Greyhound FAQ

Do Greyhounds make good pets?
Greyhounds are a gentle, sensitive breed. They have good temperaments and make ideal house pets because they are clean, quiet, take up a small amount of space (in spite of their size), and are undemanding. A common misconception is that Greyhounds are hyperactive because they are racing dogs. Quite the opposite is true. Greyhounds need less exercise than other dog breeds. Most Greyhounds can be found lying around the house napping. This is their favorite activity. Some Greyhounds will not play with toys like some dogs do, but others can be very playful.
What are Greyhound breed characteristics?
Greyhounds have been bred for speed for centuries, making them one of the oldest and purest breeds of dogs in the world. They can be traced back to ancient Egypt, where drawings of greyhound-like dogs were found inside the tombs within the great pyramids. Greyhounds have a life expectancy of 12-15 years or more. Their coat of short hair can be coarse as burlap or soft as cashmere, and stays clean naturally, requiring little grooming. Colors can be solid or combinations of black, white, fawn, blue, and red, with as many shades of brindle. Greyhounds measure 26-29 inches tall at the shoulder, and weigh 55-80 pounds. These measurements can be deceiving, considering the Greyhound’s sleek, aerodynamic shape, thin tapered legs, muscular hips and shoulders and long graceful necks.
How are male and female Greyhounds different?
Female Greyhounds weigh 45-65 pounds and stand about 25 inches at the shoulders; males weigh 60-80 pounds and can be as large as 31 inches at the shoulders. They are considered large dogs although some small females are closer to medium size. All Greyhounds have long bones, which makes their skeletal system slightly larger than other, smaller breeds. Both possess the loving, companion personality that makes them such famous pets. Females can be a little more independent than males and are less territorial than males. Since all Greyhounds come from an environment where they all have to get along, they rarely display strong territorial behavior and usually do well together in any mixture of males and females. Each dog has its own personality and traits so be sure to introduce your Greyhound to any new comer with common caution until they get to accept each other.
How old are the retired racers?
The Greyhounds we get from racetracks are usually between 3 and 5 years old. Younger dogs may have failed to qualify to race, others may have been injured and some just can’t keep up with the fastest dogs at the racetrack and are retired. We also get some Greyhounds that have been with their owners for breeding and those dogs can be older. A good racing dog is prized for breeding so their genetics can be passed on to the next generation of racers. Our older dogs are usually between 6 and 9 years old when they arrive. We also accept any Greyhound being returned from an adopter, regardless of age or condition so we will sometimes have Seniors come to us for care. All Greyhounds are welcome in our program and the owners of senior Greyhounds will tell you that they just get sweeter and better as they age. Considering the life expectancy of a Greyhound is between 12 years and 14 years, they all have a lot of life left to share with you.
Are Greyhounds good with other pets? What about small dogs and cats?
Greyhounds are well-socialized in the track environment, but they will have typically been exposed only to other Greyhounds. Other breeds of dogs may be new to a retired racing Greyhound. Greyhounds almost always get along with medium- to large-sized dogs. However, small dogs, cats, and other small household pets may appear as prey to a Greyhound and they may chase these small animals. Each Greyhound has a different level of prey drive and all of our Greyhounds are “cat tested” to determine their ability to live with cats. We usually put a Greyhound that tested well with cats in a foster home that has cats and another cat tolerant Greyhound. This foster home experience tells us whether the Greyhound is really able to live safely with cats. Most Greyhounds can adapt to cats and small dogs. Caution should be taken when introducing a Greyhound to any animal, but especially with smaller animals. They are dogs and hunters by nature so it’s always your responsibility to reinforce the training that the cats are off-limits for the dogs.
Are Greyhounds easy to obedience train?
Yes and no. Greyhounds are intelligent and eager to please so they are open to training if you use gently, positive reinforcement methods. They are not working dogs so they don’t have the same instincts as a border collie but they are smart about figuring out how to get what they want. They can learn to open doors, cabinets and turn on water faucets all by themselves. Since they are hunters, they are always alert and focused but they usually lack the incentive to learn new tricks. There are Greyhounds with advanced obedience titles and national champions but your skill as a trainer has a lot to do with how much they will learn. A basic obedience class is always a good way to bond with your Greyhound and teach it the basic commands that reinforces you as pack leader and it can keep them from becoming bored. Just don’t do ANY off-leash work unless you are in a fully fenced, secure area or you will find out what a sight hound does naturally— they run. Greyhounds are extremely sensitive and intelligent animals, responding quickly to talk and touch as rewards. A stern voice quickly checks a Greyhound. NO physical punishment should be used!
Are Greyhounds easy to house train?
Racing Greyhounds are accustomed to being let out to relieve themselves several times a day in what are referred to as turn-outs. A racing Greyhound learns the routine and will rarely soil their kennel-crate. As a pet, a regular routine of frequent outdoor breaks, with positive verbal reinforcement when the dog relieves itself outside, will quickly establish that they are expected to go outside. You also need to teach the Greyhound that going inside the house is forbidden. The best way to do that is to be very close to your new Greyhound for the first few days, even keeping your dog on a leash for the first day so you are never out of sight. If your new dog starts to use the house for a bathroom, you can instantly tell them NO and take them outside to the appropriate place in your yard. You can get detailed information on house training from your placement volunteer.

Some adopters have used crates to house train Greyhounds (with the thinking that dogs will not soil their bed), but this is not imperative to successful house training. Greyhounds are not overly demonstrative dogs, so make sure to check in with them and pay attention to their needs, taking them outside as needed. It’s safe to assume that your new Greyhound will be nervous for the first few days and will need to go outside more often. Take them outside every hour or two so they can relieve themselves. This will usually keep them from doing the wrong thing inside and reinforces the positive behavior you want from them. Help your Greyhound succeed in house training.

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, making 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 forty or so Greyhounds and many people, they tend to have good dog social skills too!
Can Greyhounds have separation anxiety?
We reprinted this helpful article on separation anxiety by greyhound expert Dennis McKeon with his permission.

Understanding Separation Anxiety in Greyhounds

One of the most common complaints we hear from new greyhound adopters, has to do with what is known as “separation anxiety”. What it means, is that when the new adopter leaves the home, the greyhound becomes extremely stressed.

This behavior can manifest as “fretting” (hyperventilating), whining, barking, or all of the above, as well as engaging in less creative behaviors–like chewing things, and/or other not quite constructive expressions of angst or agitation. While there are sedatives that the vet may prescribe for extreme cases of anxiety, it may be of some help to look at why a greyhound might exhibit this upsetting behavior.

From the moment he or she came into this world, your greyhound was probably never alone, for even a moment. They are raised in the constant company of their dams and littermates, and while the dam will be separated at some point, the littermates usually remain together. There are often dozens of other pups on the breeder’s premises, and they are kept in kennel runs adjacent to one another, where they can be seen, barked at incessantly, and/or goaded into dashing competitions, or display-of-fierceness contests.

Then, in the racing kennel, often the litter remains together, and the larger pack is introduced to them. There, they learn to do everything in concert with their pack/colony, and their handlers, and the atmosphere is quite social.

Even in their crates, they remain in visual contact with their kennelmates and their handlers. Quite often, littermates may spend their entire lives at the same venues, with the same handlers, and remain together until one or more of them is retired.

So, is it any wonder that a newly adopted greyhound, suddenly thrust into what for them is an alien universe, full of strange things and unfamiliar people—and perhaps without the company of other greyhounds, for the first time in his life—might feel some uneasiness?

There can be much more than meets the eye to a greyhound’s anxiety. Any number of triggers might induce anxiety in the new adoptee, from the strange new objects and appliances in the home, to the new smells, sights and sounds of the neighborhood, to any of the many changes in his established and ingrained routine, to which he/she must now learn to adapt.

The most overlooked of these triggers being, that the greyhound has no idea what he did wrong to have suddenly been picked up and plopped down into this entirely new, and (often) intimidating situation. There is a blind spot among some adopters, which can fail to perceive even the possibility that the greyhound may have been perfectly happy with things as they were, as a racing athlete, one among many—a pack member.
Contrary to popular greyhound mythology, the vast majority of racing greyhounds, are quite content and fulfilled doing what it is that they have been bred to do, within a colony of their peers. Working dogs are generally that way. Most relish and thrive on their work, and the physical and mental stimulation it provides.

Greyhounds prosper with routine, punctuality and repetition. They blossom when they are as free of all stresses as we can make them. But they often have some reservations about novelty. They are used to regimentation and predictability, and their whole lives have revolved around the narrower confines of the breeding, raising, training and racing environment, as opposed to the brave new world of the adopter’s home, social outlets, and leisure time activities, in which the dog may now be included. Regardless, he no longer has the outlet of training and racing to pleasantly fatigue himself, and to relieve pent up stress—a very important factor to be aware of.

The new, retired adoptee was likely already bonded to one or more of his/her handlers, and often, to one or more of their kennelmates—who are now, suddenly, gone. It’s a huge void to fill for most of them. This bonding, by the way, generally happens over a period of time, where the greyhound learns who, in their circle, can be relied upon and trusted. Just because a newly adopted greyhound may resign himself to the fact that you are his new human, and even be amenable to it, doesn’t mean that you have bonded with him–or he with you. That may or may not happen, with time, depending upon your individual greyhound’s adaptability—and your own.

The point is, of course, that separation anxiety can be more of an
“I simply can’t deal with being alone, and I miss my job and my friends” anxiety—especially for the new adoptee.

Smothering the dog with toys, treats and attention won’t usually be a panacea for the anxious, newly re-homed greyhound. That elusive panacea is more likely to be routine, punctuality, stress reduction in the home environment, physically and mentally engaging the dog in stimulating, healthy activities–and time–time for the greyhound to learn to trust, to rely upon, and then to eventually bond with their new person(s).

copyright, 2017

Are Greyhounds aggressive?
Most Greyhounds are docile in nature and are among the most gentle of breeds. They are the original “couch potato”. They form a very strong bond with their human family and are eager to please. Greyhounds do not make good watchdogs. Some may bark if a stranger comes near but barking is usually out of excitement.
If I want an outdoor dog is the Greyhound for me?
NO! Greyhounds need to be indoor pets. Because of their thin coats and lack of body fat, they cannot stand temperature extremes of hot or cold. It has virtually no body fat which makes it susceptible to hypothermia in cold weather and to the heat in the summer. Both can kill a Greyhound fast as they just cannot take extreme heat or cold. They can’t tolerate all day in the garage, either, especially in the summer. If you are away from your house during the day install a dog door, which will allow your Greyhound to come inside when he gets too hot or cold during the day.

They are also very bonded with humans and a Greyhound that is separated from people will be very afraid and unsettled. As a pack animal, dogs need to be with their pack (you) to feel safe and comfortable. Separating your Greyhounds from yourself will make him miserable. Our adoption contract specifically requires you keep your Greyhound as an indoor pet.

Do they make good watchdogs?
No. Greyhounds usually do not make good watchdogs; their friendly nature is not very threatening and they are not territorial. They see most all humans as potential friends. Most Greyhounds don’t bark unless they are excited and someone breaking into your home may not seem that exciting to a dog. Some will bark at strange sounds or strange people but it’s not a sure thing and they certainly won’t attack anyone. The joke among Greyhound owners is that they are great watch dogs; they will watch the burglar take your things and be happy to lie comfortably on their bed. They are large dogs and for those who don’t know about the breed, they might seem intimidating. The danger is that you start thinking you’re safe with a big Greyhound and become careless. For a watchdog, you might want to look to other breeds.
Do greyhounds make good therapy or service dogs?
Yes and No. Greyhounds are a very gentle and sweet breed and calm in nature. This makes them potentially good therapy dogs for hospital and nursing home visits. If you’d like to bring your dog to visit, please contact the facility and learn if they require therapy dog certification  – hospitals do, but some nursing homes do not. Greyhounds can also be good emotional support dogs or dogs for veterans or others with PTSD. There are programs who train and certify dogs for this purpose. Greyhounds are not a good choice for services dogs for people with disabilities. They are not suited to help with mobility and because of their prey drive they are not suited to be guide dogs or service dogs for people in wheelchairs. They can be excellent companions, but other breeds such as German shepherds, Labradors, and Golden retrievers are better suited to be a service dog.  
How long can a Greyhound be left alone?
We recommend that you adopt your greyhound when you are on vacation or have a long weekend to spend bonding and training your new pet. You may acclimate your Greyhound to being alone for longer and longer periods of time (See leave and comeback training in your adoption packet). Remember, it’s all new to them. After a few days, most Greyhounds can be left alone for several hours safely. If you need to kennel-crate your new Greyhound for the first week or two while you are acclimating it to your home, discuss this with your placement representative. They will help you to do it the right way. Greyhounds are usually comfortable in a kennel-crate if they have something to play with and soft bedding. You will probably find that your Greyhound wants to be near you instead of in a crate so you may only need to use it when you’re out. If you need to be gone for more than 4 to 6 hours, look into getting a friend or pet walking service to let your Greyhound out of the crate during the day. Also consider a dog door and safety proofing your yard so your Greyhound can come and go outside as needed. You will find that they usually just sleep while you’re gone.
Don't you need a big house or yard for such a big dog?
Greyhounds will enjoy a large, fenced yard, but it is not necessary. Greyhounds live happily in apartments as well as large homes. The smaller your living space, the more you’ll need to compensate by taking more frequent walks. If a Greyhound has access to a large fenced yard on a regular basis, a weekly walk may be all he or she needs as far as exercise goes. The most important aspect of a yard is that it be fenced. If you do not have a fenced yard, you will need to leash your Greyhound for daily walks.

Although they are large dogs, they are used to living comfortably in a small kennel-crate so they can curl up and be quite happy on a dog bed or rug. Compared to that, your house is huge and they will usually explore every corner and find their favorite places. They will usually want to be close to you so they might follow you from room to room and find a bed area in each room. No house or yard is large enough for a Greyhound to safely run full out at racing speeds. They are used to running on prepared sand surfaces and banked corners so your yard, no matter how large or small, is nothing like a racetrack. On the other hand, they don’t really need much room to get quality exercise and remain healthy. Like any former athlete, they need to reduce their food intake to match their new energy requirements. A free run in your yard, even a small yard, will give them plenty of exercise for a day. They will usually run and play for 10 to 15 minutes and then just wander sniffing or even lay down and rest on the grass. Taking them for walks in your neighborhood or a local dog friendly park is also great exercise for them. Running at full speed is fun for them but they rarely do it on their own unless prodded by some outside force, like a running animal or a racing lure. Once a Greyhound retires, you need to be careful about running at full speed. Remember, your Greyhound retired because it could not keep up in a race so there might be underlying injuries that you don’t see but will hurt more if running full speed. Enjoy your Greyhound as a retired racer; don’t worry about getting them to run at high speeds anymore.

Are Greyhounds suited to apartment/condo living?
Greyhounds can be great condominium or apartment dogs, as long as you’re up to the extra work it takes to have an indoor dog. Most apartments and condos don’t have secured outdoor areas where a Greyhound can relieve itself and exercise. That means you have to do the extra work to take your Greyhound out 4 to 5 times a day to relieve itself and to get some exercise. Depending on your building, there may be restrictions on the size of animal you’re allowed to keep so check with your manager or homeowners association before getting a large dog like a Greyhound. Any dog left alone for long periods can become bored or afraid and bark out of fear or frustration. Greyhounds are no different and since they are used to being with other dogs and people at all times, being alone is something they usually have to learn to get used to. Your neighbors and landlord may not be as happy about their barking as you are so be careful to get the right dog and train it to be comfortable alone.

Greyhounds don’t require much indoor space; just enough to have a soft bed and their food and water bowls. They are happy to share your couch and bed if you let them. They love to be near people. An older dog might be easier to handle since they don’t require as much exercise as a younger dog. However, stairs can be an issue for any Greyhound so whether you live upstairs or on the ground floor can influence which Greyhound will be right for you.

Can I trust my Greyhound off leash?
NO, Never! Greyhounds must always be on a leash when outdoors and not in a secure fenced area. Greyhounds are sight hounds and can see clearly for a half mile. If they see something of interest, they can be gone in an instant. They have no knowledge of streets, cars or traffic. Greyhounds love to run, and within a secure fenced area, it is perfectly OK. Greyhounds enjoy walking or jogging, and are usually very well behaved on a leash.
Do Greyhounds have special grooming needs?
No, Greyhounds are very easy to care for. They have a single layer coat of short hair that needs very infrequent washing. Greyhounds typically do not have the “doggy” smell that other breeds have because of their short coat and thin skin. Greyhounds don’t shed every season like some dogs; they lose hair all year in small quantities. A gentle brushing with a soft brush or even petting them with your hands will remove the loose hair and keep their coat shining. It is recommended that you brush your Greyhound’s teeth frequently with canine toothpaste and a canine toothbrush to discourage plaque buildup and gum disease. Their nails need to be trimmed every now and then; usually every two weeks will be great. Overall, there are no expensive grooming bills to keep up with when you have a Greyhound.
What if I’m allergic to dogs? Can I get a Greyhound?
Most people that are allergic to dogs are fine with Greyhounds and a few other breeds that don’t have long fur or excessive dander (dead skin). Greyhounds don’t have the same dander as most dogs; so many people who are allergic to other dogs can often live with Greyhounds. It also depends how strong your allergic reaction is, consult an allergy specialist or your doctor to discuss whether it’s safe for you and if there is a medical treatment you can take that will allow you to live comfortably with a Greyhound. Try spending some time with Greyhounds to see how you react before you commit to an adoption. It’s better to find out before you adopt than after when you might need to return your Greyhound pet.
Why do some dogs have little or no hair on their rear thighs and tails or rough spots on their elbows?
Greyhounds spend a great deal of time lying down in their racing kennels, which can wear their hair away. After adoption, the hair sometimes grows back, but not always. A Greyhound that wags its tail a lot inside the kennel-crate will wear away the hair on each vertebra in its tail. It looks like bald patches all the way down the tail. Usually, once the dog lives in a home and not in a kennel-crate, the hair will grow back. Unfortunately some dogs always have some bald patches but the good news is that it doesn’t bother them at all. One of the genetic issues Greyhound can have is a low thyroid, which causes hair loss and dry skin. Your veterinarian can test for thyroid efficiency with a test called a Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) test. It will confirm whether your Greyhound needs thyroid supplements. Some dogs treated for low thyroid will re-grow their hair nicely.
How important is exercise for my Greyhound?
A Greyhound is an athlete like any other athlete and when they retire, they no longer need the exercise and training they did when they were racing. Greyhounds adapt well to life as a pet and need no more than a romp in the backyard and an occasional walk in the park to keep them fit. You will be able to feed them less than when they were racing and carefully monitor their weight so the don’t become overweight. A fat Greyhound is not a happy Greyhound, consult your veterinarian for proper weight but remember that Greyhounds are most healthy at very lean weights.
Are Greyhounds good with children?
Greyhounds on the track have probably never interacted with children. That said, most Greyhounds are very patient and will be fine with children. There are some Greyhounds, just like other dog breeds, that do not do well with children. Your Placement Volunteer should be able to identify available Greyhounds that will tolerate or even enjoy children. Very young children may not be compatible with Greyhounds, but it depends on the family and the Greyhound. Any household with both Greyhounds and children needs to be aware of the special needs that Greyhounds have, like keeping doors and gates to the outside closed at all times. In general, we recommend that if you have children under 5 years old, that you wait until your children are older than 5. Handling a child under 5 years old is a full time job and usually does not leave much time for a pet. Once children are over 5, they can usually be a part of caring for a dog and will understand the rules of dog care.
Do Greyhounds dig?
Each dog is an individual. Most Greyhounds will choose to stay out in the yard only for a short time, unless you are out there with them. They truly are “people” dogs. Digging is rarely a problem but occasionally we hear of a dog that is a “miner” and likes to dig. Usually a dog digs to find fresh soil and cool ground to use as a bed. If you have been digging in your yard, your Greyhound may decide to join you, even if you’re done! There are strategies to stop digging but talk to your placement volunteer if you’re having problems with digging.
They are called sight hounds, but how good is their eye sight?
It’s excellent and considered to be the most similar to how people see things. They can see movement clearly up to about a mile away and their history is as hunters so being able to see prey far away and possessing the speed to go catch that prey is one of the reasons they were brought into organized racing. A race is essentially a pretend hunt, but the Greyhounds think it’s real. They can hear and see the lure as it races around the track and they all race after it to catch the “rabbit”. Being able to keep their eyes on that rabbit while running at 40 MPH is pretty amazing. That’s another reason to never let your Greyhound off-leash unless you’re in a secure, fenced area. Your Greyhound will see something tiny a half mile away and be off on a hunt before you even notice. You will never catch up and the chances of your Greyhound being injured or killed are very high. Be safe, enjoy and marvel at your Greyhound’s sight and running ability, but never let your guard down.
Can Greyhounds swim?
Greyhounds, like other dogs, are able to paddle to swim. The difference is that because a Greyhound is very lean (usually less than 4% body fat) they are not very buoyant. They have very short hair, which makes them less buoyant than a dog with long, thick fur and their short coat does not insulate them well from cold water. While the Greyhound can swim, they also become tired very quickly. Remember that they are sprinters, not marathon runners. They will get tired within a minute or so and can easily drown if not helped or wearing a life vest. If you want a water dog that swims, the Greyhound is not a good choice. They prefer dry ground and a soft bed to a lake, river or ocean. If you have a Greyhound and a pool, it is critical that you pool – train your Greyhound so it learns where the steps are and how to get out of the pool. You may need to show them the steps several times by being in the water with them and guiding them to the stairs. Treat them like small children around a pool; never take your eyes off of them. If you boat with your Greyhound, be sure it wears an appropriate flotation device at all times.
Why do I see people muzzling their Greyhounds at get-togethers?
Their racing instinct is based on a well-developed prey drive. When you have a group of Greyhounds together, especially unfamiliar ones, it is advisable to muzzle them to prevent accidental bites. Greyhounds are not dog aggressive, but when excited may nip at others. Don’t let the muzzles lull you into a false sense of security. You must still monitor a group of muzzled Greyhounds since it’s possible to catch ears through a muzzle and so on. Muzzling is a sensible precaution if you are dealing with a group of Greyhounds.
Does Greyhound Pet Adoption NW microchip greyhounds before they are adopted?
We do not microchip greyhounds before adoption. Greyhounds who have raced will have ear tattoos to identify them as part of a national database, as well as a GPANW database. Each greyhound also gets an ID tag with a unique number when they enter foster care. It would be cost prohibitive to have all our greyhounds chipped before adoption. If you’d like to get your greyhound chipped after adoption please go to a qualified veterinarian who is familiar with greyhounds. Greyhounds have very thin skin and very low body fat and only an experienced vet should chip your greyhound to avoid serious complications.
Do greyhounds make good service dogs?

Yes and No. Greyhounds are a very gentle, sweet breed and generally calm in nature. They make wonderful companion pets and placement is made with this goal in mind. GPA-NW is not equipped to screen or train the greyhounds as therapy or service animals. The nature of the greyhound does make them candidates as therapy dogs, especially for hospital and nursing home visits. Please contact the facility and learn if they require therapy dog certification. There are programs available that will provide training and certification for this purpose.

Some greyhounds may have potential as emotional support dogs for veterans or others with PTSD. However it must be stressed that our goal as an organization is to place greyhounds solely as companion pets and any success in certification as therapy dogs is an additional benefit.

Greyhounds are NOT a good choice for service work for people with physical disabilities. They are not suited to be guide dogs or service dogs individually trained to perform the tasks required for this benefit.  While excellent companions, other breeds such as German Shepherds, Labradors and Golden Retrievers are better suited for this type of service work.

Who can I call if I have questions about my Greyhound?
If you adopted your Greyhound from Greyhound Pet Adoption Northwest, you should have the telephone number for the Placement Volunteer that helped you with your adoption. If not, call toll-free 800-767-5139 or 503-784-1285, or send us an email by using the Contact Form, and choosing the appropriate recipient from the drop-down menu at the center of that page.