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The Forty Mile an Hour Couch Potato and Other Greyhound Myths
It’s a mystery why greyhounds seem to support so many misconceptions, but new ones seem to pop up with the frequency of urban myths. Some time ago a letter to the editor appeared in our local paper attacking the nature of greyhounds and the training and running of dog racing caused by his cat being killed by a greyhound running at large. This angry rant sparked a second that spewed more inaccuracies about the nature of greyhounds and their training.
I don’t think either person wrote their letters with any intentional malice. I am often asked by friends if dogs are abused or killed after they finish racing. Animal welfare groups spread misleading information about the greyhound industry and greyhound owners have mostly chosen to ignore them rather than lend them validity by responding to them. That was a gross misjudgment in my opinion. Kind and well-meaning individuals give money to animal rights groups by the millions and use those fat coffers for other purposes, including banning greyhound racing. By not contesting the allegations as they emerged, the Greyhounds appeared to be hiding a dirty secret.
HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumble had a story on greyhound racing in 2004 that also highlighted misconceptions, and his reporter Bernard Goldberg did his best in that segment to advance the animal activist’s cause. The story spoke of the cruelty of keeping greyhounds in small cages all day, except when they were taken out for a run. But don’t all good dog trainers suggest that we keep our pet dogs in a crate during the day when we are away and for feeding and sleeping? The dogs spend much longer hours in the crate than racing greyhounds because they are usually crated when the owner is at work. Greyhounds are let out to stretch and potty several times a day and every greyhound I’ve ever met is fanatical about the times they go outside. Many overnight trips were cut short by running back to the shed at nine o’clock. Keep that in mind the next time you stop by happy hour after work instead of going straight home for Fido’s walk. The claim that greyhounds are confined in small crates all the time is completely wrong. Greyhound crates are large enough for even the largest dogs to comfortably move and rest in.
It may surprise most people to know that one of the big changes a greyhound has to make when starting life as a pet is loneliness, which sometimes manifests itself in separation anxiety behaviors. Greyhounds begin life as puppies with their mother and siblings, 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 enclosures, cared for throughout the day by their human caretakers. In a year, the puppies come out of the paddock into the kennel and spend all day being trained, combed, treated and touched and handled all day broken up by naps and breaks with all the other dogs in the kennel several times a day. This continues when they move on to the track after high school. When a dog goes off track to be a pet, it often finds itself alone all day while its owner is at work because it is used to people constantly talking, brushing or petting it around. Many people mistakenly think that it is wise to start with just one greyhound because they don’t want to bite too much, so he is also often in a home where he is the only dog after spending his entire existence with a large pack of friends. However, dogs are naturally sociable, which makes them great pets. While I’m not advocating that dogs take over your life or take on more than you can properly support – it’s often easier to keep two greyhounds and be happier than one.
In the Real Sports piece, a guy with a blackened face said that dogs were killed all the time when they didn’t make it to the track. He also said that the dogs were just there running machines to make money, so the greyhounds looked at them. I have to be careful what I write here because this is making me angry. As in any pet business, there are dirtbags out there looking to make a quick buck who don’t care about the welfare of the animals, which is why this guy has a blackened face. These guys are by far the minority now, it’s not the rule, and they don’t last very long in business. To be honest – there is a huge amount of back breaking, dirty, hard work, long hours and hearts involved in the greyhound business and there is not a lot of money to be made. The day at the kennel starts at six in the morning and ends with the final turnout at ten in the evening. In his closing, reporter Bernard Goldberg told Bryant that all greyhound owners breed hundreds of puppies in hopes of producing one $200,000.00 stakes winner. While this statement may have sounded clever to the reporters’ own ears, to someone who has been in the greyhound business for many years, it is laughable. No one would put years and years of hard work towards such a goal because it only happens once in a lifetime if you are very lucky. The simple fact is that most people who are in the greyhound business are in it because they love greyhounds. They love them like little puppies and they love an old mother or a salt-muzzled cover dog. This is evidenced by the fact that many greyhound farms have several pets running around the property living in the house as pets.
I have often heard that greyhounds are fed poor quality pods of dangerous raw meat made from dead animals that often start to rot and therefore rot their teeth. The “slop” that the greyhounds are fed is a mixture of quality red meat, meal and supplements with a precise balance of carbohydrates, proteins and vitamins, designed not only to keep them lean, as fat in the animal world tends to be slow and unhealthy like in humans, but also to maintaining healthy muscles with enough energy for sprinting. Greyhounds are top dog athletes and therefore need nutrition to support their systems. The food they get costs 2 to 3 times more than what a pet dog eats. Greyhound racing is highly competitive; in fact, I often compare it to breaking into Hollywood as an actor. It would make very little sense to invest thousands in breeding animals, facilities, equipment and time to save a few bucks on feed. The downside is that, like canned dog food, greyhound food tends to stick to the teeth and cause tooth decay. Proof of the quality of the greyhound diet is that they live much longer 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 rough handling will always destroy them. They also seem to have an amazing memory and the mistakes they make in handling them are usually rarely forgotten. All of the abusive trainer’s dogs would fail and he or she would immediately lose their job. Abusive kennel help would find themselves kicked off the premises immediately, probably with a good whack from the trainer. When an adopted dog exhibits neurotic behavior, it is generally due to the above issues. Although they are called Forty Mile An Hour Couch Potatoes, like all dogs they need to get out and see the world. It is absolutely essential that dogs go outside for daily walks in the neighborhood. This is their whole world and they love to explore it. A greyhound’s metabolism is like that of a cheetah. They lie down and relax to conserve energy for that explosive sprint. Just go to the dog park a couple of times a week for a good run on the leash – just make sure to keep an eye on the little furries and muzzle them in case one comes along when you let your Ferrari go. Greyhounds are perfectly capable of learning to remind, but care must be taken to never let him off the leash in open parks where he might run into traffic. That goes for all dogs as far as I’m concerned.
Yes, it is true that over the centuries greyhounds have been bred and trained for human greed and pleasure. Name one domesticated animal that does not. First of all, I am very glad that greyhounds are here and the racing industry has made them possibly the healthiest breed of dog when it comes to genetic diseases. Hip dysplasia in greyhounds is almost unknown according to every breeder and trainer I’ve ever asked (these guys have all known and handled literally thousands of dogs) and is still only two percent in AKC show lines according to the OFA database. When tenths of a second separate fantastic from failure, great bone structure is a must. Since only great racers are usually used for breeding, things like bad hearts, elbows, and hips were never kept in the bloodlines. Deep, narrow chests in show greyhounds, which contribute to a tendency to bloat, must not be productive for running, as you will not find such a figure in a competitor. A bone cancer that seems to plague all large hound breeds, it’s generally thought to come from a previous injury to the bone that often goes undetected during growth.
Some greyhound owners still keep too many dogs there. Taking the chance that an average female bred to a great sire will produce a winner. These dinosaurs are being forced out of business by economic pressures. If only the best females are bred to the best males, the result will be fewer and better dogs, and that means fewer dogs to be culled. The shotgun method of producing hundreds of puppies to get a few good ones is no longer feasible. Very few healthy adoptable Greyhounds are now euthanized and we are working towards the day very soon when this number drops to zero. Owners, breeders and trainers will be responsible for the welfare of these wonderful animals in their care.
Anyone who has the great gift of knowing and loving a greyhound knows that there is nothing like it out there. There may come a day when the racetracks close and the flow of adoptable dogs slows to a halt. Then thousands of people who fell in love with greyhounds will have to buy their greyhounds as puppies and the price will be high and the demand huge. The puppy mills in Missouri and Oklahoma will smell the easy money, and then the mothers and fathers of greyhound puppies will no longer live in comfortable kennels with large spacious enclosures and groomers armed daily with scoops, nail clippers, soft brushes and milk bones. and hugs, but they will be imprisoned in filthy cramped cages with their own urine burning their unprotected elbows and buttocks. Then the puppies end up in cramped cages at the pet store waiting for someone to come along and buy them with no vetting, no mentoring and not as a carefully considered family member but out of compassion looking into those deep soulful eyes. Then PETA, HSUS, GREY2K and others can pat themselves on the back and know they did a good deed.
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