Anyone Adopted a Retired Racing Greyhound

Have any dopers out there adopted a retired racing greyhound?

I currently have a Norewegian Elkhound who’s 9, and two littermate cats who are 13. I’ll be moving into a new condo in Chicago later this year and depending on how dog-friendly the neighborhood is and how easy it will be getting a dog in and out of the building (elevator building or not, nearby place to walk a dog), I may be getting another dog sooner rather than later. Originally I was thinking of getting a Rhodesian Ridgeback from breed rescue, but when UncleBeer and I went to the pet fair at Arlington Park a few weeks ago, in part to see if we could find a ridgie rescue group, I was quite taken with the greyhounds we saw there, and they really seemed well suited to my lifestyle. They’d need coats in the Chicago winters of course, and I’d need one that’s cat-friendly, but they seemed very very sweet, and so many of them are killed a year (10s of thousands) that it just seemd like a good thing to do. Elkhounds generally live til about 15, but I’m thinking I’d like a second dog in the house and trained while he’s still young and happy and can enjoy the fun of a new dog.

So tell me about your experiences with greyhounds. Did you bring one into the house with another non-greyhound dawg? And what about cats? I know the groups will “cat-test” the dogs, and of course I would keep the dog on-leash around the cats and crated when I am not there until I’m 100% sure all is well.

Can anyone recommend a greyhound adoption group in the Chicago area? I talked to a couple different groups at the pet fair but I really can’t remember what they were.

I’ve also read at a couple of sites that greyhounds need a special diet, but a couple of sites say plain old dog food is fine.

This isn’t going to happen for at least 6 months, probably closer to a year, but I like to research things well in advance.

You’ve come to the right man. We’ve been greyhound people for 10 years.

Lady Chance and I have adopted 3 and currently have two.

They have co-existed with an many as 6 cats, 1 duck, and 1 kid. They were tested against cats and a goose (a test duck being unavailable at the time). The kid we had after them to they just had to adapt.

They’re very good family pets because they’re mostly lazy. Being sprinters they have muscles designed for one or two laps then rest rest rest rest. They’re not dogs to take jogging, really, as they don’t have the stamina for extended workouts. While it’s possible you could train one up to that I’ve never known anyone who did.

You’ve come to the right man. We’ve been greyhound people for 10 years.

Lady Chance and I have adopted 3 and currently have two.

They have co-existed with an many as 6 cats, 1 duck, and 1 kid. They were tested against cats and a goose (a test duck being unavailable at the time). The kid we had after them to they just had to adapt.

They’re very good family pets because they’re mostly lazy. Being sprinters they have muscles designed for one or two laps then rest rest rest rest. They’re not dogs to take jogging, really, as they don’t have the stamina for extended workouts. While it’s possible you could train one up to that I’ve never known anyone who did.

Well, I’m definitely not planning on taking them jogging. I’m lazy, my current dog is lazy (the most laid-back of the litter - he bounces around for 5 minutes and then crashes), so I’m looking for a lazy couch potato type of dog.

What do you feed your greys? And is it true that they don’t know how to go up and down stairs when you get them home?

You’ve come to the right man. We’ve been greyhound people for 10 years.

Lady Chance and I have adopted 3 and currently have two.

They have co-existed with an many as 6 cats, 1 duck, and 1 kid. They were tested against cats and a goose (a test duck being unavailable at the time). The kid we had after them to they just had to adapt.

They’re very good family pets because they’re mostly lazy. Being sprinters they have muscles designed for one or two laps then rest rest rest rest. They’re not dogs to take jogging, really, as they don’t have the stamina for extended workouts. While it’s possible you could train one up to that I’ve never known anyone who did.

Diet: They only real worry for greyhound regarding diet is not letting them gorge themselves. Because they’re intestines are so short they can over-gorge and cause some digestive problems like blockages and such.

Greyhounds are not territorial (most of them) but are very ‘pack-oriented’. They’ll get along fine with your older dog if you tell the adoption agency that you have a dog already. Because they’re typically raised 50+ to a kennel they’re fairly hierarchical. Establish yourself as the pack leader and they’re yours forever. Even our (almost) 3 year old now gives directions to our two (who are both twice the babies weight) and they obey.

The group I volunteered for, Greyhound Pets of America, doesn’t have a group in Illinois but here’s a link or two for you:

http://www.adopt-a-greyhound.org/nrn.html

http://www.usadog.org/

Let me know if you have any specific questions I can answer.

Man, was that weird.

Greyhounds are indeed couch potatos (even though ours aren’t allowed.

We feed our dogs your standard dog food. It puts some weight on them. Ideally you don’t want their hip points to show when they’re standing.

Yes, stairs are a mystery to them. They have to be taught. The same applies for sliding glass doors.

They’re fairly intelligent dogs, though. They learn fast.

Never had one personally but I know a few people who do. These guys seem to be the epitome of the couch potato. They will run if you encourage them though. They are always very nice and gentle, but the ones I know seem to develop terrible amounts of tartar on their teeth. Overall very good dogs and I haven’t met anyone who hasn’t loved theirs. I would however keep them leashed till you’re sure they don’t want your cats. The dogs I have known if they ever saw a cat it was over for that cat so just be sure.

My sister has had one for maybe 4 years. She lives in a row home in downtown Baltimore - the kind with the tiny cement postage-stamp of a yard. Max (the doggie) is pretty much a big wuss. He is very skittish around men he doesn’t know (we suspect there might have been abuse in his life) but he just turns tail and runs when he encounters one. He’ll run upstairs and crash there, or plop down on the couch or on his bed. He shares the house with Fat Tony - a hairy feline who head-butts for attention.

My sister is active in a Baltimore greyhound club, and one of her favorite parts is dressing Max up for Halloween. He’s won lots of ribbons for his outfits. He’s a most mellow dog. Mellow and wussy. If I was looking for another dog, I’d consider a greyhound, although I prefer terriers.

I also know there’s a big different between a cat outside and a cat inside with my current dog. He would definitely go after a cat outside if given the chance (he’s never given the chance since he’s always on-leash). But the cats inside are “his” cats and the worse he’s ever done is want to play with them. Truthfully, his reaction has been the same with friends’ cats that we’ve gone to visit. The cats outside definitely get his prey drive going, though.

And there’s a bit of that with ours. And God help rabbits.

Greyhounds can’t safely be allowed to walk around off lead unless they’re in an enclosed area. If something kicks them into overdrive they will NOT come back.

Elkhounds aren’t really much better off-lead. They’re scent-hounds, originally bred to track moose in packs. In 9 years, I’ve never let Gizmo off-leash intentionally exept in an enclosed area. He got off leash exactly twice right in front of me, but I recalled him immediately and got him back on the leash. So I’m already quite used to having the type of dog that absolutely can’t be trusted off-leash.

I’ve known two people who adopted retired racing greyhounds- one of them is the pastor of my church.

I can’t make sweeping generalizations, but I’ll warn you of this: though both were beautiful dogs, both seemed TERRIFIED of most people. I don’t know much about the greyhound racing business, but I get a strong feeling that racing dogs have a tough life, and are frequently abused. I say that because, when new, unfamiliar people approached the two adopted greyhounds I knew, both backed away, cowering, as if they expected to be beaten.

Now, both dogs seemed to have bonded with their new owners very quickly, and became very devoted to them. EVENTUALLY (we’re talking many, many months here) both became more trusting of people, and more ready to accept that a stranger might only want to pet them and fuss over them.

But initially, you MAY find that your greyhound is nervous, skittish, and fearful of people- perhaps even of you. All I can say is, be prepared for that possibility, and be patient.

Sigh… okay, how long will it be until someone makes a joke about a greyhound being my pastor?

(Me and my grammatical errors!)

We’ve had retired racing greyhounds for 10 years too. We’ve had four, in all. The first one passed in 1998, the second in 2000, and we currently have two. We’ve also done a good deal of work promoting the adoption of greyhounds, fostering, transportation of dogs to new homes, etc.

Greyhounds adapt amazingly well to becoming pets in most cases - I doubt humans could be thrown from one situation to another that is so completely different and do as well.

One nice thing about adopting a greyhound is that you also will get a nice support system to go with him or her if you adopt from a reputable group - they can help you with problems, assist you in finding good veterinary care and a good pet sitter if you need one, etc. Here’s a few links to some groups I think pretty highly of that are in Illinois:

Midwest Greyhound Adoption:

Quad Cities Greyhound Adoption: http://www.qcgreyhoundadoption.org/

Greyhound Guardians (they do Illinois and Indiana):
http://www.greyhoundguardians.org/

There are more in that area, which are available from the Greyhound Project’s web site (Greyhound Adoption Agency Directory | The Greyhound Project - it’s not working right now or I would have just posted that one link). There can be some political crapola (pro- and anti-racing) involved with groups, so you’ll want to choose a group that shares your views, if any, on that subject, and also one that is helpful and supportive.

I’ll address a few of the things that are said above:

About shyness - while no doubt some racing dogs are abused during their racing lives (just as, unfortunately, pets of all kinds seem to be abused on an all-too-frequent basis), there is also a genetic and a developmental component to shyness. Racing dogs that are good runners are bred - personality and body type notwithstanding. So there are some lines of racing dogs where you can see a streak of shyness that extends from a particular sire or dam and carries on throughout the line. Also, since racing dogs are raised in a different enivornment than a pet would be, they don’t get quite the same type and amount of exposure to different kinds of people and situations that a pet dog would get. So some allowance must be made for that. On the flip side of that, though, it’s fairly rare to run across an overly aggressive greyhound. An aggressive dog can’t be handled easily in a kennel environment, so that’s the one personality trait that might lead a breeder to not use a dog for breeding, even if he or she was a successful racer.

Food - you should use a good quality food - your adoption group will have recommendations on what you should use. A quality food can be fed in smaller amounts, so while it might be more expensive to buy, the bag will last longer. Your dog will also look better and keep weight on easier.

People worry about bloat with a large deep-chested dog, but the good news is that retired racers don’t tend to suffer much from this. I’ve known of cases where it’s happened, but it’s fairly rare.

Teeth - greyhounds are notorious for bad teeth. It’s again probably part genetics and part environment - racing hounds are fed soft food and they can end up with bad teeth. Regular care of the teeth will go a long way toward keeping a greyhound’s mouth healthy. I have a greyhound that is almost 12 and he’s only had to have one tooth extracted in the entire time we’ve had him. He gets his teeth brushed a couple times a week and occasionally my husband will hand-scale them. Greyhounds are pretty tractable and I haven’t met one who wouldn’t let you brush his teeth if you are gentle and patient about it.

Health issues - you can expect a racing greyhound to live about 12 years. The one big health problem I’ve seen with hounds is bone cancer. I’ve seen estimates that say 1 of every 5 hounds will get it. It’s painful, nasty, and expensive to treat, and treatment doesn’t always extend the lifespan very much. We opted to treat our almost-12-year-old dog when he was diagnosed at age 9, and feel very fortunate to still have him. About 50 percent of dogs with bone cancer who are treated will live a year beyond diagnosis, and most dogs that get it will be diagnosed around the age of 9, so that’s something you might want to think about before deciding on a greyhound.

Greyhounds can also be prone to arthritis and neck and spine issues (also very painful) as they age due to their former athlete status, but these things often be dealt with for quite awhile before they really start to impact quality of life.

Cats and other small furry critters (little dogs included): Some hounds are very keen, others not. Your adoption group can point you to a low prey-drive dog who you can acclimate to your cats (I think the dogs acclimate better than the cats, usually!). Don’t expect that courtesy to necessarily extend to wild animals, though. Rabbits and squirrels are just too tempting - plus trainers often use rabbit fur as a lure, so they’ve been taught to chase something that looks and probably smells like a rabbit.

One last note - not all greyhounds are couch potatoes, so if you want one that’s quiet, make sure you mention it to your adoption group. My six-year-old hound is a pistol who likes to wake me up by jumping on me. So I’m usually out of the bed until after he’s had his breakfast and calmed down a bit. He’s also insatiably curious about everything I do around the house, so I am rarely alone when I’m home.

I have a web site about adopted greyhounds if you are interested - it’s mostly links to adoption resources and supplies, plus some photos of my own dogs:

http://www.unc.edu/~nbeach

If you are interested in reading up about greyhounds, there are a couple good books - Adopting the Retired Racing Greyhound by Cynthia Branigan and Retired Racing Greyhounds for Dummies by Lee Livingood (I know Lee personally and she’s a marvelous person and a marvelous trainer, so I can recommend her book quite highly).

We’ve had 3. They’re big sweeties. Good with cats, sleep a lot, don’t know about stairs at first (or dog doors). They get cold in the winter and need a jacket. They can be scratched easily. Ours who had actually raced would howl (not in a good way) if a greyhound race came on TV and they could hear the track noises.

We fed ours a combo of high-quality dog food, canned green beans, rice, and oil. They have very short guts, and this is a goiod diet for them.

We should start a support group!

Slightly off-topic, but I just had to take this opportunity to say that Jonathan Chance has two lovely greyhounds, and my brief exposure to them at Dope-a-ween completely changed my impression of the breed.

Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting several other adopted greyhounds and look forward to adopting my own set some day. tdc and I already have names picked out. :wink:

It makes me happy that you are saving one! Once my territorial female mixed-breed is gone, a Greyhound is my next dog.

I had a Borzoi (Russian Wolfhound) which is essentially the same type. They are VERY loving dogs, and once you earn their trust you will be glad you did this. While they seem lazy, they are just storing up energy for a fast getaway - they are sight hounds, and if they see anything (and I MEAN ‘anything’) move within their eyesight, they are GONE! They are extremely gentle, and mine was embarrassingly dainty. I thought she was a sissy wuss until I saw a Collie bolt and tear into her - within a split second, she had the Collie by the neck, pinned to the ground until its owner and I extricated it.

I’d suggest not allowing yours on the sofa - they take up the whole thing, and can’t understand why you would want them off. Their feelings get horribly hurt.

Lucky you - I’m so jealous.

I don’t know that you would want to consider this for your first hound, but I want to add a word about adopting an older greyhound. Sometimes greyhounds get sent back to their adoption group through no fault of their own - the owners divorce, have financial problems, etc. - and so they need to be re-homed. Also, some dogs that have been used for breeding at greyhound farms eventually come up for adoption in their later years.

Senior greyhounds (which are generally considered to be 7 years or older) are even more special than their younger counterparts. They fit in to a new household with little or no trouble at all, and are the most grateful, loving dogs you can imagine. Two of my four were 10 years old when they came to my house and while your time with them is never enough (do you ever really have enough time with any pet you love?), I’ll never regret taking them in and treasure every minute we spent together.