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The Forty Mile an Hour Couch Potato and Other Greyhound Myths
It is a mystery why greyhounds seem to foster so many misconceptions, but new ones seem to grow 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 greyhounds and the training and practice of dog racing carried by their pet cat who was killed by a greyhound running at large. This angry rant spawned a second that spewed more inaccuracies about the nature of greyhounds and their training.
I don’t think any person wrote their letters with any deliberate malice. Friends often ask me if the dogs are abused or killed when they finish running. Animal rights groups have spread misleading information about the greyhound industry and greyhound owners have for the most part chosen to ignore them rather than give valid answers. This in my opinion was a gross misjudgment. Kind, well-meaning individuals give money to animal rights groups in the millions and use these fat coffers to promote many causes, including the banning of greyhound racing. To counter these accusations as they come, the Greyhounds seem to be hiding a nasty secret.
HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumble had a story on greyhound racing in 2004 that further emphasized the misconception and its reporter Bernard Goldberg did his best in this segment to convey the cause of the animal activist. The story spoke of the cruelty of keeping greyhounds in small cages all day, except when they are taken outside to run. However, do not all good dog trainers suggest that we keep our dogs combed in the cage during the day when we are gone and to feed and sleep? Pet dogs spend much longer hours in a crate than racing greyhounds, as they are usually crated while the owner is at work. Greyhounds are let out to lie down and potty several times a day and every greyhound person I’ve ever met is a fanatic about shift times. Many nights were cut short by returning to the kennel for nine hours. Keep this in mind the next time you stop by for happy hour after work instead of heading home to walk Fido. The suggestion that greyhounds are kept confined all the time in small crates is completely false. Greyhound crates are large enough for larger dogs to move around and rest comfortably.
It might surprise most people to know that one of the big adjustments a greyhound has to make when it begins its life as a pet is the loneliness that sometimes manifests itself in separation anxiety behaviors. Greyhounds start their lives as puppies with their mother and siblings who are attended all day by their human guardians. Then they are weaned and spend the next year of their lives growing and playing with their siblings in large paddocks attended all day by their human companions. At one year old, the puppies come out of the paddock to the kennel and spend the whole day being trained, groomed, medicated and touched and handled all day broken up by naps and recesses with all the other dogs in the kennel several times a day. This continues when they move after high school to the track. When the dog leaves the track for a pet house, he often finds himself left alone all day while his owner is at work after getting used to having the man around him talking, grooming or petting all the time. Many people mistakenly think that it is wise to start with only one greyhound because they do not want to bite too much, so it is also often in a house where it is the only dog after spending its entire existence with a large pack of friends. Dogs are naturally social anyway and that’s why they make great pets. While I don’t advocate letting dogs take over your life or taking on more than you can handle well – often two greyhounds are easier to keep and happier than one.
In the Real Sports piece, the guy with the dark face said that the dogs were killed all the time when they didn’t make it on the track. He also said that dogs are only running machines to turn a dollar and that’s how the greyhounds saw them. I have to be careful how I write here because this makes me angry. As in any animal business, there are dirtbags trying to make a quick buck who don’t care about the animal’s well-being, hence the guy’s dark face. These men are now by far the minority not the rule and they don’t last long in business. To put it bluntly – there is an enormous amount of back breaking, dirty, hard work, long hours and misery in the greyhound business and not a lot of money to be made. The day at the kennel starts at six o’clock and ends with the final participation at ten o’clock. In his reporter Bernard Goldberg stated to Bryant that all greyhound owners were breeding hundreds of puppies in the hope of producing a winner of $200,000.00. While this tidbit might have sounded clever to the proper ears of journalists, to a person who has been around the greyhound business for many years, it is laughable. No one puts in years and years of hard work towards a goal like that which only happens once in a lifetime if you are very, very lucky. The simple fact is – most people who are in the greyhound business are in it because they love greyhounds. They love them as puppies and they love the old mother or dog with the salty muzzle. This is proven by the fact that many greyhound farms have several animals that run around the property and live in the house as pets.
I have often heard that greyhounds are fed poor quality slop with dangerous raw meat rendered from dead animals that often start to rot and that is why their teeth go bad. The “slop” that the greyhounds are fed, is a mixture of quality red meat, meals and supplements with the exact balance of carbohydrates, proteins and vitamins, designed not only to keep thin, as fatties in the animal world tend to be slow, and unhealthy as in man, but also to keep the muscle healthy with a lot of energy for the sprint. Greyhounds are the ultimate canine athletes, and as such, they need nutrition to support their systems. The food they are fed costs 2 to 3 times what a dog eats. Greyhound racing is very competitive; In fact, I have often compared it to entering Hollywood as an actor. It would make very little sense to invest thousands in breeding, installation, equipment and time to save a few bucks on feed. The downside is that, like canned dog food, food greyhounds tend to stick to the teeth and cause cavities. The proof of the quality of the yeast diet is that they tend to have a longer life than other dogs of their size.
Greyhounds are not neurotic and it is highly unlikely that an adopted Greyhound will ever be physically abused. Greyhounds are very sensitive dogs and abusive handling will always ruin them. He also seems to have an amazing memory and the mistakes made in handling them, although they are usually forgiven are rarely forgotten. An abusive trainer’s dogs would all fail and he or she would immediately be out of business. Abusive breeding aids will be immediately removed from the premises, probably with a good beating from the trainer for good measure. When an adopted dog shows neurotic behavior it is usually due to the problems mentioned above. Even if they are called Forty Mile an Hour Couch Potato, like all dogs they need to get out and see the world. It is absolutely imperative that the dogs go out for a walk every day in the neighborhood. This is his whole world and he likes to investigate. The metabolism of a Greyhound is like a Cheetah. Lie around and relax to conserve energy for that explosive sprint. A couple of times a week at the dog park for a good off-leash run is enough – just be careful to keep the little fluffy and muzzle happy just in case one comes after you leave your Ferrari. Greyhounds are perfectly capable of learning to remember, one must be careful never to leave them without a leash in open parks where they could run into traffic. This as far as I am concerned is true for all dogs.
Yes it is true that over the centuries greyhounds have been bred and trained for human greed and pleasure. Name a pet that doesn’t have one. I for one am very glad that greyhounds are here and the racing industry has made them, possibly by accident the healthiest dog breed when it comes to genetic diseases. Hip dysplasia in greyhounds is in the opinion of every breeder and racing trainer I have ever asked, (these guys have all known and treated literally thousands of dogs) all but unknown and in the lines of AKC show, according to the OFA database is still only. to two percent. When tenths of a second separates the fantastic from the failures, a great bone structure is a must. Since generally only large runners are used for breeding, things like bad hearts, elbows and hips are never perpetuated in bloodlines. The narrow deep chests seen in show greyhounds that contribute to the tendency to swell should not be productive for racing as you do not find that conformation in a racer. The bone cancer that seems to afflict all breeds of large dogs is generally believed to come from a previous injury to the bone that often goes undetected during growth.
There are some greyhound owners who still have too many dogs. Take the chance that an average female bred to a great sire will turn out a winner. These dinosaurs were driven out of business by economic pressures. If only the best females are bred to the best males, the results will be fewer and better dogs and this means fewer dogs that have to be petted. The shotgun method of producing hundreds of puppies to get a few good ones is no longer feasible. Very few healthy adoptable greyhounds are euthanized right now and we are working towards the day very soon when that number drops to zero. Owners, breeders and trainers will be responsible for the welfare of these wonderful animals in their care.
Everyone who has been given the great gift of knowing and loving a greyhound knows that there is nothing like them. The day may come when the racing circuits close and the flow of adoption dogs slows. So the thousands of people who have come to love the greyhound will buy their greyhounds as puppies and the price will be high and the demand huge. The puppy mills of Missouri and Oklahoma will smell easy money and then the moms and dads of the greyhound puppies will no longer live in comfortable kennels with big spacious paddocks to run around and keepers armed every day with scoopers, nail clippers, soft brushes, Milkbones . and hugs, but they will be imprisoned in cramped dirty cages with their own urine burning their bare elbows and hips. Then the puppies will end up in cramped pet store cages waiting for someone to come and buy them without background checks, without mentoring and not as a carefully thought out family member, but out of sympathy when looking into those deep eyes of the l soul So the people of PETA, HSUS, GREY2K and others can pat themselves on the back and know that they did their good deed.
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