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What You Need to Know About Owning a Greyhound

Updated

Tracy Morgan/Getty

Gia the standard greyhound won the 15th National Dog Show, and as with every year, that means there’s a surge of interest in the breed. As there should be — greyhounds are wonderful dogs. But like any purebred, they have their idiosyncrasies, so here’s what you need to know about them before you rush out to add a racer of your own to the family.

Greyhounds have one notable aspect to them: They’re the fastest breed of dog out there. So if you’re averse to basically owning the canine version of a cheetah, probably don’t pick one up. They come in 15 colors and are a medium-energy, though large-sized dog. Personality-wise, they’re gentle animals with an independent sweet, though they’re very loving and intelligent.

Greyhounds are an easy dog to groom; they have a short, smooth coat that needs very little maintenance beyond regular grooming and baths. They can live to be 10 or 12 years old, but they’re actually pretty healthy in the scheme of things, with few major health problems endemic to the breed. The biggest requirement to owning a greyhound is room for them to run: You’re basically dealing with a car on four legs, so you’re going to need to take it out for a spin every day.

Bred for hunting, greyhounds are tailored to spend time with people. They’re affectionate with kids, strangers and other dogs for the most part, and they don’t like being alone very much. They’re also relatively quiet dogs, and very smart and sensitive — making them easy to train, or over-train in some cases (they can sense tension and become overly timid if mistreated). Because of their short coats, they’re not suited for cold weather; greyhounds with blankets or sweaters are common sights in the colder months. And their skin is very thin, which means they can get cut or scratched more easily than other dogs.

Joan Vicent Canto Roig/Getty

More about exercising a greyhound: Because they’ve been bred with such a strong prey drive, it’s imperative to never let them off their leash unless they’re in a fenced-in or enclosed area. The minute they see something that looks fun to chase, they’re off, and your chances of catching one at their top speed of 45 miles per hour is slim to none. But they’re sprinters, not distance runners, so a good walk — or if you’re a jogger, a run — daily is enough to keep them exercised. And they really like to nap, so there’s that.

While they are social and affectionate animals, occasionally their prey drive can take over and manifest with a nip or two towards smaller dogs or other animals, which is why racing dogs are usually seen muzzled.

Which brings us to racing. Greyhound racing is on a decline — 10,422 dogs were registered in 2015, down from 27,142 in 2002 — but it’s still a thing, and since dogs typically only race for a few years of their life, there are still plenty of retired racers who need homes. The nice thing about adopting a racing greyhound is that they’ve already been socialized to a degree, by being around many other dogs, and are used to crate training (though please, please do not adopt a racing greyhound that’s already been crated something like 20 hours a day to stuff it back in another box). They also may experience some shock moving into “the real world” and dealing with things like cars, glass doors and windows and stairs.

There are a number of organizations available to you if you’re interested in adopting a former racer: Adopt-A-Greyound, the National Greyhound Adoption Project and Grey2KUSA.