Racing FAQ

What has racing life been like for the racing Greyhound?

In a word, routine! Life at the track is intentionally very routine so that there are few distractions or upsets for the athletes, remember a racing Greyhound is an elite athlete. The trainer handles each dog every day and gets to know each one as an individual. The Greyhounds are used to being handled and bond with their human companions. The dogs are usually fed once a day, in the morning. They eat very high protein diets, usually raw ground meat and other carbohydrates with other supplements that help them maintain their huge muscle mass and energy.  They have several daily turnouts in a large exercise pen where they can relieve themselves and play with the other dogs in their kennel. They may be taken out for specific training if they need to improve their skills or rehab from an injury.

Most dogs are raced every two to three days and in between they are resting and rebuilding for the next race. While an average race is only 30 seconds long, the energy the racing Greyhound expends is huge. They can reach speeds of 45 MPH and run the 5/16 mile in 30 seconds.  Most racing kennels have between 60 and 80 active dogs, both male and female. While they are resting, they stay in kennels specially made for Greyhounds. The kennels are approximately 31 inches wide by 41 inches deep and 30 inches tall and filled with bedding material that can be changed and kept clean. The dogs are kept separated so there is no accidental breeding, the females usually live in the top kennels and are taught to jump into them. Males usually live in the bottom kennels and never learn to jump.  They run on specially prepared surfaces of sand that are kept soft and smooth so they can run as fast as possible without tripping or falling.

The racing Greyhound has seen very little of what we call the everyday world of a pet, they are professional athletes and only see that world until they retire. They have never seen the inside of a house, stairs, children, cats or even any dog except other Greyhounds. For all the racing Greyhound knows, the only animals are Greyhounds and humans.

Have racing Greyhounds been abused?
A Greyhound owner invests between $1,500 and $2,000 just to get their Greyhound to begin racing. Dogs that are abused at any stage of their lives don’t perform at the highest level necessary to win races. It is not in the interest of the racing owners or trainers to hurt or abuse their dogs. In every business, there are bad apples and racing is no different. When a bad owner or trainer is found, they are usually barred from working with Greyhound racing. It is bad for the racing industry and bad for the dogs. Our position is that any abuse is too much and we work with some of the best racing owners and trainers in the business to obtain our Greyhounds. We will take Greyhounds from any situation and have helped with situations where the dogs were in peril. Our ongoing effort is to find more homes for retired Greyhounds so that they all find homes.

Most Greyhounds are not aggressive with each other because they have lived in large groups for their entire lives and never develop strong territorial tendencies. They will usually back away from a confrontation. There are always a few dogs that want to be the top-dog and are more aggressive toward other dogs but that is true of every breed, not just Greyhounds. Because they have been handled by humans all their lives and see people as part of their Pack, Greyhounds readily accept people as their superiors and often work hard to be cooperative and likable.

Some Greyhounds are naturally shy and fearful.  Most shyness is genetic or the result of poor socialization as puppies in that critical first four months of life. This can be because of their very early experiences as puppies or just their nature. Most of these dogs don’t make it far in racing since being confident and willing to move through a pack of running dogs is essential to win. There is the possibility that the dog had some traumatic experience or abuse at some point but that is uncommon. We never turn a dog away from our program because it is shy or fearful, we work to rehabilitate those dogs and find the right home for them so they can be happy pets.

Remember that everything a racing Greyhound experiences when becoming a pet is new and may be frightening to them. Simple things like a vacuum cleaner, broom, car or even a ceiling fan. These are not necessarily signs of abuse but rather the dog’s fear of the new, unknown experiences. For some Greyhounds just walking on a smooth floor is terrifying. They have always walked or run on sand or surfaces that they can grip. Time and careful reinforcement will usually change the fearful or shy Greyhound into a couch loving, confident pet.

What physical condition are the Greyhounds in when they retire?
Most of the dogs we receive are fit and in good condition. Contrary to some reports, it is in the best interest of the owners to keep their dogs healthy so they can win races. As professional athletes, they are in peak condition, even if they are not fast enough to win a race. Some Greyhound will retire because of an injury. The injury may be minor but enough to keep them from winning a race, others can be severe and require special medical care. Most often the major injuries are broken legs and we work with an orthopedic specialist to repair them. They can’t race but they can be happy, healthy pets. Our Special Needs Greyhounds are posted on our website so that supporters can contribute to their extra care. Adopting a Special Needs Greyhound is rewarding and most of them recover completely so they are not any different than adopting any other dog. There are always exceptions and we have worked with groups all over the country and the world to help Greyhounds that have been abandoned or mistreated. All of those dogs are allowed to fully recover in our foster program before being adopted
Aren't they 'wild' when they come off the track?
Absolutely not. The trainers are sure to handle and socialize the dogs from a very early age – it makes them easier to deal with on a day to day basis. Greyhounds are very attached to their people and will happily accept as much attention and affection as they can get. The term “Velcro Dog” is often applied to Greyhounds fresh from the track. They never want to let you out of their sight! Because they’ve spent their lives in the constant company of 40 or so Greyhounds and many people, they tend to have good dog social skills too!
What are the differences between racing (NGA) and show (AKC) Greyhounds?
In general, racing Greyhounds are a little smaller (shorter and less heavy) than the show dogs. Racing Greyhounds are more heavily muscled in the rear and their necks and heads are not as slender and exaggerated as the show Greyhounds’ are. Those are the physical differences.  There tend to be some strong behavioral differences, but these are due to the upbringing that each type of dog receives rather than actual genetic differences. It’s thought that there are some health differences. Racing Greyhounds are thought to live longer (because of superior cardio-vascular condition); on the other hand they are thought to be more prone to bone cancer, possibly as a result of extra stress from heavy stresses of racing. However, these are solely speculation and no conclusive study has been done to prove these ideas.
Why do racing Greyhounds have tattooed ears?
Racing Greyhounds are purebred dogs that are registered with the National Greyhound Association (NGA). The left ear tattoo contains the Greyhound’s registration number, which is unique to the entire litter of dogs born together; the right ear tattoo contains their birth date and a letter that denotes the exact dog in the litter. There may be nine dogs with the same left ear tattoo but each one will have the same date in their right ear with a different letter. In the old days, the first dog born had the A letter in its tattoo and so on but these days they are not as particular about which dogs get which letter, as long as each dog in the litter gets a unique letter. The Greyhound racing data website contains detailed information about every dog’s pedigree and racing history. You can learn more about your Greyhounds history and where it’s littermates and parents might be. It’s fun to find out one of your Greyhounds littermates lives near you.
Is it true that Greyhounds can't sit?
No. While a sit is not a natural position for most Greyhounds they can sit if they are taught how. Some Greyhounds have obedience titles to prove it. Greyhound hip joints are different than most dogs, which makes the way they look when sitting odd. Their rear ends never really touch the ground so it looks like they are not sitting. The benefit of these unusual hip joints is that racing Greyhounds don’t get hip Dysplasia, a damaging disease that other large breed dogs are prone to.
Are Greyhounds trained not to sit or forced to stand at the track?
No but since there is no reason for a racing Greyhound to sit, it’s not something they spend time teaching. Some owners and trainers will teach their dogs to sit but its unusual. A racing Greyhound is a focused athlete and they are taught what they need to know to race, not be pets. That’s why it’s so much fun getting a new Greyhound, you have the chance to teach them everything about being a pet, including sit, stay, down and other training commands. Some owners say that Greyhounds train their people, not the other way around!

Greyhounds are not taught or forced to stand at the racetrack. Most of their day is spent the same way it will be when it’s in your home, sleeping. Rest is important when racing so the dog’s muscles can rebuild and the dog can maintain its energy. A trainer that forced their dogs to stand would have tired, losing racers and would not be a trainer for long. They do as they please when not racing or training and that’s usually lying in their kennel-crate sleeping.

Can I adopt/buy a Greyhound puppy?
Racing Greyhounds are breed specifically for racing ad are not usually sold as pets. They cost between $1,500 and $2,000 as puppies and most racers will not sell them because they are part of their business. It’s like trying to get any professional athlete for your team, you can do it but it’s expensive. AKC, or show Greyhounds are available but they are very different than racing Greyhounds. AKC dogs are bred for looks, not for racing. The personality of a racing Greyhound is partially from its genetics and partially from its experiences as a puppy in the racing business.

Occasionally, we will get a puppy that can’t race for some reason or was not bred with proper documentation so it cannot race. We even get pregnant females sometimes and the puppies that come from those dogs need homes. Greyhound puppies are extremely energetic, like any puppy but more so. They are sprinters with powerful muscles so even as puppies; they are a lot to handle. When you adopt a retired racer, even a young dog, they have already been raised and trained for most things. Their personality is established and because their experiences as racing dogs are so consistent, their personalities tend to be consistent. A puppy is an unknown personality and depending how good you are at raising a dog, it may end up very different as an adult than the retired racers you know.

How do Greyhounds get from the racetrack to their retirement homes?
Since there is no longer racing in the northwest, most of our retired Greyhounds come from states where there is still live racing. Arizona, Alabama, Texas and Florida are the leading states with active racetracks. We work with groups in those areas who pick the dogs up from racetracks or have them transported to a central location. We let that group know how many dogs we can take the next time they bring dogs to the northwest so they can plan accordingly. They hire a Greyhound transportation company to bring the dogs west, usually in large groups referred to as “hauls”. The haul may have 40 dogs on it when it leaves Florida and they drop dogs off to prearranged groups along their way west. We may be near or at the end of their trip and we might receive 12 to 20 dogs at one time. It depends on how many foster homes we have available to care for the new Greyhounds. They Greyhounds will travel for 2 to 3 days in the dog hauler, stopping frequently to relieve themselves and to drink water. They usually do not eat during the haul to prevent them from vomiting or becoming sick. That’s why the drivers drive constantly, 24 hours a day to make the trip. The faster the dogs get to their arrival location, the safer and better for the dogs. We sometimes work with groups in Arizona and California to get dogs. We might drive with our dog trailer to meet them halfway and pick up a group of Greyhounds. There are other occasions where we are asked to help in emergency situations to take Greyhounds from a closed racetrack or a bad situation that has been discovered. We always find a way to take in some of those Greyhounds to help them and spread the effort across many groups in an emergency. Some racetrack closures are well planned and others are not. The better the planning the fewer emergencies there are.

Once the Greyhounds arrive here to our program, they are checked carefully for any illness, injury or parasites like fleas or ticks. We give each incoming Greyhounds whatever care it needs initially, then they get a bath, grooming and a nice meal before they bed down in their kennels to rest. Usually within a week of arrival, they are settled in and ready to visit the veterinarian for an exam, vaccinations and their spay/neuter surgery. We also have the veterinarian perform a complete dental cleaning and remove any teeth that are causing the Greyhound problems. Since this is the first dental most racing Greyhounds have ever had, it can be extensive and expensive. We provide the highest level of medical care available to each Greyhound so it is ready for its life as a pet. Before the Greyhounds can move to their foster homes, they are tested with a cat to determine whether they are able to live safely with cats. We work hard to test each Greyhound and then the dogs that tested cat tolerant are sent to live in foster homes that already have a Greyhound living well with a cat. This allows the new Greyhound to learn from the current Greyhound and the foster homeowner how to leave the cats alone!

Once the Greyhound has completed its medical work, they are moved into one of our foster homes to start learning all about being a pet. Most of our foster homes are Greyhound owners so they understand the racing Greyhound and their own Greyhound will help to transition the new retiree into pet life. Surprisingly, the transition usually only takes a week or two and the new retired racing Greyhound will become a pet. They learn the basics of house training, feeding on regular dog foods and sleeping on a soft bed outside of a kennel. They also learn about slippery floors, dog doors, cats, small animals and walking on a leash.