Retired Racing Greyhounds For Dummies book cover

Retired Racing Greyhounds For Dummies

Published: October 11, 2000

Overview

“The next best thing to having an experienced Greyhound owner living with you.”
—Joan Belle Isle, President, Greyhound Project

“Anyone who reads this book and follows its guidance will have a happier, healthier dog and be a happier, more relaxed dog owner.”
—Hal and Karen Hawley, Greyhound Friends Northwest

The Greyhound has been celebrated in song and legend for thousands of years. Nowadays, Greyhounds are bred almost exclusively for racing. In the bad old days, prior to the 1980s, dogs that didn’t make the grade at the track, and those past their primes, were destroyed. According to official estimates, 60,000 of these noble, mild-mannered dogs were destroyed each year! Fortunately, a number of organizations now exist devoted to rescuing these unwanted dogs and placing them in good homes.

Thinking about adopting a retired racing Greyhound? Or maybe you’re already sharing your life with one of these charming animals. Either way, this friendly guide tells you everything you need to know to:

  • Understand the Greyhound personality
  • Find a retired racing Greyhound to adopt
  • Choose the right ex-racer for you and your family
  • Educate yourself and your retired racer
  • Give your new pal the diet and exercise it needs
  • Keep your dog healthy and happy for years to come

With plenty of good humor and straight-talk, Lee Livingood drawing on her forty-years of experience training adult rescue dogs to cover all the pros and cons of being a retired racing Greyhound owner, and she fills you in on:

  • The amazing 8000-year history of the Greyhound
  • Deciding whether an ex-racer is the right do for you and your family
  • Physical and behavioral characteristics
  • How to get a retired racer used to living in a home and be a companion
  • Dealing with common behavioral and health problems
  • Feeding, grooming, and exercising a Greyhound
  • Fun things to do with your hound

Bursting with expert advice on all aspects of living with an ex-racer, Retired Racing Greyhounds For Dummies is must reading for anyone considering adoption or who’s already taken the leap.

“The next best thing to having an experienced Greyhound owner living with you.”
—Joan Belle Isle, President, Greyhound Project

“Anyone who reads this book and follows its guidance will have a happier, healthier dog and be a happier, more relaxed dog owner.”
—Hal and Karen Hawley, Greyhound Friends Northwest

The Greyhound has been celebrated in song and legend for thousands of years. Nowadays, Greyhounds are bred almost exclusively for racing. In the bad old days, prior to the 1980s, dogs that didn’t make the grade at the track, and those past their primes, were destroyed. According to official estimates, 60,000 of these noble, mild-mannered dogs were destroyed each year! Fortunately, a number of organizations now exist devoted to rescuing these unwanted dogs and placing them in good homes.

Thinking about adopting a retired racing Greyhound? Or maybe you’re already sharing your life with one of these charming animals. Either way, this friendly guide tells you everything you need to know to:

  • Understand the Greyhound personality
  • Find
a retired racing Greyhound to adopt
  • Choose the right ex-racer for you and your family
  • Educate yourself and your retired racer
  • Give your new pal the diet and exercise it needs
  • Keep your dog healthy and happy for years to come
  • With plenty of good humor and straight-talk, Lee Livingood drawing on her forty-years of experience training adult rescue dogs to cover all the pros and cons of being a retired racing Greyhound owner, and she fills you in on:

    • The amazing 8000-year history of the Greyhound
    • Deciding whether an ex-racer is the right do for you and your family
    • Physical and behavioral characteristics
    • How to get a retired racer used to living in a home and be a companion
    • Dealing with common behavioral and health problems
    • Feeding, grooming, and exercising a Greyhound
    • Fun things to do with your hound

    Bursting with expert advice on all aspects of living with an ex-racer, Retired Racing Greyhounds For Dummies is must reading for anyone considering adoption or who’s already taken the leap.

    Retired Racing Greyhounds For Dummies Cheat Sheet

    Once you adopt a retired racing greyhound, ease the transition into your home for you and the dog by following basic training and care guidelines. Be on the lookout for certain symptoms that require a call to your greyhound’s veterinarian immediately and always keep a well-stocked first aid kit handy for your greyhound.

    Articles From The Book

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    Greyhounds Articles

    Ten Rules for Training a Retired Racing Greyhound

    Training your retired racer will help him live more comfortably and happily in your home. In this article, you'll find ten simple rules to follow when training your hound.

    Know how to speak Greyhound

    Take the time to figure out how retired racers think and how they respond. The more you understand about the breed and how his previous life affects his present behavior, the better you'll be at interpreting what he's trying to tell you.

    Your Greyhound's racing life exposed him to lots of people and lots of other Greyhounds, but he has no experience with the new world you've adopted him into. As a rule, Greyhounds are suspicious of things they've never seen before. And very little in your Greyhound's new life is like what he has seen before. Take that into account when you take him somewhere new or train him in an unfamiliar place. Always make new experiences positive.

    Although other dogs get hyper and noisy and flit from place to place when they're stressed, Greyhounds tend to turn into statues. When they're in this mode, they aren't learning, so back off and let them decide when it's safe to continue.

    Greyhounds have incredibly quick reaction times and tend to startle easily. When they're startled or frightened, they tend to bolt, and their body type makes backing out of a collar very easy. When they're in that flight mode, they can be in the next county before they stop running. So using a properly fitted special Greyhound collar and sturdy leash are essential anytime you're outdoors. Fenced yards and secure areas are necessary for any off-leash activities or training.

    Remember: Greyhounds are perpetual students

    Learning happens every moment your retired racer is alive. He learns whether you teach or not. He learns from everything that happens to him. Because every interaction with you is a learning experience, whether you intend it to be or not, try to take advantage of it.

    How your Greyhound responds is related to his training and his history. If your Greyhound continues to do something you don't want him to do, figure out how this negative behavior is being rewarded. If you want him to repeat something good, figure out how to reward that instead.

    Build a winning relationship

    Even if you don't care if your Greyhound ever sits, don't shortchange him by thinking that training is strictly about manners and obedience. Training is really about building a good relationship and having good communication. So train your Greyhound early and often to build that relationship and open those lines of communication.

    Greyhounds are sensitive to your moods and actions. Your retired racer will get stressed if he thinks you're upset. And harshness is almost guaranteed to offend him. If he doesn't like what's happening or if he's had enough, he'll shut down and go into statue mode.

    Although some breeds are very forgiving of events that frighten them, retired racers can take a long time to forgive and forget. Bad memories can last a long time. Try to avoid situations that are likely to scare him.

    Set him up to win

    While your Greyhound is learning new manners, manage his world so he can't get into trouble. Use gates, leashes, and crates to keep him out of trouble. Keep appealing but forbidden items out or reach or out of sight. Reward the behaviors you want from him, and use management to keep him from the behaviors you don't want. If it's safe to do so, ignore the behaviors you don't want. Management, not punishment, is the key.

    Catch him doing something right

    People are too accustomed to finding mistakes and correcting them. Most of us barely notice our hound if he's being quiet or chewing on a bone instead of a slipper. But we sure let him know about it if we catch him raiding the trash or chewing a sneaker. Train your Greyhound to do lots of behaviors that you can reward him for. Pay attention to him so you can catch him doing something right, and reward that good behavior.

    Realize that training is a process

    Don't be fooled by trainers who do infomercials or make celebrity appearances on late-night TV. No ten-minute cures exist for dogs with behavior problems. Training isn't a six-second sound bite. It's a process.

    Reliability is a direct function of your relationship with your retired racer and your commitment to training, combined with your dog's inherent temperament and character. If your hound isn't doing it right, you didn't train him right. If he continues to do something bad, it's because whatever reward he's getting from the bad behavior is more effective than whatever you're doing to reward him for being good.

    Make it fun

    Draw on your dog's natural abilities and interests. Try to find ways to incorporate his love of running, his need to chase, and his response to prey-like noises into your training. Be creative. Act silly. Make watching you more fun than anything else going on around him.

    Use the things your Greyhound wants as rewards. If he wants to chase a butterfly, ask for a sit, then release him to chase it as long as it's safe for him to do so. Pay attention to the things that are most interesting and important to him. Think of ways you can use these things or provide access to them as rewards. Turn life into a reward for the behaviors you want instead of something he has to escape from you in order to get.

    Keep it simple

    Break down behaviors into small pieces. If your Greyhound is not doing it right, chances are you're moving too fast or trying to teach too much at once. Even the simplest behaviors have multiple parts or actions. The more complex the behavior, the more important it is to break it into small pieces and teach each piece separately. When you make one part of a behavior more difficult, you have to make the other parts easier.

    Keep it short

    Greyhounds do not like lots of repetition. After three or four times of doing the same exercise, you'll start to see your Greyhound's attention stray and his eyes glaze over. If he's doing something correctly, just do it once or twice, and then move on. If he isn't doing it correctly, back up to something simpler so he can win. Then quit or move on to something different.

    Even gentle learning is stressful. Learn to recognize the subtle signs that your retired racer is stressed, and stop before he gets to that point.

    Keep it sweet

    Corrections have no place in training new behaviors. Being a bully doesn't do anything to build trust in your relationship. And training is all about having a good relationship.

    Rewards — and plenty of them — are key to successfully training a retired racer. But rewards shouldn't be bribes. If you bribe your hound to respond, he'll never have reason to respect your leadership. Make your rewards memorable, and keep him guessing about what you'll do next. Be creative. Be unpredictable. And always leave him wanting more.

    Greyhounds Articles

    Feeding Your Retired Racing Greyhound a Nutritious Diet

    Choosing which food to feed your retired racer isn't as simple as walking into the grocery store and buying the biggest, least expensive bag of food on the shelf. All dog foods are not created equal. Greyhounds need a high-quality diet suited to their specific needs.

    Although Greyhound lovers agree on how much they love their dogs, they don't always agree on which food is best. So keep in mind that virtually any opinion may be challenged by someone with equally good sources to support his or her opinion.

    The ideal balanced dry food diet for the average healthy retired racer is composed of 22 to 27 percent protein, 10 to 15 percent fat, and 5 percent fiber. If your hound is a real couch potato, use foods that are at the lower end of these ranges.

    As long as your Greyhound's weight is good, his coat is shiny and healthy, and his energy levels are strong, you're doing it right.

    Greyhounds that are actively and regularly competing in agility, lure coursing, or other high-energy activities need higher amounts of protein and fat in their diets. The right blend for them would be more like 28 to 30 percent protein, 15 percent fat, and 5 percent fiber. But remember that opinions vary considerably, even among the experts, so try different foods with your Greyhound and see how he responds. Modify his diet according to his specific needs.

    If your Greyhound is doing a lot of outdoor activities during cold weather, he may need extra energy to maintain his body temperature. If he spends a lot of time outdoors during hot weather, he will need extra energy to make up for what he uses to pant and stay cool. Just add a bit of extra oil to his diet or use a food with a slightly higher fat content. Remember: Keep an eye on the scale and his ribs, so he doesn't gain too much weight.

    Basics of good greyhound nutrition

    Many years ago, a dog's diet would have been primarily meat. But with the increased use of commercial pet foods, more and more of our dogs' diets are made up of carbohydrates from grains. The purpose of eating, of course, is to provide energy. This energy comes from three sources: protein, fat, and carbohydrates.

    Protein

    The amount of energy your Greyhound gets from the protein sources in his diet depends on the quality of the protein and its digestibility. Some proteins are used by dogs more efficiently than others. The highest quality protein sources are eggs, fish, meat, and poultry. Milk can also be a good source of protein, but most adult dogs don't tolerate milk well. Grains can also provide protein, but these are lower quality proteins.

    If you start to read up on diet and nutrition, you'll find all kinds of arguments about how much protein your dog should get and from what sources. Some people argue that we are feeding way too little protein to our dogs, that dogs do better on amounts in the 28 to 30 percent range, and that protein should come primarily from meat. Others argue that we are feeding too much protein and that amounts shouldn't exceed 20 to 22 percent. Still others argue that dogs can do very well on a vegetarian diet, with no protein from meat.

    Take a more moderate stance and feed your dog a diet that is composed of 22 to 27 percent protein.

    Fat

    Fat is a highly concentrated source of energy, supplying more than twice as much energy as proteins and carbohydrates. Fat provides essential fatty acids and transports fat-soluble vitamins. Fat may also make food taste better and may help your dog feel fuller with less food.

    Greyhounds who don't get enough of the right kinds of fat generally have coarse, dry coats and dandruff. Feed your dog a diet that consists of 10 to 15 percent fat.

    Many dog food producers use discarded old fat from the restaurant industry. If the brand of food you buy smells rancid, switch brands, or at least return that bag and ask for a replacement.

    Carbohydrates

    Carbohydrates come in the form of grains, sugars, fruits, and vegetables. Dogs don't need high amounts of carbohydrate in their diet. But commercial dog foods often contain lots of carbohydrates, because they're a less expensive source of energy than protein or fat.

    Other elements of greyhound health

    In addition to feeding your Greyhound a diet with the correct balance of protein, fat, and carbohydrates, you also need to make sure he's getting enough water, vitamins, and minerals. Check out the following sections for more information on these vital parts of a dog's diet.

    Water

    Your retired racer should always have a supply of fresh water available. Dogs vary widely in their consumption of water. So the amount of water your hound needs depends on a variety of things, like the temperature, his activity level, and the moisture content of his food. The average 60-pound dog consumes a total of seven cups of water from all sources, including food, every day. But many Greyhounds drink less water than the average dog.

    Don't spend a lot of time worrying about the amount of water your dog should drink every day. Instead, just make sure he has a constant supply of fresh water, and he'll drink as much as he needs. Never withhold water without consulting a veterinarian.

    Vitamins and minerals

    We know almost nothing about the vitamin and mineral needs of dogs. And we know even less about using vitamins and minerals as supplements to a balanced diet. But that doesn't stop a variety of opinions from being bandied about.

    Vitamins are classified as either fat-soluble or water-soluble. Dogs need some vitamins, because they can't manufacture all they need to meet their daily requirements. However, unlike humans, dogs do manufacture vitamin C. Because vitamin C is also used as a preservative in commercial dog foods, many knowledgeable people argue that young, healthy dogs rarely need additional amounts of this important vitamin.

    Commercial diets include vitamins and minerals. Some people argue that poor storage, use of rancid fats, and the processing of commercial foods breaks down or renders vitamins and minerals unavailable. Others argue that commercial dog foods provide all the vitamins and minerals a healthy dog needs if the food is stored and handled properly.

    Greyhounds Articles

    Determining What You Want in a Retired Racing Greyhound

    If you're certain you can provide a loving, lifelong home for a retired racer, think about what kind of retired racer you want before you contact an adoption group or a track kennel. If you take the time to list the characteristics you want in your retired racer and any lifestyle issues you need to address, you're much more likely to find one who will soon become a valued part of your family.

    Consider the issues that matter in your home, like the following:

    • The Greyhound's size
    • How he interacts with children, including those who may come to visit
    • How he interacts with other animals in your home
    • How much time you have to spend playing with and training him

    As you consider these issues, be sure to make clear distinctions between wants and needs. You may need a hound who deals well with children. And you may want a smaller dog but would welcome a larger dog into your home as well. Only you know what your wants and needs are, so be honest with yourself.

    The right Greyhound can adapt to almost any lifestyle. But that doesn't mean that asking him to adapt to dramatic changes is always fair. Look at what the Greyhound was bred for. You may be happier if you looked elsewhere for a training buddy for that marathon. And he may be happier in front of the fireplace or the campfire than blazing a trail through a thicket of blackberry bushes.

    In short, look at your lifestyle, consider the Greyhound's temperament, and think of the individual personality of the retired racer you're considering. Then worry about things like sex, age, size, and color, all covered in the following sections.

    Sex

    Each dog is an individual, just as each sibling within a family is unique. Look at each individual dog and how he or she fits into your lifestyle. Unless there is a very specific reason why you must have a male or a female, let the personality of the dog be your guide.

    Many Greyhound owners swear that males are better with children. Your child's behavior around your retired racer is more likely to influence your hound's response than his gender is.

    If you already have a dog in your family, choose a dog of the opposite sex. They're less likely to argue over who's top dog.

    Age

    Most Greyhounds end their racing careers between the ages of two and four. Some racers who are particularly good may run until they are five years old, and then they may be used for breeding. Those used for breeding may not be retired until they are as old as eight.

    Because Greyhounds don't mature until they are about three years of age, a two-year-old retired racer may still be very much a puppy and quite full of himself. He may need more exercise and more supervision than a dog who is just a few months or a year older.

    An older dog — one over six or seven years of age — is a delightful addition to any family. The only downside of adopting an older hound is that he may not be with you as long. Naturally, a senior hound is more likely to need ongoing medical treatment as he gets older. But if you have the financial resources to deal with a problem if one does develop, they have more love to give than money can buy.

    Many older hounds are returned to adoption groups or surrendered to animal shelters because they no longer fit a family's lifestyle. The family may be moving to a big new house and doesn't want the lawn ruined by a dog that loves to run. Or maybe they've had a baby and have found owning a dog to be too inconvenient. The reasons are endless, but the result is an abandoned racer who needs a loving family. Because Greyhounds have an average life expectancy of 12 or more years, even a seven-year-old dog is likely to spend another five to seven years with you. That's a lot of love left to give, so don't dismiss older guys.

    Size

    Racing Greyhounds range from 24 to 30 inches tall at the shoulders, and active racers weigh between 40 and 80 pounds. Because of their early training, retired racers don't tend to pull on their leashes. This makes them easier to manage than other untrained large dogs.

    For large dogs, Greyhounds are pretty small. Huh? Although they are very tall dogs and can sprawl over an entire queen-size bed, they are also like a furry folding table. They can tuck in their legs and curl up into the most amazingly small spaces. They also tend to back up rather than try to turn and scurry when they are in the way, which is a real blessing when your arms are full and you can't see that the dog is in the way. Greyhounds just don't seem to get underfoot, even in small spaces.

    So unless you have serious physical limitations or a really tiny bed, size doesn't need to be a factor in your decision-making process. Just keep in mind that even a medium-size Greyhound is still a large dog.

    Color and physical appearance

    Greyhounds are found in virtually every color or combination you can imagine. With so many dogs available, you should be able to find a retired racer in the color you'd prefer. Just keep in mind that a satisfactory, long-term relationship is a function of temperament and personality, not physical appearance.

    Even Greyhounds who weren't the fastest racers on the track still have the hearts of champions. Don't count on finding a racer free of any physical imperfections. These dogs are retired athletes. Like all athletes, they've spent years working very hard — and they have the scars to prove it. Your retired racer may have nicks, dings, and scars. He may even be missing a toe or walk with a limp. He may have a crimp in his tail because he wags it too hard or caught it in a door and broke it. None of these things make him a less perfect dog; rather, they add a dash of character.

    Naturally, the more restrictive your wish list is, the more time you may need to find the right retired racer. If you have your heart set on a blue female who is cat- and kid-friendly, weighs less than 45 pounds, stands less than 24 inches at the shoulder, and is less than 2 years old, you'll likely have a very long wait. If you have specific, real reasons for narrowing your choices, that's fine. But don't shut yourself off from finding a new best friend for the wrong reasons.

    Before you get your heart set on a certain color, sex, or age, think about what's really important — how this particular retired racer will fit into your lifestyle. Leave the fashion statements for the fashion runways.