certain-sized fence, etc.). The agency will check your references as well as establish a profile of your family and match it to the personality profile of a dog that needs a home. To ensure a successful match, agencies are very selective about the homes that their greyhounds go into, and it may take several weeks to adopt your dog from the time you are approved. Ask the adoption agency if you will be able to return or exchange the dog if it is not compatible with your household. Before adoption, agencies may ensure that the dog has seen a veterinarian and has been spayed/neutered, vaccinated, and dewormed as well as had its teeth cleaned. Most agencies require a fee to cover these costs.
It is an exciting day when the agency calls to tell new owners that they can pick up their new greyhound. Be aware that your new dog will probably be more grateful to you than he can express. Still, you’ll feel like the lucky one!
THUMPER AND FAMILY—A WINNING COMBINATION
“He’s a big couch potato,” says Lynne Tagliaferro of her greyhound, Thumper (shown at right with daughter Victoria, left, and husband Robert). When Lynne and Robert, who live in Toms River, New Jersey, were thinking about getting another dog, they did some research. They contacted the New Jersey Greyhound Adoption Program, which suggested that they go to a “meet and greet” to meet several dogs and their owners. The Tagliaferros met Sheila Havens, a foster mom who takes in greyhounds right from the racetrack and helps them find permanent homes.
When the Tagliaferros decided to take the next step toward adoption, they met with the adoption agency and learned about the criteria they would have to meet. “If we were going to let the dog into the backyard, we had to have a fence,” says Tagliaferro. Adoption agencies check to make sure that their greyhounds are good with other animals and children. The Tagliaferros have two children and one other dog.
About 3 weeks later, “Sheila called to say that she had a dog and we should come over to meet him,” recalls Tagliaferro. “We met Thumper and just knew it was right.”
Although Thumper and the Tagliaferros are a winning combination, there was an adjustment period as there is with any new pet. “With a greyhound it’s a little bit different because of the life that it’s lived,” says Tagliaferro. “We had to teach Thumper how to go up and down stairs because he had never seen them before.” In addition, some ex-racers run only to the left because that’s how they are trained to race. Thumper has discovered the thrill of running in any direction in his backyard!
Tagliaferro highly recommends adopting a greyhound. Everyone in her family, including their other dog (a husky-shepherd mix), gets along great with Thumper, who is very happy and easygoing. “He likes playing with our other dog, but he loves nothing more than just lying on the couch,” says Tagliaferro. Considering his years in racing, Thumper has earned the right to be a couch potato!
NATIONAL SUPPORT AND REFERRAL SERVICES
Greyhound Pets of America
National Greyhound Adoption Program Inc.
4701 Bath St.
Philadelphia, PA 19137
The Greyhound Project Inc.
Joan Belle Isle
PO Box 358
Marblehead, MA 01945
Web: adopt-a-greyhound.org/tgp.html (includes a national directory of rescue and adoption organizations)
424 E. 92nd Street
New York, NY 10128
Greyhound Protection League
PO Box 669
Penn Valley, CA 95946