Before I started the adoption process for my two greyhounds, I knew very little about the breed. In my mind, they were practically mythical creatures. I knew that they existed — I’d seen videos of races and had read about them in books, but I’d never seen one in real life. Not in the waiting room at the vet, not at the dog park, not at a PetSmart or at the groomer, not even walking down the sidewalk with their owners. It seemed like greyhounds couldn’t be found anywhere.
Turns out, I’m not the only person who feels this way. I’m reminded of this any time I take my two greys to any of the previously mentioned locations. As we wait to see the vet for their checkups, go for walks or visit the dog park, I’m constantly stopped by people who ask me, “Are those greyhounds? I’ve never seen one… Can I pet them? Are they friendly? Were they racers? Are they fast?”
The list of questions goes on and on. And now, having been through the adoption process myself, I realize why this unique breed is shrouded in such mystery. Because the truth is that even though greyhounds have been retired from the tracks and rehomed as household pets for quite some time, you don’t see many of them out with their owners. There are some very specific reasons for that. If you’re considering adopting a greyhound, here’s what you need to know.
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1. Greyhounds are incredibly fragile
Remember that movie Bubble Boy, with Jake Gyllenhaal? Well, that’s how I feel about my two greyhounds, because they’re fragile, in more ways than one. In fact, much of greyhound ownership feels like protecting a toddler from the big, bad world.
First, let’s talk about their bodies — particularly, their skin. Greyhounds were bred to be lean, mean sprinting machines (minus the “mean” part). This means they’re basically solid muscle without much cushion to protect them from damaging cuts.
When I adopted my greyhounds, I was told about their delicate skin, and warned about taking them to places like dog parks where the tiniest nip from another dog could seriously injure them.
Luckily, my greys have personalities that make it possible for trips to the dog park to work out just fine. They don’t pick fights, and typically mind their own business. But I still have to be careful, and I also have to watch for things around the house that could hurt them. Sharp branches or corners, for example, or making sure that play time doesn’t get too rough like it did in the photo below.
As if their paper-thin skin wasn’t enough to cause worry, greyhounds are also incredibly curious and naïve. This is mostly because of the way they were raised. From the time greyhounds are puppies, their entire world is kennel to track, track to kennel — which means they’re not familiar with things such as mirrors, stairs and glass doors.
You will need to make changes to protect your dogs. Place tape on your sliding glass doors or full-size windows so that your dogs can see them and not run through them, headfirst. Introduce your dogs to stairs slowly, until they get the hang of it.
Where it really becomes frightening is outside the home, when your greys don’t realize that certain things are dangerous. Things like busy roads with passing cars, or muddy lakes they could possibly drown in.
Which leads me to my next point.
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2. Obedience isn’t really their thing
This goes back to their upbringing as well. From the time they’re born, greyhounds are trained for essentially one thing: racing. As puppies, they’re trained to chase the “rabbit,” rather than obey commands like sit or stay.
After months of training, I’ve taught my dogs to lie down on command, and (on a good day) to stay. Still, I haven’t reached the point with them where I’d trust them to obey my command in an outside, off-leash setting. Because of this, I’m extra careful when allowing my dogs to be off-leash anywhere. I have to first make sure that the area is either entirely enclosed, or that there’s nothing around for miles that could hurt them.
3. Greyhounds make the best pets ever
All faults aside, my two greyhounds are the best dogs I’ve ever owned. They don’t get into much trouble, which makes their lack of obedience not much of a problem at all, and they have the sweetest temperament of any pet I’ve ever owned. They’re low maintenance when it comes to exercise and grooming, and they have minimal health issues. Plus, they’re very social animals — which makes them horrible guard dogs, but perfect family pets, because they absolutely love everybody (and everybody loves them).
As greyhound racing continues to diminish across the country, more and more greyhounds will be in need of good homes. Whether you’re a first-time dog owner or are looking to add a new member to your pack, a greyhound could make the perfect addition to your family.
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