The greyhound breed has a long and well-documented history. Centuries of careful breeding, and their racing upbringing, make them a little different from most dog breeds. For the most part this works in our favour. The following pages will give prospective owners a good understanding of what makes greyhounds tick!
Greyhounds are a member of the Sight hound family. Other dog breeds belonging to this group include their larger cousins, the Borzoi, Afghan hound, Irish Wolfhound and Deerhound, and smaller relations, the Saluki and Whippet. A greyhound cross is known as a Lurcher.
Greyhounds usually range in weight between 25-38 kgs and height between 61–75 cm to the shoulder. They have a slender body with a deep chest and narrow waist. The head is narrow and the muzzle pointed giving the classic greyhound shape. Bitches are generally smaller than dogs.
The greyhound coat is short and surprisingly soft. One advantage of owning a greyhound is the lack of smell due to the absence of oil in the coat. The greyhound is also one of few breeds that come in an array of colours. The greyhound coat may be black, white, fawn, red, blue, brindle and white with patches of these colours.
The greyhound is also unusual among canines in that it has very little fat which means firstly – they are more sensitive to anaesthetics, and secondly – they need a coat in winter!
The greyhound is one of the world’s oldest dog breeds.
Thousands of years of breeding has made the greyhound what it is today:
- Affectionate and willing to please
- Intelligent and trainable
- Quiet, gentle and enjoys sleeping
The greyhound would traditionally have been a constant companion to their master therefore these characteristics would have been valued and bred for, while unwanted traits such as aggression have now been bred out almost completely.
Many greyhound owners are surprised at the immense love and affection they receive from their hound. Every rehomed greyhound enjoys being a member of the family and will happily snuggle up to anyone who will make a fuss of them. Most adore cuddles with children and being so gentle can easily be walked by all members of the family.
The gentle and calm nature of the greyhound is also notable. Scientific studies have validated what any greyhound owner will tell you – this breed is one of the least aggressive dog breeds you can choose as a pet. The greyhound’s placid nature has recommended it for ‘pet therapy’ and it will happily rest its head on your lap and be stroked all day- therapy indeed! Neither do they bark greatly, as one visitor commented when visiting the GAP kennels, “I couldn’t believe how quiet it was!” Greyhounds prefer to use their eyes when speaking to you – one look from those big pleading eyes will invariably get them the best spot on the sofa!
The greyhound is also intelligent; indeed some may even be called ‘sneaky’! Many an owner has wondered what happened to their sandwich when they left the room to answer the phone, only to come back two minutes later to find an empty plate and their greyhound supposedly still fast asleep!
Greyhounds are easy to train as long as you remember the ‘what’s in it for me?’ principle. Your dog will move heaven and earth for love and affection and sometimes food, but will get easily bored if the exercise seems pointless. Many recently retired greyhounds are confused by the game of ‘fetch’ – you can see them thinking “why should I go and get the ball if you’re just going to throw it away again?” Though add another dog to give it a racing element and you’re onto a winner!
As a member of the Sighthound family the greyhound was valued for its excellent long distance vision and great speed and was traditionally used to chase small game such as hare. The instinct to chase is still strong in many greyhounds however their adaptability and willingness to please means that when rehomed as pets many can be taught not to bother small animals. In fact as the greyhound is a sprint animal its other great love is sleeping – so most well fed pets will be too busy snoozing on the sofa to notice the neighbour’s cat entering the garden!
Of course, every greyhound is different and if one character trait is particularly important to you then please let us know and we will endeavour to find your ideal companion!
The greyhound has a long and illustrious history being the favoured pet of the nobility in several cultures.
In Egypt the greyhound was valued highly by the pharaohs for its speed, grace and agility and is featured on engravings inside the pyramids. The breed is also the only dog to be mentioned in the bible. In England in the tenth century the greyhound was so highly prized that King Howel of Wales made the killing of a greyhound punishable by death and shortly after, King Canute forbade the ownership of greyhounds by peasants and freemen.
These days a good racing greyhound may command a high price but unfortunately most of these dogs have little commercial value as soon as their racing days are over. Their value then is purely in their affectionate companionship.
Most greyhounds that come to GAP will have only known a racing life. The change in what their new owner will expect from them is huge. Some of their experiences as a racer are highly beneficial to their new life as a pet and some are not. Most greyhounds adjust with surprising ease however here are some things from their previous life to bear in mind:
- Days have a set routine; feeding and training occur at the same times each day.
- They have their own kennel space so sleep is undisturbed.
- They have never been without the company of another dog nearby.
- They will have been used to living as a group of dogs so have a strong sense of pack order.
- They are handled regularly for nail clipping, examined for injuries and even massaged.
- They travel long distances by car and are used to being crated.
- They are taught to walk beautifully on a lead.
- They are taught to chase a small white fluffy lure – usually made of sheepskin.
- And they are never taught to sit or lay down as that could result in a very slow start!
For more information on a greyhound’s racing life take a look at www.thedogs.co.nz