The Forty Miles an Hour Couch Potato and Other Greyhound Myths
It’s a mystery why greyhounds seem to foster so many misconceptions, but new ones seem to emerge with the frequency of urban myths. Some time ago a letter to the editor appeared in our local newspaper with an attack on the character of the greyhound dogs and the training and practice of dog racing caused by the fact that your pet cat was killed by a greyhound on the loose. This angry tirade sparked a second that blurted out more inaccuracies about the nature of greyhounds and their training.
I don’t think any of the people wrote their letters with deliberate malice. Often my friends ask me if dogs are abused or killed when the races are over. Animal rights groups have been spreading misleading information about the greyhound industry and, for the most part, greyhound owners have chosen to ignore them rather than validate them by replying to them. This, in my opinion, has been a serious error of judgment. Kind and well-meaning people give money to animal rights groups in the millions and use these fat coffers to advance many causes, including a ban on greyhound racing. By failing to counter these accusations as they arise, the greyhound people seem to be hiding a dirty secret.
HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumble had a story about greyhound racing in 2004 that also emphasized misconceptions and their reporter Bernard Goldberg did his best in this segment to further the animal activist cause. The story spoke of the cruelty of keeping greyhounds in small cages all day, except when they are taken out to run. However, don’t all good dog trainers suggest that we keep our dogs in cages during the day when we are away and to feed and sleep them? Domestic dogs spend many more hours in a cage than racing greyhounds, as they are generally in the cage while the owner is at work. Greyhounds are allowed to stretch and urinate multiple times a day and every greyhound I have ever met is a fan of attendance times. Many nights out have been interrupted to run back to the kennel to leave at nine. Keep this in mind the next time you’re stopping by for happy hour after work instead of heading straight home for a walk around Fido. The suggestion that greyhounds are kept in small boxes all the time is completely untrue. Greyhound cages are large enough for larger dogs to move around and rest comfortably.
It may come as a surprise to most people to learn that one of the big adjustments a greyhound must make when beginning life as a pet is the loneliness that sometimes manifests itself in separation anxiety behaviors. Greyhounds start life as cubs with their mother and siblings being cared for throughout the day by their human caretakers. They are then weaned and spend the next year of their lives growing and playing with their siblings in large paddocks cared for all day by their human caretakers. Each year the puppies go out of the paddock to the kennel and spend all day being trained, groomed, medicated and touched and handled throughout the day divided by naps and recesses with all the other dogs in the kennel several times a day. This continues as they move from high school to the racetrack. When the dog leaves the track to go to the pet house, he is often left alone all day while his owner is at work after being used to having humans around him talking, grooming or petting all the time. Many people mistakenly think that it is wise to start with just one greyhound as they don’t want to bite too much, which is why he is also often found in a home where he is the only dog after spending his entire existence with a large pack of dogs. friends. Dogs are naturally social anyway and this is why they make great pets. While I don’t advocate letting dogs take over your life or take on more than you can adequately support, often two greyhounds are easier to keep and happier than one.
In the Real Sports piece, the guy with the darkened face said that dogs were killed all the time when they didn’t make it to the track. He also said that dogs are just running machines to make money and that’s how the greyhound people saw them. I have to be careful how I write here, as it annoys me. As in any animal business, there are dirt bags trying to make a quick buck that don’t care about the welfare of animals, hence the guy’s darkened face. These guys are now by far the minority, not the rule, and they don’t last long in the business. To put it bluntly, there is a lot of hard, dirty, hard work, long hours, and heartaches in the greyhound business and you can’t make a lot of money. The day at the kennel begins at six in the morning and ends with the final participation at ten at night. In his summary, reporter Bernard Goldberg told Bryant that all the greyhound owners were raising hundreds of puppies in hopes of producing a $ 200,000.00 winner of the stakes. While this piece of information might have sounded clever to reporters’ own ears, to a person who has been in the greyhound business for many years it is ridiculous. No one would put years and years of hard work to achieve a goal like that as it only happens once in a lifetime if you are very, very lucky. The simple fact is that most people who are in the greyhound business do it because they love greyhounds. They love them like puppies and they love the old mother or stallion with the salty snout. This is evidenced by the fact that many greyhound farms have multiple pets running around the property and living in the house as pets.
I have often heard that greyhounds are fed poor quality waste with dangerous raw meat taken from dead animals which often starts to rot and this is why their teeth get spoiled. The “slop” that greyhounds feed on is a mixture of quality red meat, flour and supplements with an exact balance of carbohydrates, proteins and vitamins, designed not only to keep them slim, as the fat in the animal world They tend to be as slow, and unhealthy as in humans, but also to maintain healthy muscles with plenty of energy for sprinting. Greyhounds are the best canine athletes and therefore need nutrition to support their systems. The food given to them costs 2 to 3 times more than what a dog eats. Greyhound racing is very competitive; in fact, I often liken it to breaking into Hollywood as an actor. It wouldn’t make much sense to invest thousands of dollars in players, facilities, equipment, and time to save a few bucks on feed. The downside is that, like canned dog food, the food that greyhounds get tends to stick to the teeth and cause cavities. The proof of the quality of the diet of greyhounds is that they tend to have a much longer lifespan than other dogs their size.
Greyhounds are not neurotic and it is highly unlikely that an adopted greyhound has been physically abused. Greyhounds are very sensitive dogs and abusive handling will always ruin them. They also seem to have an amazing memory and the mistakes they make in handling them, while generally forgiven, are rarely forgotten. All of an abusive trainer’s dogs would fail and he or she would go out of business immediately. The abusive help from the kennel would be immediately thrown off the premises, probably with a good hit from the trainer just in case. When an adopted dog displays neurotic behavior, it is usually due to the problems mentioned above. Although they are called the Forty Mile an Hour Couch Potato, like all dogs, they need to get out and see the world. It is absolutely imperative that dogs go for a walk in the neighborhood every day. This is their whole world and they love to investigate it. The metabolism of a greyhound is like that of a cheetah. They lie down and relax to conserve energy for that explosive sprint. A couple of times a week to the dog park for a good off-leash run is enough; be careful to be on the lookout for little furry and muzzle please in case one enters after you have dropped your Ferrari. Greyhounds are perfectly capable of learning to remember, you just have to be careful never to leave them off leash in open parks where they could run into traffic. As far as I’m concerned, this is true of all dogs.
Yes, it is true that throughout the centuries greyhounds have been bred and trained for human greed and pleasure. Name one domesticated animal that hasn’t. For my part, I am very happy that greyhounds are here and that the racing industry has made them, possibly by accident, the healthiest breed of dog when it comes to genetic diseases. Hip dysplasia in greyhounds is, in the opinion of all the breeders and racing trainers I’ve asked, (all of these guys have met and handled literally thousands of dogs) almost unheard of and on AKC show lines, according to the OFA’s database, it’s still only two percent. When tenths of a second separate the fantastic from the flaws, great bone structure is a must. Since only great runners are generally used for breeding, things like bad hearts, elbows, and hips have never been perpetuated in bloodlines. The deep, narrow chests seen in show greyhounds that contribute to the tendency to bloat should not be productive for running, as such conformation is not found in a runner. Bone cancer that appears to affect all large dog breeds is generally believed to stem from a previous injury to the bone that is often not detected during growth.
There are some greyhound owners who still breed too many dogs. Risk that an average female raised with a great father is the winner. These dinosaurs are being driven out of business by economic pressure. If only the best females are crossed with the best males, the results will be fewer and better dogs and that means fewer dogs that need to be petted. The shotgun method of producing hundreds of pups to get a few good ones is no longer feasible. Very few healthy adoptable greyhounds are euthanized now and we are working towards the day very soon when that number drops to zero. The owners, breeders and trainers will be responsible for the well-being of these wonderful animals in their care.
Everyone who receives the great gift of knowing and loving a greyhound knows that there is nothing like them. The day may come when racetracks close and the flow of adoption dogs slows to a halt. Then the thousands of people who have come to love the greyhound will have to buy their greyhounds as puppies and the price will be high and the demand huge. Puppy mills in Missouri and Oklahoma will smell easy money and then mothers and fathers of greyhound puppies will no longer live in comfortable kennels with large spacious paddocks to play with and keepers armed daily with water scoops, nail clippers, soft brushes , Milkbones and hugs, but they will be imprisoned in dirty cramped cages with their own urine burning their unprotected elbows and haunches. The pups will then end up in cramped pet store cages waiting for someone to come and buy them with no background check, no tutoring, and not as a carefully thought out family member, but out of sympathy looking into those deep, soulful eyes. Then the folks at PETA, HSUS, GRAY2K, and the rest can pat themselves on the back and know they’ve done their good deed.