Until a few years back, the word ‘greyhound‘ for me conjured an image of the dog as portrayed on the cover of Blur’s 1994 album, Parklife: a muzzled racing machine; a ‘sports’ dog; bred for a life on the track & nothing more… How wrong I was!
Good music, bad cover
Several years down the line, I’m a little older & a lot wiser (when it comes to greyhounds at least) & would like to share my new-found wisdom, in the hope that others discover what fantastic pets these animals make. & here’s why…
Greyhounds love human company
Greyhounds adore human company. Having often been starved of it for the first few years of their lives, they can’t wait to get to know their first ‘real’ human! Providing them with nutritious food & a warm comfy place to sleep are already enough to win these easy-to-please guys round. Throw in a couple of walks a day & you rock their world! Often greyhounds won’t have received any affection from humans during their life on the track, so may not seek it immediately. However, it doesn’t take them long to figure out that having these long necks of theirs rubbed, their ears fondled & their spine stroked from top to tail feels good & they’d like some more please!
Greyhounds are affectionate
Once they get to know you, greyhounds are incredibly affectionate animals. They display this in all sorts of different ways, from ‘kissing’ your hand with their nose, leaning their head in your lap, rubbing their muzzle up against you, licking your face (if you don’t mind that kind of thing, which I don’t!) & full-on rolling right over & presenting their belly to be rubbed! Greyhounds are very loyal pets, probably because of the stark contrast in how you treat them compared to how they were treated during their racing days, & they look up at you over that long long nose of theirs & you know they trust you 100% completely. I think they know that you’ve rescued them & that creates a bond that never breaks.
Greyhounds are loyal
Greyhounds are beautiful
Tall & elegant, with long graceful limbs & an aristocratic stance, greyhounds really are the cat-walk models of the dog-world. Take a step closer & you’ll see the beauty continues in their slender faces. Those wide brown eyes & furrowed brow project a steady calmness, when a greyhound extends it’s neck & rests its chin gently upon you. Watching a greyhound run, their bodies seem to glide effortlessly in one fluid motion from the top of their nose to the tip of their tail. It is wonderful to see them able to veer where they please, unrestricted by the confines of a track or muzzle – you can see the pure joy expressed in their face & the ‘dance’ they weave as they run.
Greyhounds are beautiful
Greyhounds are wise
Greyhounds are entertaining
A pet greyhound will never fail to keep you entertained! Their facial expressions alone are priceless – who could fail to be amused by those cheeky eyes set at the end of that comical needle nose & under the dog-world’s most expressive eyebrows, with those cute little rose-bud ears perched on top? In addition to being one of the world’s fastest land animals, greyhounds are capable of going from placid to completely bonkers in 0.03 seconds! It’s these playful little bursts of energy which punctuate their calm, almost regal, composition that make them so endearing. & before you know it, they’ve nodded off again…
Greyhounds are fun
Greyhounds are hilarious
You will also find that greyhounds are capable of falling asleep in seemingly any position, no matter how unnatural looking: head dangling off the sofa, check; nostrils squashed against the floor, check; completely upside down, check!! They say that greyhounds are ‘the biggest lap dog in the world’ & it’s true – it’s amazing how they will manage to compact themselves up into a ball on your lap & squeeze into the smallest of spaces.
Greyhounds will sleep anywhere
Greyhounds are healthy
Unlike many pure-bred dogs, greyhounds don’t suffer the deleterious consequences of inbreeding. This is most likely because they have been (& still are) bred for functionality & not form. The wide range in both size & colour of greyhounds reflects a healthy genetic diversity. With the exception of a certain susceptibility to injuring these long limbs of theirs if allowed to run freely in unchecked environments, they are not typically prone to illness, & not expensive to insure. It is important to keep their teeth clean &, as with other large breed dogs, to ensure that periods of exercise & eating are well spaced (to avoid the risk of ‘bloat‘ or gastric volvulus) but other than this no special attention is needed. Unlike most large breed dogs, greyhounds have a relatively long life-span, usually living until they are 12 years old or so (compare this to an average life span of 9 years in great danes).
Greyhounds are multicoloured
Greyhounds are long-lived
Greyhounds are clean
Although not a non-shedding breed (like poodles, for example), greyhounds shed very little hair & are therefore a good choice for dog lovers (like me) with mild allergies. Their short coat does not pick up much dirt or moisture, & you won’t need to dry or wash them as they’ll take care of that themselves, grooming their own coats (& sometimes each others – aaaww!) like cats. Greyhounds have a unique, subtle ‘earthy’ smell, which is quite unlike that of any other dog I’ve come across ( & nothing like that awful ‘wet dog’ smell!) – it makes you want to snuggle into their long necks & breath it in!
Greyhounds are self-cleaning
Greyhounds don’t need much exercise
Contrary to popular belief, greyhounds do not require a lot of exercise. Dubbed ’45 mph couch potatoes’, greyhounds are designed to excel at running short distances but they are no marathon runners! A couple of 20 minute walks a day is plenty exercise for most greyhounds, after which they will be delighted to retake up their position on the sofa. Greyhounds are capable of much more exercise than this though, if you accustomise them to it – just don’t expect them to keep up the 45 mph pace for the entire walk! On the other hand, they do make wonderful ‘hot water bottles’.
Greyhounds are 45 mph…
Greyhounds need you
Bred in large numbers for the racing industry, did you know that almost all greyhounds are ‘retired’ from racing by the time they are a few years old? As soon as a greyhound is no longer winning enough races to ‘earn’ its keep, it becomes surplus to trainers’ requirements. While some trainers are responsible & do their best to find good homes for all dogs that they retire, many are not so. The result is an overwhelming number of greyhounds who end up neglected or abandoned, in dog pounds, put to sleep or, at worst, mutilated (ears are cut off to remove tattoo evidence of the dogs’ identity) & murdered (thus avoiding veterinary fees for euthanasia).
Luckily, there are many UK (& worldwide) greyhound rescue charities, who take in these retired dogs & care for them whilst they await rehoming. One of the largest greyhound rehoming charities in the UK is the Retired Greyhound Trust. This is where we adopted our first greyhound, Max, from. However, there are also lots of smaller organisations who operate locally, such as Midlothian-based Gracehounds,where we adopted our Molly from in 2008. Without these charities & the people who choose to welcome greyhounds into their homes as pets, these amazing animals will at worst be destroyed & at best live out the rest of their lives in the confines of a kennel.
Greyhounds need you
So, next time someone mentions greyhounds I hope you might spare a thought to consider the wonderful sweet-natured pets that these animals make, rather than the stereotypical image of dogs chasing a mechanical rabbit around a track.
I you are interested in adopting a retired greyhound as a pet, you can find out more by clicking on the links below or by enquiring at your local greyhound rehoming charity.