Diana Rayment is well qualified to talk about greyhound adoption. Diana is a greyhound behaviour assessor at the Greyhound Adoption Progam in Victoria (GAP) and a companion animal welfare scientist completing her PhD research on canine personality assessments. Diana has more than a decade of experience working with dogs in shelter, training and research settings, as well as teaching about companion animal behaviour and welfare at both university and TAFE level. She has a passion for dogs and the people who love them (or might love them given the opportunity). Diana shares her top tips for families thinking of adopting a greyhound.
Pets4Life: Do retired racing Greyhounds make good pets for families who live in the suburbs?
Diana: Absolutely. Compared to many popular pet dog breeds, greyhounds have low exercise and grooming requirements. They also enjoy human company, and they LOVE couches! Like any dog breed, their individual personalities vary a lot; some greyhounds are outgoing and love meeting new people and going to new places, while others are a little introverted and would prefer to spend quality time with their family and close friends. Once they have settled into pet life and learned what living in a human home is all about, greyhounds are easy to live with and make excellent pets.
Pets4Life: What families would suit a Greyhound for a pet?
Diana: Most retired racing greyhounds adapt well to a typical family home environment with inside-outside access. Many greyhounds enjoy the company of children and do fantastically in homes with school-aged children, but this needs to be judged on a case by case basis as with any dog. Many of our greys adapt well to dog only homes, but most greyhounds also generally do well in multi-dog households as well, and some prefer to live full time with other dogs. Due to their predatory drive, greyhounds usually do best in homes without cats or pocket pets, although a small number can adapt to these homes with careful management.
Here at GAP, we adopt greyhounds in to a wide variety of homes, from inner urban environments all the way through to large rural properties; our behaviour and adoptions teams try to gather as much information as possible about the greyhounds to ensure that we match the right dog to the right home, and provide follow up support to help the greyhound and adopter through the settling in period.
Pets4Life: What do you need to think about before you adopt a Greyhound?
Diana: Greyhounds have a few management and personality quirks that potential adopters should be aware of:
- They are sensitive to temperature extremes (both hot and cold) so you will need to be open to the idea of a doggy wardrobe for your greyhound during winter, and to providing your greyhound access to a cool place such as an air-conditioned house, during the heat of summer.
- Due to their fast metabolisms, greyhounds have pretty big appetites compared to dogs of a similar weight and size and require lots of good fats in their diets to help keep their coat healthy and shiny. They are also used to having a fairly consistent diet which includes fresh meat, so sometimes will take a little while to discover the world of dog treats and learn how to take them from your hands.
- Like many elite athletes, greyhounds can be fragile. They have a fine coat and thin skin compared to many dog breeds and as a result, they can be easily injured by something as simple as running past a thorny plant in the garden. Greyhounds can also have a little trouble turning sometimes (especially at speed), so teaching them to tackle stairs and slippery floors calmly can be a challenge at first!
- The greyhound is bred for speed. They also LOVE to chase small moving objects and animals, and they don’t have great recall. This means that it’s very unsafe to let your greyhound off the lead in an open area, and in some states like Victoria, it is actually illegal to have your greyhound off the lead in a public area. Given how fast (and sometimes clumsy) greyhounds can be, the safest option for everybody is to only let them off the lead in a safe and secure yard that is free from obstacles that may cause injury.
Pets4Life: What are your tips to help families to settle in their new canine friend?
Diana: Almost all retired greyhounds are adults and as a breed, they are very adaptable, so with a little preparation and some basic training the transition into the home can be a smooth one. Retired greyhounds have often lived in a kennel environment prior to becoming a pet, so initially don’t understand house rules or that your expensive shoes are not toys.
They are also very used to being with other greyhounds 24 hours a day, so teaching them how to be confident and comfortable when they are left alone is important.
Diana’s tips for settling in your greyhound
- Greyhounds are very used to spending time outdoors, so get them settled into the backyard from Day 1 and ensure that they regularly spend time in the yard doing enjoyable activities (like chewing a yummy treat or playing with a food toy).
- Provide your greyhound with a comfortable and safe space to rest when they are inside, and encourage your greyhound to settle on their bed from the day they come home. Their bed should be in a place that is close to the family, but not in a thoroughfare – a quiet corner of the lounge or family room is ideal. The greyhound’s bed is their ‘safe space’ and no one should be allowed to pat or annoy the greyhound while it is resting; if a family member wants to interact with the greyhound then they should call the greyhound up and away from their bed before patting or handling them.
- Expect to toilet train and chew train your greyhound just like you would a new puppy. Don’t give you greyhound free and unsupervised access to areas that are not ‘puppy-proofed’ until they have learned the house rules.
- It’s OK to let your greyhound settle in at home for a week (or 2!) before taking them out for walks through your neighbourhood, especially if they are taking a little while to adjust to all of the new sights and smells. Transitioning from a kennel to a home environment involves lots of novelty and this can sometimes be overwhelming at first (think back to your day of primary school!), so keeping your greyhound’s world small at the start and then slowly introducing them to family, friends and the big wide world of being a pet is really helpful for most greyhounds. Dr Patricia McConnell has written a great book on helping to settle a new adult dog into your home called ‘Love has no age limit: welcoming an adopted dog into your home’. This is great for all new adoptive owners of all breeds of dogs, including retired greyhounds!
More about Tilly here.
More about greyhound adoption here.