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For the New Adopter --- A Simple Primer To Help You Understand Your Greyhound

by Dennis McKeon


The Greyhound you have just adopted is a unique individual from a unique population of canines.

The Greyhound breed is steeped in antiquity and history.

While you may have read or heard that Greyhounds were once the cherished pets of the ancient Egyptian Pharaohs, recent explorations into the canine genome seem to debunk that commonly held belief.

It is more likely, given the DNA evidence, that the Greyhound breed was developed by the Celts, a tribal society which inhabited central Europe and the British Isles in Medieval times.

As western civilization progressed, Greyhounds became the favored pets of the nobility in Great Britain, so highly regarded for their skills as hunters and for their charms as companions, that it was unlawful for a “commoner” to own one for some time.

Later on, the supreme speed and skill of the greyhound attracted the notice of sportsmen and agrarians, who coveted them for their superb athleticism, their utility as killers of vermin and pests, as providers of game for the table, and who devised competitions for them, coursing after small game.

These “coursing” competitions were extremely popular, and became a major sporting attraction to spectators as well as to Greyhound breeders. The pinnacle of Greyhound athletic achievement soon became victory in the esteemed Waterloo Cup coursing competition.

The Greyhound found its way to the New World, likely with the early Spanish colonists. It is known that US Army General, George Armstrong Custer, was a keeper of Greyhounds, and enjoyed hunting coyotes and smaller game with them.

We do not know for certain if any of our domestic strains are the direct female lineal descendants of these earliest importations to America. Our modern Greyhound is, however, the direct descendant of those old Waterloo Cup winners and competitors.

After World War I, an American named Owen P. Smith had a vision. He imagined Greyhounds competing on an oval track, like the racetracks that horses compete on, chasing not a hare nor a small antelope, but a motorized mini-cart, with a prey effigy attached to it. All he had to do was invent a device that could attach to an electrified track, and which had an arm that would overhang the racing surface, and to which the “lure” could be fastened.

And so the “mechanical rabbit” was born, and along with it, the sport of Greyhound racing.

By the 1930s, track racing had become quite popular in the US, Ireland, England and Australia. A decade later, it had easily eclipsed coursing as the primary venue for competition among Greyhounds, and by the 1950s, track racing had become a sensation, the focus of most greyhound breeding throughout the world, as it remains today.

So your greyhound comes to you through the vaporous mists of prehistory, over the emerald and verdant meadows of the British Isles, across oceans of sea and time, to the vast and endless prairies of mid-America, finally, emerging from the racetrack to the adoption kennel…into your very hands…then, onto an all-embracing couch, somewhere, in Anywhere, USA, or nearby Canada.

Throughout his many historic and heroic incarnations, the Greyhound has proven to be supremely adaptable. There are few breeds who match his record of constancy as both a companion and a provider, and none who can match his skills as an uncommonly evolved athlete.

Popular mythology has, at times, cast the Greyhound as both a vicious and bloodthirsty killer, and as a wretched, put-upon, object of pity.

You may, however, rest assured that your Greyhound remains as blissfully unaware of the mythology and the controversies that surround him, as he remains the beautifully adapted embodiment of his ancient and sweeping history and diverse bloodlines, as well as his environment and experiences as a modern, racing athlete.

The Greyhound you see before you was not bred to be a “pet”. His parents were selected by his breeder because of their bloodline and family, and usually because both were outstanding performers on the racetrack, in head to head competition with their peers.

A Greyhound breeder does not factor into his selective process, whether or not the sires or dams he chooses to breed from, were congenial or companionable personalities, in the traditional sense that we normally desire in a pet.

Greyhound personality runs the gamut of types, from ebullient and outgoing, to shy and introverted, from aloof and detached, to needy and embracing, from focused and edgy, to playful and mischievous …and everything in-between.

Almost all of them, once they have become accustomed to their handlers and owners, are good-natured and loving with them and their families—whether it is their breeder’s family, their racing family, or their adoptive family.

Most Greyhounds today, in the USA, are whelped and raised on sprawling, elaborate professional breeding establishments, called “farms”, as evidence of the rural origins of the Greyhound in America. These farms have special areas and outbuildings to accommodate sires, dams, newborns, growing puppies, saplings, and greyhounds who are about to begin their race-training in earnest.

Greyhound puppies remain with their dams for a much longer period of time than do puppies of just about any other breed, some litters for as long as 5-6 months. Their dam teaches them correct “pack” behavior, as well social and play skills, and how to stalk and hunt prey.

Greyhound puppies are bursting with energy and enthusiasm, and they play hard and roughly with one another, often to the point where needle-like puppy teeth penetrate delicate and paper-thin skin, sometimes even leaving scars. It’s all in a day’s play for them, however, and they wouldn’t have it any other way.

As they approach what we might say is canine adolescence, the puppies begin to exhibit the dramatic speed for which the breed is renown and prized, and the litters are usually placed together in extremely long, straight runs, so that they can stretch out and gallop, and begin to find their racing legs.

At this time they often begin lead-training, and are introduced to the grooming bench. Good manners and ease in being handled, to a racing athlete, are very important components to their later success.

The long runs at the Greyhound farm are separated only by chain link fencing in most cases, and you can watch one litter racing another litter, racing yet another litter, and so on, up and down the expanse of these straightaways, competing with and goading one another to keep up the pace.

This sort of competitive urge is bred into them, from centuries of meticulous and high selectivity. They don’t need to be taught to compete. It is a part of who they are. Even the most shy and retiring of Greyhounds can turn into a rip-snorting, hell-bent-for-leather competitor once the gauntlet is thrown down.

The young Greyhound is often introduced to the starting box at some point in his early to mid developmental phase, with some breeders preferring to begin this training very early on. Once they have gotten the idea that they must remain in a stalking position, ready to strike as soon as the lid on the starting box is sprung, often they will learn to chase after a “drag lure”. This is usually a lure made of hide or cloth, attached to a long rope, which is pulled away from them by a motorized reel.

Some breeders also have what is called a whirlygig, a small, circular track, with a horizontal pole situated inside a wooden rail, on a center hub. There is a small wheel that allows the handler to walk in a circle, pushing the pole. The wheel tracks on top of the rail, with the lure pole overhanging the track, so that the greyhounds can learn the proper footwork of racing around a sharp turn at top speed, and to do so with all abandon and good courage.

It is often on the turns at the racetrack, where the extraordinary will separate themselves from the ordinary.

When they are young, nearly fully-formed adults, in cases where the breeder does not have access to a training track, the greyhounds are then sent to a specialist, called a “finisher”.

Usually, the finisher has a standard-size training track on premises (about ¼ mile in circumference) or has easy access to one. In most cases, he will introduce the young greyhounds to a facsimile of a racing kennel, where the routine and the environment approximate that of the routine and environment of the kennel at the racetrack.

Here, everything needs to be done on a tight and precise schedule. Greyhounds have remarkably accurate biological time clocks, and like any other athlete in serious training and competition, they thrive on punctuality and routine, and do less well with the random and the novel.

At the training track, they will likely also compete with Greyhounds from other breeding farms, as well as any the finisher might have been raising.

They will “school” in a rotation that approximates what they will encounter in a racing kennel. Once they have demonstrated to the finisher that they are ready to race in earnest, they will be transported to the track where their owner or breeder has chosen to race them.

The finisher can provide valuable input to the breeder/owner in this regard, as he has a fairly good idea of their level of competitive viability and maturity, and at which tracks they might find their best chances of success.

Racetracks can be either “major” or “minor” league in the quality of competition they attract, and there are levels at each stage. In this way, they are not unlike baseball franchises, where there are rookie leagues, class A leagues, class AA leagues and class AAA leagues for an athlete to demonstrate their abilities, before they can ascend, finally, to the major league level.

Some young Greyhounds are very precocious, talented enough so that they are able to compete at a major league venue as soon as they arrive. Others take time to develop their skills and to mature. Most greyhounds, whatever their natural gift, do find a level where they are able to compete credibly, and go on to have at least a moderately successful career as a racer.

Once the greyhound arrives at the racing kennel, the trainer and his/her assistants become the most important people in the Greyhound’s life. The Greyhound is entirely at the mercy of their intuition, insight, devotion, talent, compassion and skills. Good trainers are punctual, attentive, calm, empathetic, energetic, have the eyes of an eagle, and possess a super-human work ethic.

The trainer is responsible for everything that affects the Greyhound’s physical conditioning, his emotional contentment, and his overall well-being. The better trainers treat each and every Greyhound in their care, regardless of that Greyhound’s ability, as if they were the greatest racer who ever set foot on the Earth---or flew over it.

A poor trainer, even those who try their best, can completely undo the grandest design that nature and selective breeding might engender.

Good trainers do everything within their power to make sure that stresses within the Greyhound’s environment, both existential and exercise-induced, are kept to a bare minimum. Content, relaxed, stress free Greyhounds are happy greyhounds, and with all other things being about equal, they will outperform Greyhounds who are less so.

The wise trainer always tries to maximize the potential of each and every Greyhound in his/her care, and makes sure to place them in situations where they will succeed.

Greyhounds in good health and condition are amazingly consistent and willing athletes. The more the trainer gives to them of his/her attentions, wisdom, empathy and experience, the more he/she will receive in return. A trainer who bonds with his/her Greyhounds is always in a better competitive position than one who does not, or one who cannot.

No trainer in the world, however, can turn a Greyhound who lacks the skills, speed, stamina and desire to become a great athlete, into one who does.

Fortunately, the economics of racing usually expose poor trainers in no uncertain terms. The racing world is very insular, and bad news tends to travel fast within it.

When the Greyhound reaches the point where he is to be retired, provided the breeder or owner does not plan to use the Greyhound as a sire or dam, the trainer is often the one who makes arrangements with the adoption kennel or group to place the dog.

Trainers can provide the adoption agent with useful information about the Greyhound’s disposition and temperament, his quirks, his likes and dislikes, and his history. This can be a help to them in placing the Greyhound with the right adopter, in the most appropriate setting.

We already know that Greyhound “personalities” are individual and variable, and that many of their tendencies are genetically predisposed, and to some degree, predictable.

The adoption group is staffed with volunteers who, like successful trainers, usually have a great deal of experience and intuitive acumen in placing Greyhounds in a situation where they are likely to succeed. These volunteers have often placed Greyhounds from previous generations of the same Greyhound families and from the same breeders, and inasmuch as there is a familial (and rearing) component that tends to run in families and in certain strains, they can provide unique insights to the adopter.

There are many challenges ahead for both the Greyhound and his new adoptive owners. Your Greyhound is about to embark on a voyage to an entirely new and alien universe.

He has left behind his littermates and pack members, some of whom he has been with since birth. He will confront environments, situations, places, objects, and people with whom he is entirely unfamiliar. He has bid fond farewell to his human familiars and caretakers, their voices and their touch, to the regimented, predictable routines and the security of his racing environs, and he is now faced with novelty at every turn.

The Greyhound no longer has the outlet of training and racing—“hunting” with the pack, to expend his excess energies, and to express himself in the fashion that forged his very being.

Even the food he will eat in his new home is likely to be strange and unappealing.

As we have previously mentioned, Greyhounds thrive on punctuality and routine. They prefer the known to the unknown. Novelty can be their undoing. Novelty is what they face when beginning their lives as house pets.

Greyhounds, because they are sight-chase-and-kill hunters by nature, have extremely keen powers of perception, and a 270 degree field of laser-sharp vision. They notice things that we may not perceive, and they perceive things from the vantage point that in any given moment, they might be both predator and prey.

As a new adopter, you must be careful not to place your new Greyhound in a “sensory overload” situation.

The track trainer knows that when preparing a Greyhound to race, never to allow that Greyhound to overextend himself. Training is done by increments, gradually increasing the intensity and duration of the workout, over a period of time, until the Greyhound is finally ready to compete.

When introducing your new Greyhound pet to novel situations, environments, objects and people, you can approach it the same way. We never know how much is “enough”, until we know how much is “more than enough”. Take your clues from your Greyhound, before it gets to that stage. He is communicating things to you all the time.

He has to learn the boundaries and rules of life within your family unit, and you have to learn to interpret his signals and body language, and to react in a calm, compassionate manner.

Your adoption representative has likely given you the basic “do-s and don’t-s”. It is up to you to remember them, and to provide a structured and predictable routine, which will be a great help to your Greyhound as he re-habituates to his entirely new life outside of racing.

There are ample resources on social media, where some of the world’s most experienced adoption reps, veterinarians, veteran adopters and even racing and breeding professionals are just a simple, typewritten question away.

There is no such thing as a foolish question, and when your preliminary feeling is one of perplexity or doubt, it is always better to ask before forging ahead, or failing to make necessary accommodations.

While Greyhounds are infamous for being “40 mph couch potatoes”, and while they can sleep for 12-16 hours a day, they do need exercise. Unless the Greyhound has a physical limitation or incapacity, the wise adopter sees to it that his Greyhound has a daily exercise outlet. This can be as simple as a brisk, mile-long walk, or a bracing galloping session in the backyard.

Your Greyhound does not have to be in “racing condition”, but neither should he be allowed to become sedentary and/or grossly overweight.

Once your Greyhound has settled into his new universe, you will begin to experience the full scope of his multi-dimensional and totally captivating charms, which have utterly beguiled humans since prehistoric times, and which have become legendary throughout the pet world.

Copyright, 2014


"Born To Run: The Racing Greyhound, from Competitor to Companion." By Ryan H. Reed.

In print and pictures, this wonderful book documents one adoptor's journey through the world of greyhound racing and its relationship with adoption. This book contains wonderful photos, but more importantly, a frank and first-person tour through the racing life that has shaped the greyhounds we all love. A must-read for those of us who love greyhounds and want to learn more about how our dogs were raised and raced before they came into our lives.

A Day in the Life of the Racing Greyhound...

by Clifton Gray

During the summer months, the dog’s day will start at 5:00 or 5:30 AM to try and beat the heat as much as possible. In the winter we’ll start at 6:00 or 6:30. First turnout lasts about 45 minutes; while the dogs are outside, we clean the kennel, pull all bedding and check for wet rugs, otherwise known as “couldn’t hold it”. In our main building, where we have 48 dogs, there will be 8 to 10 wet rugs each day, so the majority of them are “housebroken”, so to speak. Dirty rugs are washed in mild bleach water and hung to dry. Each dog also has their own water can, all of which are washed every 3 days on a rotating cycle.

After first turn-out comes morning workouts. On Mondays and Fridays, we are at the track by 6:15AM for morning schooling. Young dogs who have yet to start racing gain experience running with 2 or 3 other dogs from a smaller starting box during this time; also, we run short, 2 to 3 dog races from the backstretch (about 290 yards) for dogs who are returning from injury or are just in need of a confidence boost. We also have access to a sprint field, which is a deep sand path about 50 yards wide and 200 yards long, where the dogs can get out for a good, strong run between official starts at the track. Since our kennel is right next to the track and its gigantic parking lot, we also “truck walk” on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday mornings (Park ‘n Swap operates on Friday thru Sunday mornings as well as Wednesday night, leaving the parking lot a huge mess on Thursday morning). Four people will be situated in one of our trucks – the driver, one in the passenger seat, and one in each of the two back holes of the dog box. Each person takes a group of 5 to 7 dogs on leashes, using hooks located on all 4 corners of the dog box, and takes care to keep them away from the wheels as we cruise slowly around the parking lot for a distance of .6 to .7 of a mile, never going any faster than a brisk trot. This “moving treadmill” exercise is wonderful for many common ailments, ranging from ankle or hip discomfort (the low impact repetition of movement is as good as a massage) to difficulty in urinating (found almost exclusively in males, occasionally the stress of racing leads to being “tied up”, which if left untreated can lead to kidney problems—but the slow warming exercise of truck walking combined with natural diuretics such as ground uva ursi leaves, cranberry juice, or potassium supplements eases the discomfort within a day). Typically, they love to truck-walk—Georgia-Peach, who can be seen on my webpage, runs out in front of the peloton and walks at the very end of her lead all the way around the lot (which is how she earned the back half of her nickname, “The Hard-Workin’ Li’l Dog”).

Basically, our workout program is a such: Each dog has an official start approximately every 5 to 6 days. While I don’t work dogs who are running tonight or the next day or who ran the previous night, I try to ensure that no active dog goes any 3-day period without some form of workout (truck-walking, sprinting, or short races at morning schooling) to help keep them in shape and to spot any minor injuries between starts that could lead to a larger malady were they allowed to run on it. (For example, a dog with a sore shoulder might develop a hitch in their stride by trying to take pressure off of the sore muscle, which would in turn cause them to strike their legs together each time they stride and causing a bone bruise on the rear leg on the opposite side of the body from the sore shoulder. Thus, instead of remedying a tender muscle, which takes usually no more than a week’s rest and a few good liniment massages, we’d be healing a bone bruise, which can take two months).

Here in the summertime, we try to be off the parking lot by 7:15AM when truck-walking, and through with sprinting before 8:00. The next hour or two is taken up by grooming time in the kennel, where we go over last night’s racers checking for injuries, and applying any liniments or poultices where necessary. (As we speak, my overalls are hung in the bathroom, trying to air out the stench of beechwood creosote contained in Numotizine, which we utilized to pack Metro Freedom’s ankles this morning.) With 4 benches going at once, we can check over 40 dogs in one hour, clipping nails and combing their hair.

Around 9:00AM we turn everyone out again. After half an hour outside (or less if it’s real hot already), we bring them back in and weigh tonight’s and the next night’s racers (they must be within 1 1/2 pounds of their set weight, over or under, at weigh-in time before the races in the evening, so we can adjust their feed accordingly if they’re in danger of being under/over the limit). Then, we feed.

My feed tub looks something like this, for the 105 dogs in my 3 buildings: 180 pounds of raw ground beef, thawed overnight; one 50-lb. sack of Purina Hi Pro; a stock-pot’s worth of cooked rice and pasta (about 6 pounds uncooked), for complex carbs; 2lbs. of Sweetlix dried molasses, for simple sugar carbs; a gallon-size can of diced tomatoes or a few cups of vinegar, if the meat is too fatty, or boiled chicken necks, if the meat is too lean; 1 ½ lbs. of electrolyte powder, to promote total hydration; and enough water to bring it all together, usually 4 or 5 gallons. Females get about 3 pounds of feed apiece, while males get about 3 ½ pounds’ worth. We also have numerous supplements at our disposal, ranging from calcium and potassium tablets to a squirtable vitamin syrup given to the next day’s racers. Dogs racing tonight have their feed placed in the fridge and are fed after they run, working on the same general principle as “don’t swim right after you eat”; we want all available blood to be carrying oxygen to the muscles, rather than working on digesting a belly-full of food.

We’re out of the kennel by 10:30, and we get back at 4:00PM. After soaking the turnout pens to battle the blazing sun, we give them a quick, 5-minute turnout. It may seem short, but they understand the urgency of it – they run out, do their business, and are all waiting by the gate to come back in within those 5 minutes. Over the next hour we go over that night’s racers on the grooming bench, making sure they’re free of any and all parasites before they head to the track. Weigh-in is either at 5:00PM, or 6:00PM, depending on if there’s qualifying races before the official races (which usually occurs on Monday and Friday unless there’s a steaks final on said Friday, in which case they hold qualifiers on Thursday or Saturday instead). All racers must be in the track’s kennel room “by one hour prior to the start of the 1st race”, to quote state law, which translates to 6:30PM. This is the last time we’re allowed to touch them until they come off the track after the race.

Each race’s 8 entrants are led out of the “ginny pit”, as the track kennel is called, by track employees approximately 25 minutes prior to the post time for their race. They are walked around a dirt area in the paddock for two purposes: to help them loosen up before their race, and also to collect urine samples. Each dog is walked around for 5 minutes or so or until it “provides a sample”, which is collected by the lead-out using a high-tech device known as a cup attached to a stick. The state veterinarian stores the samples collected in his office until after the race; if the eventual winner did not “provide” before the race, the trainer is provided with a cup-on-a-stick and they are supervised by the vet as they walk the dog in the grass briefly to see if they’ll go. If not, the vet will select a random sample from those who did supply, and the trainer of the dog must sign-off on the sample, which is then sent off for drug screening. The list of banned substances would make a major-league baseball player cry—it covers everything from painkillers (running a dog while hurt could constitute an attempt to fix a race, aside from just being irresponsible to the dog’s health) to certain medications (running a dog while sick…well, see “irresponsible’) to any and all stimulants, including and ESPECIALLY caffeine and ephedra (closed beverage containers ONLY in my kennel, as a caffeine bad test results in a $250.00 fine, forfeiture of all money paid for the race, and a possible trainer suspension). The thing about painkillers and medications is, if the dog is so sick or hurt that it needs to be on banned substances while it runs, you probably should have scratched it in the first place. Most of the liniments we use, such as Flex-All, Absorbine, Tuttle’s, or just good old rubbing alcohol, are test-safe. Anything that will cause a bad test, such as DMSO or Bigeloil, is for use on non-active dogs only.

For non-racers, late turnout is at 9:00PM, and they’re out for another good half-hour. It may not seem on the surface like they get out of their crates enough, but in reality, when they go outside, for the most part the whole lot of them are laying down in the sad within 5 minutes anyway, and when they come in, they plop back down and fall asleep right after going in their crates. New pups may take a few weeks to settle into this routine, but especially after they get onto the standard working plan, they start saving their energy for race days. One little trick we have for our racers is that we take them out, two at a time, during grooming time in the morning, and give them a towel-bath with slightly soapy water then take them for a leisurely stroll around the kennel grounds (we have a circular driveway that’s about 1/5 of a mile in circumference). We’ve been doing this for years, and it seems to engender a somewhat Pavlovian response in the dogs. They seem to know that if we go for a “hand walk” in the morning, that means there’s a race later in the day, and typically they’ll lay down and not complain while everyone else around them gets to eat at the regular time.

Hopefully this has helped to give you a glimpse into the everyday routine of a racing greyhound.

--by Clifton Gray, 2006

Short video on basic "benching" of greyhound racers from Graham Kennel, Tucson. Thanks for watching. ;)

Posted by Shannon K. Simpson on Saturday, December 13, 2014

Fitting a racing muzzle, by Graham Kennel.

Posted by Shannon K. Simpson on Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Tucson trainer Mary Gray talks about a day in the life of the greyhounds in her kennel.

The Wild Gene

by Dennis McKeon

Martin Roper, one of the world’s foremost Greyhound pedigree researchers and authorities, authored his myth-bursting essay, “Everything You Know Is Wrong” in 2008. With it, Roper dispelled the long-held notion that Greyhounds were the personal and highly esteemed dogs of Egyptian Pharaohs. He explained how, in light of modern genomic research, we now know that the Greyhound is unrelated to the Saharan breeds of sighthounds. He suggested that the Celts, and not the Egyptians, were likely the breed’s original and only custodians in its domestication. Some earlier, authoritative 19th century writings on the matter had suggested the same thing, before hard science sustained the thought.

Roper could have expanded the scope of his essay to include the contemporary, popular mythology of the modern, Racing Greyhound. If you have read about the National Greyhound Association Racing Greyhound in the mainstream or online, via the “new media”, chances are that everything you “know” is also likely to be wrong. Very wrong.

Barbarians At the Gate

Tax-generating, State-regulated Greyhound Racing has been under assault by anti-gambling and animal rights activists/propagandists for more than 40 years. The only thing more consistent than their tenacity in prosecuting their anti-racing agenda, is their utter disregard for (and/or their complete ignorance of) the truth and, tragically, of the breed itself.

Thanks to modern science and the unraveling of the canine genome and canine DNA, we now know that our modern Greyhound’s direct prehistoric ancestors evolved in nature. They survived the ages because of the adaptations they developed which made them swifter, more cunning and deadlier than their prey, as well as the other carnivores with whom they competed for habitat and survival.

Popular anti-racing mythology, such as that professed by the Massachusetts-based Grey2k (the nation’s most media-friendly, anti-greyhound racing activist/lobbyist group), teaches, among other misconceptions, that greyhounds are “forced to run” for the benefit of their greedy and exploitative owners and handlers.

Modern, peer-reviewed science suggests quite a different story. It tells a story of a natural evolution toward a genotype and phenotype perfectly adapted and inclined toward the expression of extreme speed as an essential survival tool. The modern Greyhound is bred to race on a track, chasing after a prey effigy, which is the mechanical lure. The prehistoric Greyhound had to literally race its prey to ground, in order to survive and to breed on. In their domestication, until the advent of track racing early in the 20th century, Greyhounds were used to course and kill vermin, and to provide food for the table. Any way we care to look at it, running and racing is written on the DNA of the natural Greyhound. It’s not only a desire. It is an ingrained and inbred demand, echoing across a universe of time.

The Mythological Greyhound

The mythological, anti-racing narrative, promoted by Grey2k and their networks, in a nutshell (no pun intended), goes roughly like this:

“Greyhounds are bred and raised to serve the “racing industry”. The supply side of the racing industry is comprised of greyhound breeders, owners and handlers whose only interest in the Greyhound is to extract profits from him, essentially by heaping various forms of abuse upon him. These abuses entail the way he is raised, the way he is trained (both in preparation for and during his career as a racer), the way he is housed, they way he is fed and the way he is employed for pari-mutuel (wagering) activity.

Shamelessly greedy and mercenary greyhound breeders, owners and handlers have only one interest in their greyhounds, and that is to accrue as much profit as possible while exploiting them by forcing them to race, thus exposing them to the risk of athletically-induced injury or worse.”

Common Sense

Let’s have a brief, common-sense examination of that narrative so far.

In 2008, there were 20,365 NGA Greyhounds whelped in the USA. This figure would include stillborn and any greyhounds who died prematurely of natural causes (approximately 10%). For our purposes here, let’s just say 18,000 greyhounds were raised from that year’s population of newborns, up to the stage where they would begin careers as racers. Let’s also use the (conservative) figure of $2,000 expense per greyhound, to raise them to this stage of their lives, including all costs, like feed, supplements, immunizations, anthelmintics, veterinary care, paying the help, boarding fees and transportation fees when required, etc. We are looking at a total national expenditure by greyhound breeders and owners, of at least 36 million dollars, just to raise that crop of 2008 pups to the “track-ready” stage.

So think about it. We’re being asked to believe that the first thing these singularly, greedy villains do, to begin to recoup their 36 million dollars in expenses, and then to make a profit---the money for which they supposedly lust---is to subject these living, breathing, 36 million dollar Greyhound “investments” to abominable living conditions. As the anti-racing narrative further informs us, racing greyhounds are kept in cramped, atrophy and neurosis-inducing sleeping quarters, to which they are confined for 20 hours per day. Furthermore, as an enhancement, they are fed a substandard and deficient diet. To complete the fable, we are told that racing greyhounds are subjected to long, torturous periods of inactivity and boredom, devoid of even the simplest of human attentions that all dogs seem to crave, while otherwise being subjected to inhumane, even brutal handling.

Then, at the first inkling that the self-fulfilling prophecy has finally come to pass, meaning as soon as these greyhounds demonstrate that they are unable earn their keep on the racetrack as finely tuned athletes, or when they suffer an injury, they are discarded like rubbish.

That’s quite a business model, don’t you think? Need we say any more? Does anyone, with even a shred of dog-sense, business acumen or critical thinking ability actually believe these absurd, contradictory, irrational talking points?

Everything You Know Is Wrong Redux

Additionally, according to this popular mythology, everything we know (those of us who have actual hands-on experience in breeding, raising and training racing greyhounds) is indeed wrong. The general public is told that the real experts on the breeding, raising and training of the Racing Greyhound are not those who actually rely upon their experience, knowledge and skills in the matter for their living. The real experts, the media implies, are the politically motivated, propaganda-spreading, anti-racing lobbying groups. It matters not that none of the principals of these organizations have ever been any closer to a professional racing kennel or breeding facility than they have been to the moons of Saturn. It doesn’t matter that political lobbying is the realm of hyper-partisanship and untruth for virtually every other issue in the public discourse. They and they alone, somehow, have all the answers, and everything that dedicated, career racing professionals and breed custodians know to be the truth, is indeed wrong.

Likewise, most of the hundreds of thousands of pet greyhound owners, who have adopted retired racers through the more than 350 track/industry sponsored and independent adoption organizations cross-country, must also be wrong, or at least delusional. Despite the litany of inflammatory, ignorant, manipulative and sometimes hateful anti-racing rhetoric and talking points, the retired Racing Greyhound has become a virtual sensation in the pet world.

How can this possibly be? How do such badly raised, improperly socialized and miserably treated dogs manage to make the intimidating, life-altering, quantum leap of re-habituation from mere, disposable earning devices, to beloved and cherished, well-adjusted, personal and family pets, by the tens of thousands each year? Everyone knows that dogs are a reflection of their breeding, raising, training and handling, their environment and their experiences. It is a basic matter of genetics and of cause-and-effect. Dogs who have seen nothing but a lifetime of neglect, cruelty and abuse, usually need at least some professional rehabilitation, and very careful, empathetic handling thereafter, if ever they manage to adjust to everyday life in a family/pet situation.

Racing Greyhounds, on the other hand, are an unprecedented and hugely successful pet phenomenon. They are reknown for their sweet, placid, steady temperament, and for their non-aggressive and sociable tendencies, with people as well as with other canines. Like all other canines, they tend to reflect and express the quality of their breeding, and the nature of their upbringing, training, handling, environment and life experience. Retired Racing Greyhounds have become the sensation of the pet universe because of, not in spite of, the totality of their incarnation and experiences as well cared for and highly valued racing athletes. Everything we know to be empirically true concerning the manifestation of individuals, colonies, populations or breeds of canines tells us that this must the case. Whether the individual is an outgoing “alpha” personality, a passive “beta” personality or even a timid, skittish “omega” personality, most retired racing greyhounds seem to be capable of making the challenging adjustment from life in the “racing pack” to life in the “family pack”, without too much bother.

The Wild Gene

Retired Racing Greyhound adopters, as a group, are perhaps the most enthusiastic, enthralled and bemused pet owners in the world. Many of them have adopted small packs of retired racers, unable to resist having “just one”. The Racing Greyhound is a bewitching creature, indeed. One only has to search the various internet Forums, like, (dedicated to discussing the experience of retired greyhound adoption and ownership) to infer that there is something very special happening here. People all seem to sense in their greyhounds, an ethereal, mystical and beguiling quality, the essence of which they just can’t seem to identify, grasp, or wrap their minds around. They don’t quite understand it, but they know it is there, just below the surface.

Since before the dawn of civilization, Greyhounds have been the companions of men. They have always served a purpose, and they have been maintained as a supremely functional breed, because of this symbiosis. Yesterday, they were lethal coursers and hunters. Today, they are racers of astonishing athleticism and speed.

The essence of our modern Racing Greyhound’s ancient ancestors is still held just beneath their skin. When you see that certain look in his eye, when you notice that certain set to his ear, or that certain body language and expression that seems foreign to you, almost otherworldly, don’t be alarmed. You’ll never touch it, you can’t hold it, and you can’t feel it. The ancient dogs of pre-history who culled the elk herds, the dogs who hunted and fought with the Celts, and the dogs who coursed after the hares and deer on the verdant fields of Ireland, are simply calling out to him. He can hear them as clearly as you hear the alarm clock in the morning. He can hear them, and he can understand that ancient language which has resonated across countless generations and through oceans of time. He can hear them, and he can heed them, because he is a Racing Greyhound. When racing is gone, when Greyhounds no longer perform even a variation upon their natural function, only then will those voices forever be still.

The Wild Gene Revisited

by Dennis McKeon

It's always interesting to read the input and feedback on these networks. It's even more heartwarming to know there are so many people out there who are dedicated to their greyhounds---what I always loved about this medium.

It's truly amazing the effect that these dogs have on people. I don't think a person who hasn't gotten up close and personal with one can entirely wrap their mind around the sort of beguilement that only greyhounds are capable of. But there it is. You've all experienced it, whether you approve of racing or don't.

Makes no difference-- that mystical, untamable, nebulous, ethereal quality is undeniable. It's what makes them unique. It's something that is beyond us, something that we can't put our fingers on or hold in our hands. It lies very close beneath their skin, but you can't feel it.

It's something that doesn't require your sanction, necessarily, or even your understanding. They understand. They know exactly who and what they are, and what they're all about.

Whether it's the coyote-lonesome howling of the kennel chorous in full throat, or the fog-piercing gaze of the goshawk as he sizes up the gaps in the tree limbs, just before launching his strike---in those moments, in his private world, you don't exist.

You can't touch that. You can only embrace it with your heart and soul. It's what I like to call "the wild gene". And it is an intrinsic part of all of them. It comes from somewhere long ago. It's kept alive because ancient greyhound voices can still be heard by these remarkable dogs, who, in their modern incarnation, are really not all that different from their long ago forbears.

There's a reason for that, and we all know what that reason is. You don't have to like it, but please understand, it is the thing that preserves those beatitudes for these dogs...and for you.

Copyright, 2013

"Day in the life of a racing greyhound"

by D'Arcy Kennels

6.30am: Rise and shine. I get to wake up to all of my caretakers letting us out. I go outside in a group 15 boys, and we hang out outside for about 30 mins. We sniff, smell and take care of nature's call. We have 3 different pens that we get to go into ... and more sniffing and smelling take place.

At 7am I come back inside.

7am - 8am: my caretakers are cooking rice and pasta in the kitchen. This will go in our dinner once it’s cooled. My caretakers start cleaning all of our kennels. Some dogs get to leave the kennel and go exercising.

8am: I get to go back outside with my group of 15 friends, while my caretakers clean my kennel, check my shredded paper bed, change my water and sweep up my bed area. I spend 30 minutes outside, relaxing and sniffing ... and going through each of the 3 different pens.

At 8.30am, I come back in.

8.45am: I get weighed and my weight is recorded in a kennel log. My caretakers groom me, check my feet, check my nails and my ears, and then brush me with a grooming glove. I got back into my kennel and nap till dinner time.

9-10am: Dinner time! I get a 1/2lb meat ball with some vitamins and vanilla Ensure on top. Yum! Because I got a 1/2 "snack" that means I am racing today!!! 10am: I go back outside with my group of 15 buddies and we take care of nature's call, do a little sniffing, watch some of the other's kennel staff and just lounge around for 30 mins, getting to go into each of the 3 pens attached to our kennel.

10.30am I go back inside to the kennel. When we come back inside, my caretakers sweep, mop and clean the kennel, so it’s all clean and comfortable.

11am - 11.30: I hear leads clinking!!!!!! Woohoo. I am going racing!!!! My caretakers put a lead on me, and I go walking with 2 of my buddies. We walk from the kennel to the racetrack ... we pass the grassy area with trees, and we sniff and take care of nature's call ... and if we are really lucky, we will see a squirrel!! We love watching the squirrel run up the trees! We walk to paddock area of the track, and get weighed. I have to be within 1.5lbs of my set-weight or I won't be allowed to race. I am 84.5lbs, the clerk of the scale records my weight and my caretaker brings me to the racing kennels. A track employee takes me and puts me into kennels, where I will stay until it’s time to race.

1.30pm: Track leadouts come and get me! They put my leash on, and we go and walk outside in the warm up area. A lady in a lab coat follows me as I take care of nature's call, and my sample goes into a plastic container and a label gets put on it. The track vet is there watching us walk, and making sure that we are all okay. Then we get to go to the Paddock area, where the Paddock supervisor will check my weight and then put on my racing blanket. The Paddock Judge comes and checks my ear tattoo (to make sure I am the correct dog), and then he checks that my racing blanket fits correctly.

2pm: I walk onto the racetrack wearing the green blanket of post #4. I am pulling at the leash, and the leadout walks me onto the track for the post parade. We walk in front of the spectators, and I catch a glimpse of the toteboard .. I am 5/1 to win my race. The leadouts walk us to the starting boxes, and we wait for about 5 mins. I get loaded into the starting box, and I can hear the lure coming towards the start .... the boxes open and I am in 3rd place. I close ground on the greyhounds racing in front of me, and when I turn into the homestretch I accelerate and leave the field behind me! I won! I won! I am so excited. The lure stops at the pick-up, and we all stand there wagging our tails, so excited! The leadout puts my leash back on, and I walk off the track to my caretaker.

2.15pm: My caretaker brings me to the cool down area, and I get my feet cleaned and cooled off, and then I get to walk through the cool-down tank ... it’s a cool water tank that we can walk through to cool down on a hot day. I walk back to the kennel with my caretaker, and when we get there they clean my face, feet, and wash my eyes. I go back into my kennel and drink some water. I nap for an hour or two. When I am all cooled down, I get my dinner!!! Meat, kibble, rice, pasta and some vitamin supplements. Yum!

Then about 4pm, I go back outside for a few mins to take care of nature's call. I come back inside and get a couple of milk bone cookies!!! Yeah!

5.30pm: my caretakers come and let me out with my 15 buddies. We spend about 30 minutes outside.

7.30pm: the night races start, and my caretakers are in the kennel taking care of other racers.

8.30 - 10pm: my caretakers come and let me outside with my 15 buddies. We are outside for about 30-45 minutes. We get to go through the 3 different pens, and sniff, smell, lounge and hang-out.

11pm: my caretakers wash dishes, sweep, mop and tidy up the kennel. They leave about 11.30pm and the radio is left on for us with some easy-listening music. We sleep and dream. I have water if I am thirsty, and a nice bed of shredded paper. I dream of winning races!

In Greyhound Discussion

by Dennis McKeon

Only in greyhound discussion, can you hear such a diversity of opinion in the face of people who have worked for decades within racing and breeding greyhounds for racing.

Only in greyhound discussion, can we speak of a situation where there are probably in excess at any given time, of 100,000-plus retired greyhounds, happily living out their lives as beloved and cherished family pets and companions, yet still encounter people who feel that the Greyhound’s formative and defining experiences were abuse, neglect and mistreatment.

Greyhounds are all asked to make a universe-spanning leap of adjustment when they move from their racing environment to a home environment. Everything they had become used to, everything and everyone they knew and counted upon is gone—including their kennelmates, and often their siblings, with whom they have lived since birth.

They are then literally thrown into what is, for them, an alien universe—full of scary, noisy, intimidating, and strange sounds, objects, places and people. Try to imagine if somehow a Dolphin could grow legs, and get around on the land. How do you think he might react to the experience? Well that’s about the way it is for a newly re-homed greyhound.

Yet, in spite of these daunting and harrowing challenges, most greyhounds make a splendid adjustment, and do it with a minimum of fuss and bother. And that’s a direct result of their breeding, raising, handling and training—and because they have learned to trust and love the humans they have encountered along the way, during their time spent as racing greyhounds, and before that, as racing greyhounds in development. That’s how dogs manifest.

Those who know little or nothing of a greyhound’s life as a racer, often confuse “socialization” with “habituation”. Greyhounds, because they encounter so many people during their careers as racers, are usually quite well socialized. From the time they are whelped until their early race training begins, and then afterwards as racers, they encounter dozens and dozens of people, including their breeders, their families, their handlers and often their families, their veterinarians, various racetrack personnel, and sometimes even their fans among the racing public.

They are also quite well habituated to their structured and carefully monitored training and racing programs and routines, and all of the attendant care that goes into forging a racing career.

What they lack is “habituation” to life as an ordinary pet. This is where things, for some greyhounds and their new owners, can become problematic. They have to learn the routine and fundamentals of life in a home, just as they had to learn about life as a racer. In that sense, YOU must become the trainer. Like any good trainer, you need to observe and react, and to place the greyhound in situations where he is likely to succeed. Like any good training protocol, progress is achieved by increments.

We can’t take a racer who has been spelled for a month of rest and relaxation, and suddenly ask him to negotiate the distance of a marathon with only a light sprint as a prep. We have to prepare him properly, over an extended periods of time, gradually increasing the duration and intensity of his work, until such time as he has the necessary foundation.

The same is true of the newly adopted pet. He’s not going to know or even necessarily understand what the routine and rules are in his new universe. You have to slowly, and with punctuality, empathy and understanding, re-habituate him. They are intelligent and perceptive dogs, and they are attuned to human body language and the energy you give off.

And yes, there are skittish, shy, fearful and abnormally high strung greyhounds. And in some cases, they are this way because of sloppy, thoughtless, unprofessional, inattentive and even rough handling and caretaking, and/or poor socialization.

But more often than not, as we know, much of a greyhound’s traits, temperament and disposition are highly heritable. So are the greyhound’s greatly heightened power of perception, and his uber-awareness of what is going on within the 270-degree field of his laser-sharp vision.

Greyhounds, because they are essentially sight chasers/hunters, are keen and super-reactive to what they see. When something moves in a way they interpret to be threatening or a reason to chase, they are hard-wired to respond emphatically. That’s why we tell folks to muzzle them at the dog park, and also why some of them are so intimidated by novel experiences, objects, and even strange people, and their natural “fight or flight” instincts take over.

So we can let our opinions be formed by those whose need is to cultivate intolerance, cultural division, narrow-mindedness, ignorance and in some cases, even hatred. Or, we can make a concerted attempt to educate ourselves about the breed we care so much for, and to see him in a new, realistic and holistic light.

There is a lot more to the Greyhound and his racing experience than you are ever likely to read on an agenda driven website. More than you will ever hear from agenda driven people, who feel that because they perceive themselves as “rescuers” of greyhounds, most of whom were never in need of rescue at all, they are also entitled to lash out at others in the most ugly ways imaginable–whenever the mood suits them, and without having done their due diligence.

The choice is ours.

Copyright, 2014

On Racing and Adoption

by Leslie Glynn

Volunteer with Friends Of Greyhounds in Miami

We all know that retired racing Greyhounds are special. They are calm, gentle and loving. They enjoy the simple pleasures of lounging about on their beds, playing with toys and being with people. What makes them so wonderful is that they come to us this way. They come from their racing kennel pre-trained and big of heart. We do not have to work very hard to get them to be the wonderful companions that they are. We simply have to introduce them to their new role as family member, learning the ropes of their new job of retirement and introducing them safely to their new environment.

How did this ease of transition from working athlete to loving family member happen? Simply put, their up-bringing and racing kennel life brought them to this point. It made them the ever so easy to love hound that we all know. Unlike other breeds of dogs, Greyhounds get to stay and grow with their mom and litter mates for a greater length of time. They are not separated from their "pack" at the age of twelve to sixteen weeks and sold off to a new home as a puppy, trained by their new owner whether it is done well, correctly or not. Greyhound pups learn to play, respond and react as a member of their own canine family. They are well socialized to and within their greyhound society with much more instruction by and learning from their siblings and mother. They are also introduced to, handled and loved by the humans that will make up a major part of their working pack. This is why our hounds are what they are.

As they grow and start training to become athletes, they are in a structured environment. It is said that children thrive on structure....and so do growing and learning hounds. They know what to expect and when to expect it. Regular meal times and play/turnout times, sprint track and training schedules, exercise and regular grooming along with the various other tasks involved with training an athlete, make up their busy days.

Throw in generous amounts of love and care from their trainer/coaches and you have the makings of what we, as adopters, are blessed with when we adopt one of these precious pups. As I have watched many hounds from puppy to retirement, it never fails to amaze me that these children of the Greyhound racing community are the best kept secret in the pet world. This is why our hounds are what they are.

We see the trainers/owners/kennel help on a regular basis at the adoption kennel. Some stop by to see the pups that they have given into our care and to find homes for. As Tony, an owner and trainer, went into the kennel one morning, I knew exactly which hounds had come from his racing kennel. Excitement reigned supreme as they gave him the best happy tail, face licking, jump into a hug and tell him all about it greeting. This is why our hounds are what they are.

To those of us in this small global Greyhound community, this is where our hounds have come from. This is why our hound is what he or she is. We are creatures of our upbringing and so it is with hounds. Yes, there is the occasional spook, the occasional timid pup, the silly not quite right one who may have a quirk. So it is with us too. But in the end, you have a hound who is what it is because of its upbringing. We did not raise these pups, the Greyhound racing community did. We trust the racing community to do a good job with the hounds during their upbringing and career. The racing community continues to work more and more with adoption groups across the country for the benefit of the hounds and to place as many in loving homes as possible. It also continues to better itself. This is why our hounds are what they are.

I have seen both the best and the worst of the Greyhound world over the last twenty years. I have seen the Greyhound racing community come together to better itself and change the face of Greyhound adoption in a partnership with the adoption groups. So very many people have had a hand in raising all these delightful Greyhounds that live in homes all over the country. The proverbial Greyhound racing village has its hand in raising the thousands of hounds that grace our homes and our lives.

As I sit here and think about all the hounds that have passed through the Miami Hound House, I am grateful. I am grateful to have had hounds in my life and the friends that have come along with that life. Through the hounds I have listened and learned. I have learned why my hounds are the way they are. Yes breeding and temperament are a part of it. But not all of it. My biggest thanks goes to the Greyhound racing community for raising the pups the way they have and, along with adoption groups, encouraging in me the privilege of adopting their wonderful children.

For those of you who raised Bo (UK racing name unknown), Hillas Rice (Ryce), Neuces Wolfer (Jim), Jetstar Dazzler (Gustopher P Jones/Pimpmaster G), Northern Divide (Millie), Don't Roses Bloom (Rose), Kiowa Cee Carol (Isabella), Wheres Niurka (Skye), Jingas Star (Star) and FTH Thunder (Zee), thank you all, for building and raising the most wonderfully delicious pups in the world.

To Race or To Run? -- That Is the Question

by Dennis McKeon

It comes up very often in discussions about greyhounds. It’s a fair question.

There is something eternal and iambic in the apparitional silhouette of a greyhound, cantering freely across a dew-kissed meadow, those droplets of dawn, sprayed, gilded by the awakening sunrays, with each muted footfall. It is an imagic prayer, the poets of nature whisper, to grace itself.

In our world of cyber-gadgetry, of intimidating, intuitive automobiles, and of post-modern conveniences to facilitate just about every bothersome chore we might be bound to endure, it is more than remarkable that we can possess a living creature even more perfectly formed, to do precisely what it was meant to.

Greyhounds are like that. They race into our lives, and we are never the same again. There is an ethereal kinesis and manner to them, that at once addicts, enchants and mystifies--like the second glance of love at first sight, or a song faintly heard on the breath of a breeze, echoing in the cavern of a footbridge, lyrics lost among the river rushes.

So why do these lovely and beguiling beings engender so much controversy?

The whims of serendipity have never defined our greyhounds. They are purposeful things. Aerodynamic and streamlined, there is no thought to artistic license in their design. They have emerged from the same ooze as we, yet look at them—a microcosm of the Darwinian epic, on fast-forward.

There are volumes of information available on the internet, most of it misguided or just plain wrong, speculating upon the lives of contemporary greyhounds, and even upon their origins. From the unlikely whimsy of greyhounds who sat at the throne of Pharaoh, to the dark and conspiratorial narrative of the alleged greyhound death cult, commonly known as greyhound racing, there are few breeds of dogs which have been the subject of more disinformation and misunderstanding.

On the other hand, understanding is underrated. Of course, greyhounds love to run. They are living, breathing monuments to the joy of their own velocity and disdain of gravity.

But for the greyhound we know, there are moré deeply faceted dimensions. He was forged on the green fields of Altcar, coursing after hares so swift and nimble, that they might run him right off his legs, without so much as breaking a sweat, had he not been the apex predator.

He was then recast by the racetrack, in the chaos of the maddening pack, careening around sharp turns at speeds so daring that it steeled him, and made him bold and tenacious, to race through the pangs of fatigue and to welcome the challenge of any so brazen as to look him in the eye. He is the offspring of those who demanded to lead the pack, and who could accept nothing less, as much as bone and muscle, lung, heart and will might tolerate.

That is his inheritance, his bequest, and his legacy--to lead the pack.

It is ever so much more than simply running.

Copyright, 2015·

Couch Potato, Meet Crate Potato

by Dennis McKeon

There is so much hateful, ignorant and deliberate disinformation out there it simply boggles the mind.

Canines are all pack animals. All canines are "denners". This means that left to their own devices, they will seek out places to sleep and rest that provide close cover and protection, not only from the elements, but from their enemies.

Greyhounds, unlike most domestic canines, are raised in a pack. As puppies and then as saplings, that pack is comprised of their littermates and/or other greyhounds their age who are being raised on the facility where they reside.

When they arrive at the racing kennel as young adults, they become members of a larger pack, with sub-packs. Each pack member in the racing kennel has his/her own "den", which we (and those companies who sell them commercially) refer to as crates, and anti-racing propagandists prefer to call "cages", for maximum, negative connotation.

Canines have been observed, ad infintum, to sleep anywhere from 12-16 hours per day, both in domesticity and in the wild. That is perfectly normal behavior for canines of almost any stripe. Greyhounds, whether in a racing kennel or kept as pets in the home, are so fond of sleeping for protracted periods of time, and for such huge portions of the day, that they are known by all and sundry, affectionately indeed, as the infamous "45 mile per hour couch potato".

After a brief period of adjustment and evaluation, once they begin their racing careers, greyhounds are kept on a program of vigorous exercise, training, handling and grooming. They gallop in long runs, or on the racetrack itself. They are schooled behind the lure. They are walked on walking machines or by hand, and sometimes they even swim at facilities that have hydrotherapy units, nearby lakes or other bodies of water that the trainer can make use of.

They take whirlpool baths and/or receive relaxing massages, and they are brushed, combed, pedicured and slicked up before and after racing or training sessions. They are kept busy, and at all times, share their lives with their pack members. In all cases, conditioning them to race successfully takes time, repetition, commitment, and more than anything, it takes a lot out of the greyhound. Greyhounds cherish and require their downtime, their rest and their relaxation, to recover from the exertions of playing, training and then, racing.

Those of us who have never seen a greyhound immediately after a race or a training session behind the lure, have no idea just how much effort and energy they expend getting after it. Until you see the pumped up muscles, almost appearing to bulge through the greyhound's skin, the heaving sides, and the expression of pleasant fatigue and satisfaction on the face of the dog, it is impossible to imagine the degree of their desire, contentment and commitment. Once you witness it, it all becomes perfectly clear. The amount of sleeping and lolling about they do is roughly a reflection of the depth of their natural and healthy expressions of their genetic and athletic heritage.

So that couch potato you have at home, blissfully snoozing the day away as you occasionally check in to see if he or she is still alive, was, before he met you, a 45 mile per hour "crate potato" in the racing kennel. He learned to rest and snooze in his own private den space, feeling perfectly secure, while the kennel was a virtual beehive of activity all day long. He was deprived of nothing, was anything but bored, and was perfectly exhilarated when his name was called for either galloping, schooling, walking or racing---or just about anything other than the dreaded nail-trimming.

Idiopathic Fear and Withdrawal In Greyhounds

by Dennis McKeon

One of the most educational aspects of working with large populations or colonies of Greyhounds in racing, is to watch how the pack interacts, and to observe the dynamics of it. Greyhounds have always been pack animals. Not just historically, but in actuality. They have hunted and coursed in packs, and today they race in packs.

They are kept with their dams much longer than most, if not all breeds, and they begin their socialization training within their own family units. Within that unit, a pecking order develops. There is usually always a dominant individual, and depending upon the size and nature of the litter, there might be both an alpha male and female. Often, they are the play leaders. The others might be submissive to them, and to one another, and so-on, down the “chain of command”. The alphas are not always the best athletes or the fastest in the litter, but they do sometimes command a certain degree of supplication. Occasionally you come across one who is noticeably “above the fray”. Sometimes they turn out to be superior performers on the racetrack.

More educational, is when these small packs are introduced to the larger pack of the kennel, either at the track, or on the breeder’s facility. It is simply fascinating to see how they integrate themselves within the pack dynamic and the established hierarchy. Sometimes it can mean trouble, when introducing future colony alphas to current colony alphas, or to one another. You have to be able to read dog body language well, and to recognize instantly when there is a disturbance within the pack “force”.

Now the alphas are not the only ones that require your attentions. Betas, or sub-dominant individuals, can be in constant need of your supervision, as they often push the envelope of the pack’s serenity, and while not seeking dominance, can sometimes seem to almost invite correction.

Greyhounds at the bottom of the pack hierarchy are “omegas”. These are often high strung, nervous, shy, retiring, submissive types, who are only followers. Sometimes this “follower” mentality results in a racer who doesn’t want to lead the pack at all. But more often, the omega personality is simply a tightly wound follower, lacking in self-confidence, readily submissive and somewhat introverted. We used to call these types “touchy” or “squirrelly”. They are not necessarily that way when competing on the racetrack, however.

Occasionally, adoptive owners of omega and other lower ranking pack members, mistake their dog’s pack-ordained personalities as being the result of inattention, or even rough or inappropriate handling and a lack of proper socialization . And this could be the case in some instances. More likely, their natural nervous energies and absence of self-assurance is amplified by the extremely challenging life adjustment from the racing kennel to the family domicile---where all sorts of new and intimidating objects and arrangements confront them. Good and empathetic pet owners are patient with these dogs---and there are many more of them than there are alphas---and they slowly acclimate and re-habituate them to their new lives. It has all worked out splendidly, as we know, and retired greyhounds are phenomenally popular as pets. Even the shy, touchy types seem to find their forever homes. We have to remember, however, that greyhounds are bred to be highly reactive to anything within their field of vision, which commands 270 degrees. They are hunters and coursers of game, and have been so for thousands of years. They notice things, and they respond in kind. Novelty can upset them terribly.

One of the great mysteries of the Greyhound world, and the canine world in general, is the “spook” phenomenon. Spooks are greyhounds who are pathologically fearful of everyone and everything with which or whom they are not intimately familiar. They are profoundly terrified of any sort of novelty. Spooks are genetic. Many great and hugely influential greyhounds in pedigrees were spooks. Westy Whizzer, Representation and Unruly are three who have had enormous impact upon the breed—and who occasionally threw spooks, just like they were. Spooks who are bred, tend to throw a higher percentage of spook offspring, though some never pass the anomaly on.

All dogs develop a natural fear response at about 8-12 months of age. For some reason we don’t quite understand yet, sometimes this natural fight-or-flight instinct goes haywire, and the dog becomes entirely fearful and withdrawn. Anyone who has ever raised a litter of spooks---and I have---is always heartbroken when they see this phenomenon developing, and are powerless to do anything much to remedy it.

According to PetMD:
“Profound fear and withdrawal of unknown cause (so called idiopathic fear and withdrawal) has also been noted in certain dog breeds, including the Siberian Husky, German Shorthaired Pointer, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Bernese Mountain Dog, Great Pyrenees, Border Collie, and Standard Poodle, among others. There appears to be a strong familial component, with the likelihood of a genetic influence.”
While the racing greyhound who develops idiopathic fear and withdrawal syndrome can behave quite normally around his/her handlers and familiars, they become completely withdrawn and terrified of any new people who are introduced to the kennel environment.

Naturally, they are a true challenge to potential adopters, and only greyhound savvy individuals with a great deal of empathy, time and patience would be advised to adopt a greyhound who exhibits this unusual disorder. These aren’t simply shy, touchy, squirrelly omega types, or just high-strung greyhounds. As a matter of fact, I’ve handled at least one spook who was the alpha female in a racing kennel.

The rewards, needless to say, of winning the trust and love of a true “spook”, are well worth the time and energy required, and the implementation of a punctual and reliable routine, absent novelties, as much as is possible. When you finally bond with them, they will follow you anywhere. It’s almost as if they’ve kept themselves all bottled up, just to shower down their affections upon you, once you have finally broken through those vexing personality barricades.

Copyright, 2013 by Dennis McKeon

NothingMore from Nancy L. Hudson on Vimeo.

Osteosarcoma Gene Identified in Greyhounds

from the Tripawds Blogs

According to attendees at the recent Solvang Greyhounds Festival in California, it was announced that the osteosarcoma cancer gene in greyhounds has been identified by Dr. Guillermo Couto, DVM, dipl. ACVIM, founder of the Ohio State University Greyhounds Health and Wellness Program and Dr. Carlos E. Alvarez, PhD, of The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

Their research was conducted through a grant by by the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation. The team’s study description is here: “01660: Identifying the Genes That Confer Risk for Osteosarcoma.” The abstract describes the study as:

“Osteosarcoma (OSA) is the most common cancer of the bone in both dogs and humans. A prime candidate for investigation of the genetic component of OSA is the Greyhound, which has the highest risk of OSA of any breed. However, despite significant effort, classical genetic approaches have not identified any Greyhound variant that accounts for most OSA cases in that breed. Dr. Alvarez proposes that Greyhound OSA variants have been directly or indirectly selected for in racing performance, consistent with the vastly elevated incidence in racing vs. show Greyhounds. If this is true and all racers carried an OSA mutation on both chromosomes, then this could not be detected using classical approaches (which require different genetic markers to distinguish cases v. controls). Here Dr. Alvarez proposes an innovative genetic approach that is impervious to the limitations described above, and enables genome-wide discovery of Greyhound variation with large effects on OSA risk. Such findings would lead to rapid development of therapies and clinical trials in dogs, and translation to human medicine.”

The study described above was just completed, official publication will follow. This exciting news carries various implications, such as the ability to identify this gene in humans. Dr. Cuoto announced that this finding is less than one week old and publication is still forthcoming.

Dr. Cuoto presented at the Solvang Greyhounds Festival and discussed this study as well as the groundbreaking research conducted at the Greyhounds Health and Wellness Program. You can view his presentation about the program on the Solvang Greyhound website, or right-click here and save it to your hard drive.

The OSU program conducts extraordinary work for dogs with osteosarcoma and other bone cancers, with a focus on greyhounds. As well as research, Dr Couto and his team also offer a free consultation service for owners, vets and anyone with any breed of dog who may need to have x-rays looked at to see if a lesion looks to be osteosarcoma. Their work is funded entirely by donations and grants. To learn more, visit the Ohio State University Greyhounds Health and Wellness Program website at

Wheeling Island, Ohio State launch joint greyhound venture

by Stan Pawloski
Wed, Oct 26, 2011

It’s been a busy summer at Wheeling with some ground-breaking off-track developments.

Wheeling Island Racetrack and The Ohio State University have formed a joint venture targeting the wellness of greyhounds.

The partnership is two-fold – first to improve the health status of racing greyhounds through an investigative study, and secondly to significantly decrease or eliminate euthanasia due to catastrophic the program from The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, Dr. Lori L. Bohenko, West Virginia Racing Commission state veterinarian, played a major role in launching the undertaking at the Wheeling racetrack.

With support of the West Virginia Racing Commission and Wheeling Island, the investigative study was conducted in July at Wheeling by Dr. Couto, Dr. Bohenko and a group of veterinarians and students from The Ohio State University.

Dr. Bohenko said the study had three goals – provide health screens for 120 greyhounds, test for tick borne and heartworm diseases and the effects of exercise (racing) on blood work.

“Through this joint effort, we are trying to learn more about these greyhounds and what makes them tick,” Dr. Bohenko said. “This is the first time a study of this magnitude using actively racing dogs has ever been conducted. Mostly retired greyhounds have been used in the past.”

The greyhounds in the study had blood drawn on three occasions – the day before they were scheduled to race, immediately after their race and one to two hours after the completion of their race.

“We completed health screens (blood work) to generate reference points because greyhounds have odd blood values. This can be useful to practitioners,” Dr. Bohenko said. “I believe there are more greyhounds in the private sector now so it’s a valuable piece of information for veterinarians.”

In addition to tests for heartworm and tick borne diseases, Dr. Couto and his staff did complete blood counts (CBCs), serum chemistry profiles (liver, kidney function, etc.) and blood gas analysis (BGs). The heartworm and tick borne disease tests all were negative.

“It’s a good reflection on the care these greyhounds receive,” Dr. Bohenko said. “It also points out to people who want to adopt them that there are no problems.”

The study found a huge change in a greyhound’s blood makeup after racing.

“The percentage of circulating red blood cells increased up to 75 percent when tested after running. Their blood was like sludge,” Dr. Bohenko said. “But within one hour after racing, it was back to normal. We are studying why and how greyhounds are able to do this.”

Idexx Laboratories, Inc., a global market leader in diagnostics and information technology solutions for animal health, provided the state-ofthe- art equipment for the study as well as the supplies needed to run the tests. They are headquartered in Maine and have more than 60 locations around the world.

“Dr. Couto and I are very pleased with the results so far – some very interesting information came out of the study. When funding permits, we’d like to expand the study and go more indepth,” Dr. Bohenko said. “We are excited about future collaborations with the track. The cooperation from the dog men was outstanding.”

The second part of the partnership, dubbed “4 Legs 4 Hounds” by Dr. Couto, is a rehabilitation program funded in part by Wheeling Island Racetrack, Wheeling kennel operators and The Ohio State University Greyhound Health and Wellness Program.

Any greyhound with a career-ending injury will be taken to Ohio State for surgery if the owner relinquishes rights to the racer. After surgery, the greyhound is placed in the adoption program at the school.

“We are now sending the more severely injured greyhounds to Ohio State University to be repaired by board certified surgeons,” Dr. Bohenko said. “These are dogs that would have been euthanized due to the severity of their injuries. Now all dogs we’ve sent to Ohio State are happily living in homes with new families.”

In exchange for the surgical repairs, the greyhounds “give back” by donating blood at the Ohio State University blood bank several times a year.

“Greyhounds are universal donors and are able to provide blood to dogs in all walks of life,” Dr. Bohenko said. “They are life savers.”

Since the program was implemented this year, no greyhounds have been euthanized due to racing injuries at Wheeling.

“It is very exciting to have options for these dogs that had no options before. It’s good for the industry and the sport,” Dr. Bohenko said. “Less severe musculo-skeletal injuries are being treated by local veterinarians under the same program.”

Assisting with the programs was Mary Lou Metz, director of the Wheeling Greyhound Pets of America.

Track manager Gene Magliaro also is a huge supporter of the rehabilitation program.

“These two projects have happened due to the outstanding cooperation between Dr. Couto, Dr. Bohenko, Mary Lou Metz, the kennel operators and Wheeling Island management,” Magliaro said. “These projects serve as a model for any racing venue in the world.”

Dr. Couto’s energy and passion for the greyhounds and the programs is unmatched. His commitment grows stronger each day.

“These programs are an incredible development for my team and the greyhound industry. We are on the cutting edge,” Dr. Couto said.

“Everyone was so helpful. We could not have done this without everybody’s help.”

Dr. Bohenko echoed Dr. Couto’s sentiments.

“It was a huge effort on the part of many, many people to make it happen and it went off like clockwork. A big thank goes to all the kennel operators and their staffs for their cooperation,” Dr. Bohenko said. “It’s exciting because it’s the first time academia and racing have joined forces.”

In addition to Dr. Couto, assisting in the study from Ohio State were Kirt Yant, Dawn Hudson, Aimee Brooks, Kelly Kontur, Steve Horvath and Alice Tamborini.

Anyone wishing to make a donation to the 4 Legs 4 Hounds program are asked to visit and click on the “Giving” tab.

(Permission to reprint from Gary Guccione.)

A Trip to the Farms

by Nicola Mohr, DVM

and used with permission from Greyhounds Pets of America-Northern California (GPA-NC) /Greyhound Adoption California (GACA) Newsletter, Winter 2012

To read this article along with its accompanying photography (recommended!), please click here.

Nicola Mohr, long-time greyhound owner and practicing veterinarian (Santa Cruz Veterinary Hospital, Santa Cruz, CA) and her husband Michael made the trip to Oklahoma to adopt their Shadow — a sweet, senior, brood mom. Nicola reports that Shadow has been the easiest dog ever and that she would take another senior mom (or dad) any day, next time they are ready to adopt. She would like to encourage people to consider these wonderful, level-headed, older hounds for pets. Here is her story about the visit to the greyhound farms.

In 2009, we had the opportunity to tour several Greyhound farms that breed, raise, and train Greyhounds in Oklahoma. We met Teddy Palmer of Halfway Home Greyhound Adoption who showed us around and was a wealth of information. We had completely unhindered access to these farms and were invited to peek into any corner, meet the dogs and workers, take as many photos as we liked, and ask any questions. What we saw was very informative and interesting.

Puppies are whelped in special facilities, air conditioned and equipped to take care of several mothers and their newborns. There were the usual whelping boxes, with lots of room for the mother to lie down and nurse the neonates, as well as space away from the litter to relieve herself or to eat. The moms were happy to see us, even with puppies attached and nursing. None showed protective aggression or reluctance to have us join her in her space – quite amazing for any dog! We were allowed to handle the tiny puppies and admire them – it is not often to see a Greyhound this little and immature – they look like any other pup at 2 weeks of age. The long, sleek limbs are far away yet!

After staying with their moms until weaning, the litters are moved to a large outdoor pen with shelter and allowed to play, dig, and roll in the red Oklahoma dirt all day long, for several weeks. Meals consist of a huge supply of softened food, and everyone comes running and jumping at the sight of that wonderful person carrying the feeding bucket several times a day. Otherwise, there are no rules. Total excitement rules when either a dog is walked by the pen or a person appears at the perimeter – and each is greeted with enthusiasm and tumbling over each other trying to reach that visitor/ passerby.

Next, the youngsters are moved in pairs or small groups into very long outdoor runs. These are fenced in and many run parallel to each other – so as to allow these teenagers to see each other and stay socially connected, and to allow them to chase each other along the fence for several hundred feet – no encouragement needed, as we watched them do so several times. Sprint with the neighbor, retreat to the shade, drink some water, relax – and, in 15 minutes, do it all over again. We could see the future chase instinct emerging. These dogs obviously love to run! It makes them develop a very fit body, and it is apparent that there is a lot of energy to be burnt.

Just before moving to the race tracks, the dogs are housed in individual kennels, either indoors or outside. They are now officially trained to run in an oval, after a lure. In between, they rest in their personal kennel but are always taken outside as a group; we saw 30 or more at a time hanging out during these turnouts. They wear muzzles during these times to prevent jostling or other disagreements ending in injuries between dogs. We always saw them very relaxed when outside, and seemingly happy to socialize, but as every Greyhound owner knows, it doesn’t take much to injure their thin skin. The group mills about for half an hour while the kennels are cleaned and resupplied with shredded paper, and when the word comes, everyone charges inside ready to check on their home – few needed assistance finding their places. The muzzles come off, and everyone settles down, ready for a nap. There were usually only 1 or 2 dogs barking; the workers seemed to know those well, and mostly were able to quiet those with a whistle. We were allowed to take several hounds out of their kennels, and again were amazed at the friendly excitement they showed us; no one shied away from our hands, all were eager to be petted and rubbed. Most are ready to move to the tracks by 18 months of age – and the ones we saw were in superb condition. They virtually brim with energy and strength, charged for running. It made us middle-aged, well-fed humans feel quite out of shape!

The last group we saw was older dogs - mostly breeding males and females. Both have their individual kennels in separate locations. Perhaps the most special to see were some of the former dogs of fame; when older and greyed, they seemed so sweet and grateful for attention. Some live out their retirement on the farms and remain special to their humans. Some will eventually be offered for outside adoption – although not an easy thing, as most adopters are drawn to the young and pretty ones.

During our visits to these farms, we met many wonderful Greyhounds and welcoming people. They took hours out of their day to show us around and seemed delighted to share their operations and dogs with us. What struck us the most was the excitement by the Greyhounds of all ages to meet us and be petted. All seemed ready to do whatever we might want to do with them. Although they don’t sleep on people’s beds (yet), these Greyhounds are obviously used to humans and are treated well enough to think of people as fun and exciting. No wonder they are willing and able to make the adjustment to our home environments and to trust us so completely. And to become our Best Friends!