Greyhound FAQ

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Greyhound FAQ

To help you decide if a greyhound is the dog for you, WAG Inc. has created this page of FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) about Greyhounds. If you have additional questions after reading this please contact WAG at info @ weadoptgreyhounds.org (please remove spaces) or call 1-877-595-0991

What do Greyhounds look like? How big are they?
Why are Greyhounds so skinny?
When do Greyhounds retire from racing? How long do they live?
Do they need a special diet?
What are the common health problems in the breed?
How fast can they run?
Are Greyhounds hyper? Do they need a lot of exercise? Do they need a big yard or a fence
Do Greyhounds bark?
Are Greyhounds indoor dogs? Do they need a coat in the winter?
How often do they need to be groomed or bathed?
Are Greyhounds good with kids?
Can Greyhounds live with cats?
How do Greyhounds get along with other breeds of dogs?
Are Greyhounds good watch dogs?
If I already have a dog, should I get a Greyhound of the opposite sex?
Are they housebroken? How hard is it to housebreak them? Are they okay in a home where the people work full time?
Do they need a crate?
I have a small house (or live in an apartment), is a Greyhound too big for me?
Can Greyhounds be let off-leash?
Can I use an “Invisible Fence” with my Greyhound?
Can I use a Flexi leash or tie-out on my Greyhound?
Why do I often see Greyhounds wearing muzzles? Are they aggressive?
Are Greyhounds smart? Are they easy to obedience train?
Do they ride well in the car? Do they get car sick?
Recommended Reading

What do Greyhounds look like? How big are they?
Greyhounds are tall dogs with long legs and deep chests. Their pointed face and slim build is designed for speed.

Males range from 70-80 pounds on average, and about 27-28 inches at the shoulder. Females are slightly smaller, usually around 60-65 pounds, and about 26 inches at the shoulder. Like any breed there is variation, but these are average sizes.

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Why are Greyhounds so skinny?
Greyhounds are designed for speed, from their tapered noses to their thin build, to their long legs and low body fat. A Greyhound at a proper weight should have a defined waist, defined tuck-up, and the ribs should be easily palpable. A few vertebrae and one or two ribs, and sometimes even hip points, may be visible, depending on the build of the dog.

It is important that Greyhounds are maintained at a proper weight and not allowed to get fat. While they are a relatively healthy breed, obesity increases the risk for arthritis and spinal problems. A healthy weight is especially important for Greyhounds that were retired due to an injury (broken leg, torn muscle, etc). Overweight dogs also have shorter life expectancies.

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When do Greyhounds retire from racing? How long do they live?

Greyhounds start racing around 18 months old and usually retire between the ages of 2 to 5 years. They are retired from racing when they are no longer profitable, or when they suffer an injury. Some dogs have run hundreds of races, others are “wash outs” when very young and ran few or no races.

Greyhounds live 12 years on average; some make it well beyond that, which is long for a large breed dog. They have a lot of living left to do after their racing career is over!

WAG sometimes gets owner-surrendered dogs, or retired brood mamas and stud dogs from breeding farms. These dogs are a little older, usually ranging from ages 6 to 12 years.

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Do they need a special diet?
Racing Greyhounds are fed a mixture of raw meat and kibble at the track. Pet Greyhounds do well on dog kibble and/or canned dog food. The regular kibble formula is fine; you do not need to purchase large breed formulas or high energy formulas.

WAG recommends that our adopters look at the ingredients list on the bag of dog food they plan to feed. You should see a named protein source like Chicken, Lamb, Turkey or Beef as the top ingredient.  You do not want to see poultry or just meat because these could be anything and the manufacturer may switch around on the source.  You should also avoid foods with a lot of fillers like corn, wheat, and rice.

The amount to feed depends on the food and on the dog, but generally ranges from 2 – 4 cups. WAG also recommends that the food be split between two meals, A.M. and P.M.

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What are the common health problems in the breed?
Due to breeding for performance, retired racing Greyhounds are a relatively healthy breed. They are not prone to hip dysplasia or other problems like some breeds of similar size. The more common problems seen in the breed are hypothyroidism, arthritis in older dogs, and periodontal disease.

Their teeth are prone to tartar build up and need regular brushing that you can do at home, or dental cleanings that your vet will perform under anesthesia. Some Greyhounds have beautiful teeth and never need a dental; others need dentals as often as once a year. Chewing bones can also help to scrape tartar from the teeth.

Also, because of their low body fat, Greyhounds are sensitive to certain drugs and chemicals. Make sure your veterinarian is familiar with the anesthesia requirements of Greyhounds.

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How fast can they run?
Greyhounds have reached up to 45 miles per hour during a race. They can hit top speed in just a few strides and maintain it for short distances.

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Are Greyhounds hyper? Do they need a lot of exercise? Do they need a big yard or a fence?
A common misconception is that because Greyhounds are used for racing, they are hyperactive and need a lot of exercise. This isn’t true. Greyhounds are often called the 45 mph couch potato because they tend to sleep a lot, even though they are capable of great speeds.

Greyhounds are sprinters, they are built to get up to top speed quickly, but not to maintain that speed for very long. After a race they need to rest up to recharge their batteries! Most Greyhounds take their retirement very seriously, and can often be found lying down or sleeping.

A large or fenced yard is not required. Greyhounds do fine with regular leash walks to eliminate and for exercise. Most Greyhounds need as much exercise as any other large breed of dog.

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Do Greyhounds bark?
Greyhounds do bark, however, they are a relatively quiet breed.

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Are Greyhounds indoor dogs? Do they need a coat in the winter?
Yes! Greyhounds are definitely indoor dogs. Their fur is very short with no undercoat, and they have minimal body fat for insulation. This makes them very sensitive to temperature extremes in heat or cold.

They will need a coat for New England winters, but the temperature at which it is needed depends on the individual dog. Some dogs are chilly and will shiver at anything below 50 degrees F, while others like to play in the snow and won’t need a coat unless it is below freezing. The dog’s body language will tell you when they need to be bundled up and when they don’t. Greyhound vendors also make raincoats, lightweight sweaters, and pajamas for every season.

Greyhounds are also sensitive to heat, so caution must be taken not to exercise excessively in very warm weather and to provide plenty of cool water. Many Greyhounds like to cool themselves by lying down in kiddie pools or in the water at the beach.

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How often do they need to be groomed or bathed?
Short-haired Greyhounds require minimal grooming. They do shed however, and should be groomed about once a week, more frequently when shedding. They should be bathed as needed.

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Are Greyhounds good with kids?
As with any pet, children should be taught the proper way to treat animals and to respect the Greyhound’s needs. This includes leaving the Greyhound alone when it is on its bed, eating, or sleeping. For more information see our page on Greyhounds and children.

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Can Greyhounds live with cats?
Many Greyhounds are fine with cats and other small animals; it depends on the individual dog. Some Greyhounds have a high prey drive and they cannot live in a home with small animals (including small dogs).

WAG “cat tests” every adoptable Greyhound with a live cat. The dog may appear to be “cat friendly”, “not cat friendly”, or “cat workable”. Cat workable dogs may be able to live with cats and small animals, but they would require some training. If you have cats or small dogs and are interested in adoption, we also require a meeting to make sure all the animals get along.

It is important to note that the length or success of a Greyhound’s racing career has no bearing on that dog’s level of prey drive or ability to live with small animals. There have been Greyhounds with long, successful racing careers that are fine with cats, and racing “washouts” that have too high a prey drive to live safely in a home with a cat.

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How do Greyhounds get along with other breeds of dogs?
Greyhounds have never met other breeds of dogs while they are racing. They have always been surrounded by other Greyhounds, and at first they may not realize that non-Greyhounds are also dogs. Most do fine after they are introduced and they are successfully adopted into homes with other breeds.

Some Greyhounds are not good with other breeds, especially if they are small dogs, they are furry, etc. These Greyhounds would need to be in a Greyhound-only home or be the only dog.

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Are Greyhounds good watch dogs?
Generally, no. They would probably sleep through someone breaking in! Also most Greyhounds would not protect your home from an intruder.

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If I already have a dog, should I get a Greyhound of the opposite sex?
Not necessarily. The individual personalities of the dogs matter more than the sex. If your current dog is very dominant, you would want a Greyhound that is more on the submissive side, and vice versa. WAG will provide guidance on selecting the right match for your family, and we will have the dogs meet to make sure they are compatible.

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Are they housebroken? How hard is it to housebreak them? Are they okay in a home where the people work full time?
Greyhounds come from the track crate-trained. They know not to soil their crate, but they are not yet house-trained because they have never lived in a house. They learn about housebreaking while in foster care, but there will still be a transition period after adoption and acclimation to your home.

Most Greyhounds are fine in a home where the people work full-time. If you work an 8 hour day, you may want to consider employing a dog walker or coming home at lunch to allow the dog to eliminate, at least in the beginning to help with the transition.

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Do they need a crate?
A crate is not required. WAG recommends the use of an appropriately-sized crate (48”L x 30”W x 35”H) when you first bring your Greyhound home, until they are used to your house and are fully housebroken. (WAG can loan you a crate for a short period if you do not own one).

Some dogs love their crates and choose to sleep in them often; other dogs won’t need the crate after the first few weeks and can be moved to a dog-proof area when no one is home. It depends on the individual dog.

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I have a small house (or live in an apartment), is a Greyhound too big for me?
Many adopters are surprised by how tall Greyhounds are when they meet them, and are concerned that they don’t have the space for a Greyhound in their home. Greyhounds are tall and thin, but they curl up very small once they tuck those long legs under them. You’d be surprised by the small spaces they can fit into!

While some Greyhounds are more playful, they tend to be laid-back and calm, and most Greyhounds spend the majority of their time sleeping. You’ll usually find a Greyhound on their dog bed or on the couch (once they figure out what the couch is and how comfortable it is!)

Many adopters live in apartments or condos and have no problem fitting a Greyhound. Some people say you are only limited by the floor space you have available for dog beds! The one major restriction is usually pet weight limits imposed by the landlord or condo board, but usually Greyhounds make great apartment dogs.

It does take some time to get used to having their pointy noses at nearly counter height, but after a while you forget what it used to be like. And as mentioned above, a fenced-in yard or a lot of land is not required to own a Greyhound.

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Can Greyhounds be let off-leash?
No. Greyhounds are sighthounds and their instinct is to chase things that move. An off-leash Greyhound may not listen to its owner’s commands if it sees something it wants to chase. Greyhounds can reach top speed in as little as three strides, making them near impossible to catch should they take off after something.

Also, most Greyhounds have lived the first few years of their life at a breeding farm or a race track, so they are not very “street smart”. They don’t understand that they can be hit by cars, attacked by other animals, etc.

Greyhounds should always be on a leash when not in a securely fenced area.

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Can I use an “Invisible Fence” with my Greyhound?
WAG does not recommend the use of invisible (electric) fences for Greyhounds because of their instinct to chase and the rate of speed at which they can run. Most Greyhounds will go right through an invisible fence. Also, invisible fences do not prevent other animals from entering your yard.

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Can I use a Flexi leash or tie-out on my Greyhound?
WAG does not recommend the use of Flexi leads for Greyhounds. This breed can reach up to 40 miles per hour in just a few strides, and would hit the end of a Flexi lead very quickly. Usually the person walking the dog can not hold on to the handle and it will take off after the Greyhound, “chasing” it. The Greyhound may get spooked and run off.
If the person walking the dog manages to hang on to the handle, the force of hitting the end of the leash can be quite traumatizing to the Greyhound, resulting in serious injury to the dog’s neck and spine. It is for this same reason that tie-outs attached to stationary objects are not recommended for Greyhounds. They can hit the end of the tie-out at such speed that it can have disastrous results.

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Why do I often see Greyhounds wearing muzzles? Are they aggressive?
Greyhounds are no more aggressive than any other breed. They wear muzzles while racing because they can get competitive while running. Greyhounds have very thin skin that is prone to tearing when injured, and at such high speeds a tiny nip or misplaced tooth can cause a serious wound.

WAG recommends the use of a muzzle for playgroups, tight quarters (i.e. vehicles), and when multiple Greyhounds are loose in a fenced-in area together. As the saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. WAG also recommends that muzzles be used for cat and small dog testing, because of the vast size difference between the animals.

WAG provides a plastic kennel muzzle to every adopter when they bring their new Greyhound home. The dog can still pant and drink water while wearing this muzzle.

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Are Greyhounds smart? Are they easy to obedience train?

Greyhounds tend to be pretty smart. They can be trained to follow commands like sit, lay down, etc, just like any other dog. Some Greyhounds are not that easy to obedience train because they are more independent, not that food-motivated, etc. It depends on the dog.

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Do they ride well in the car? Do they get car sick?

Most Greyhounds do ride well in the car. Many have been transported on dog haulers to different tracks during their racing career.

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Recommended Reading:

Retired Racing Greyhounds For Dummies by Lee Livingood
Adopting the Racing Greyhound by Cynthia Branigan
Guide to Adopting an Ex- Racing Greyhound by Carolyn Raeke

For families with young children (under 6 years) we also strongly recommend:

Childproofing your Dog by Brian Kilcommons, Sarah Wilson
Living with Kids and Dogs…Without Losing Your Mind by Colleen Pelar

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Thank you for your interest in Greyhound Adoption!

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