About Retired Racing Greyhounds
What to get Before Adopting
Reducing Adaptation Anxiety
The First Few Days in a New Home
Animal Cancer Therapy Subsidization Society of Alberta
About Retired Racing Greyhounds
When considering adopting a retired racing greyhound SAGA encourages you to research the breed to gain an understanding of what you can expect.
Greyhounds are generally quizzical, sometimes shy, very sensitive and surprisingly gentle. They possess superior intelligence and can exhibit a quiet but surprising independence. These dogs truly take to their retirement.
Because of their upbringing and early training, retired greyhounds have, typically, never been without the company of other greyhounds but quickly adapt to new environments. Because they have never really had the opportunity to “be a puppy” they may, at first, need to act out some puppy behaviour, which they typically quickly outgrow.
They are a breed that is very anxious to please and can be trained to standard obedience commands with patience and consistency. They are leash trained, love to go for walks and will learn to heel quickly, if they don’t already. Most greyhounds do not know how to sit, climb stairs or even play games, simply because they have never been exposed to such things or been given the opportunity. Most very quickly adapt and learn all of these things and play comes almost naturally.
Greyhounds have never been exposed to other breeds of dogs until they are taken in by greyhound adoptions groups like SAGA. They know other greyhounds but may be perplexed, frightened – or more commonly will simply ignore other breeds of dogs. They do not know cats or other small “pets”. Greyhounds do not typically know how to defend themselves and will usually do so by fleeing or sometimes freezing if attacked.
Greyhounds are used to traveling and adapt quickly to riding in cars.
Greyhounds do not typically bite but sometimes show affection, much like a wolf does, with mouth agape and gently grasping your hand. In showing affection, most will lick and almost all will also lean against you with their entire body, some will even “wrap” themselves around your legs.
Greyhounds have no fat layer on their bodies which makes them highly sensitive to winter cold or rain. If outside for more than a short time in bad weather they should be protected with a coat. No greyhound should be left outside in the cold and always remember that they are inside dogs.
They aren’t barkers by nature but some will bark if excited or trying to tell you something (like needing to out). Some also howl and can be quite entertaining if the fire trucks are driving past.
SAGA does recommend that you “crate” your retired ex-racing greyhound as they are typically placed in individual crates in the kennel between the age of 4 and 18 months. These crates are where they spend most of their time between exercise periods, training and racing and they become their private, safe space where they aren’t bothered by the other greyhounds.
Generally, racing greyhounds are not abused or mistreated at the tracks, although their handling is straightforward and utilitarian in nature. They do not ordinarily get any attention or handling that is not required as part of their training for the track. This does not mean that they don’t adapt to life outside of the racing community and it is SAGA’s experience that retired racing greyhounds quickly understand that life in retirement is full of love and comfort. You will find that they show an almost grateful sense of attachment to you and unconditional love.
SAGA conducts a thorough review of all potential adopters. We encourage you to do your own research on the greyhound breed. If you are interested in adopting a greyhound from SAGA please fill out our Adoption Form, sign it and mail it to our mailing address. A $50 US Non-Refundable Deposit is required with all Adoption Forms. This Fee will be applied to your Adoption Fee.
Once your Adoption form and Deposit is received you will be contacted by our Adoptions Coordinator who will go through the process with you more thoroughly. Or, if you would prefer to discuss the process with them prior to filling in the Adoption Form please feel free to contact them via the SAGA Board email at SAGA.Board.Email@gmail.com
If the Adoptions Coordinator approves you on a Preliminary basis a Home Check will be scheduled by our Home Check Coordinator. This home check is crucial for SAGA to ensure that any greyhound that they might place in your care will be in a safe environment. It will also be an opportunity for you to learn more about greyhounds and to ask any further questions.
We will work with you and your family to match a greyhound to your lifestyle, home environment and personality. We want to ensure that it is a perfect fit. This may mean that the process will take some time until we have a greyhound that will meet what SAGA deems to be a good match. We would rather not place a greyhound in a home than place them in the wrong home.
- You should be looking for a house dog and a companion. Our dogs are adopted strictly for house pets and are the finest companions you could ask for. They do not do well outside, since they have very little body fat or a thick coat to keep them warm. And, as your best friend, they want to be with you.
- You need a fenced yard (minimum height 5ft; no electric fences, invisible fences or barbed wire). All gates must be secure. The fence should be in good repair, with no missing parts or boards. Certain types of fencing are not acceptable because the greyhound can slip through them or are unsafe for greyhounds. Our home check representative will work with you to determine if your fence is safe for a greyhound.
- If you are in an apartment or condo, you must provide a copy of your lease or condo association rules that show you are permitted to have a greyhound or large dog.
- There should be no obstacles near the fence that a greyhound could use as a jumping point to get over the fence.
- Your greyhound must kept as a house pet. If you walk or jog with it, make certain it is leashed at all times. Retractable leashes (or similar devices) are not acceptable for use with greyhounds.
- You must agree to never stake, tie up, or chain your greyhound to anything.
- You must agree to never use your greyhound for breeding, research, experimentation, hunting, or professional racing.
- You agree to allow future visits to check on the dog.
- You have patience and time available to help your former racer adjust to its new life (on average it can take three months or more for an ex-racer to be completely settled into its new home).
- You must agree to keep a collar with identification on your dog at all times. The identification tag with your name and phone number on it, and the SAGA tag must be kept on the collar; to call SAGA’s Lost Dog Phone if your greyhound becomes lost or missing.
- You agree to return the greyhound to SAGA if for any reason you cannot keep the dog. If you move, you must notify SAGA and give them your new address, phone number and email address, if applicable.
- You must agree to keep the greyhound in good health and proper weight and fitness and to provide at least annual Veterinarian examinations, current vaccinations, teeth cleaning, and worming. After adoption, all veterinary expenses for the greyhound are solely the responsibility of the adopter.
- You agree to always have your greyhound legally licensed as per the rules and regulations of the city / town that you live in.
- You agree to allow SAGA to repossess the dog if at any time in their opinion the dog is not being properly cared for.
What to get Before Adopting
Every dog varies, but due to their short hair and lack of body fat, most get chilled at low temperatures. You should buy a jacket made especially for Greyhounds due to their deep chests.
Because they have such a low body fat content, greyhounds need a soft place to sleep. Most greyhounds seem to prefer foam filled beds rather than cedar beds. Many people use old comforters or quilts. Costco is a very good source for good and inexpensive dog beds that are the perfect size for Greyhounds.
The furry or fuzzy stuffed animals with squeakers or noise makers seem to be the favorite toys.
We recommend that your Greyhound wear booties in the winter. You will need to purchase ones that are made specifically for taller dogs and come with Velcro to ensure they stay on.
Reducing Adaptation Anxiety
Bringing home a new dog presents a multitude of training challenges. A retired racing greyhound has a unique background that needs particular consideration during the introduction to its adoptive home.
Your adoptive greyhounds have led a very structured life that presented very few changes on a day-to-day basis. Familiarizing them properly with a different routine can make the initial adjustment much less stressful for you and your new pet.
Remember that they have been in the company of other greyhounds since birth. They have essentially never been left alone and they could depend on seeing one or more humans at least four times a day, like clockwork. Greyhounds should be “weaned” gradually from this predictable environment, especially if brought into a home with no other pets where the family is gone most of the day. A retired racer can be taught to accept being alone provided each family member, during the adjustment period, is patient and doesn’t try to rush the process. Each dog responds differently, but in most instances they will learn to patiently await your return and suffer little or no anxiety.
Your greyhound should be brought home when someone will be present to supervise the adaptation for at least two or three days. When you arrive home with your new greyhound, make every attempt to stay with the dog the rest of that day and night. During this period, you can concentrate on introducing the dog to the house and the area it is to use for relieving itself. The following morning, leave the house (dog inside, preferably in the crate that you were instructed to use) for 10 to 15 minutes. Take a walk around the block, then return. That afternoon, repeat the same procedure, only stay away about an hour. The next day try two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon. The first day the family leaves for work/school, someone should return home at lunch. Repeat this process for the next two or three days, continually reassuring your pet that you will be back. Hopefully, by the end of the week, your greyhound will understand that someone will always return home. This helps alleviate the dog’s fear that it has been abandoned whenever you leave the house.
Having more than one dog (be absolutely certain that they have been introduced properly) reduces the likelihood of anxiety when the dogs are left alone. Leaving a radio on helps, as this is a common practice in many greyhound kennels. Always “childproof” your house before leaving your dog(s) inside, especially now, if the crate is no longer necessary. Don’t leave closet doors ajar and be sure no food is within reach on any counters. Put shoes away and remove any articles that may be conceived as “toys.” Do leave a blanket or dog bed on the floor where the dog normally sleeps, or leave the crate door open. Some greyhounds like the accessibility of their crate even when they are accustomed to their new home.
Remember, the learning process can be very easy for some dogs, and not so easy for others, so be patient and you will be rewarded with a loyal, loving companion.
The First Few Days in a New Home
A retired racing greyhound has probably never been in a house before and things may be strange to them. Initially, your greyhound will probably be confused by the new environment. As a result the dog may be tense and possibly withdrawn. Unless completely terrified, greyhounds frequently exhibit very subtle signs of stress which may go unnoticed. It is normal for a new dog to be afraid at first.
At first your new greyhound may stare ahead and seem unresponsive. This is typical greyhound stress behavior. Remember it is undergoing stress adjusting to its new environment. Quiet and calm is the way to go. A light and gentle massage all over (paws and all) with soothing words is great for both the dog and the new owner.
Your new greyhound may be very afraid the first few nights. It is used to living in a crate where it feels safe and secure and surrounded by a large number of other greyhounds. The sounds, smells, shadows of your home are all new to it. Reassure the dog with words and your physical closeness.
Make sure that the dog has an opportunity to thoroughly relieve itself before entering a new home. At some point the dog will pick a spot to lie down (on an old blanket or someplace it feels relatively safe). Let it remain quiet unless it comes to you.
Frequently, the use of a crate can ease the transition for a new dog. Crates are available from a wide variety of kennel supply companies and should be large enough for the dog to comfortably stand and turn around.
Be patient and gentle, speaking soft, soothing, one-word assurances. Speak “NO” more strongly for unacceptable behavior.
If you do not want the dog in certain rooms use your hand as a traffic cop and say firmly but gently “NO,” and stay that way until the dog gets the message. Consistency, repetition, and softness are the keys to successful training.
Greyhounds like comfort and will make themselves at home on the sofa or the bed if permitted. If you do not want to share every soft surface in the house with your dog, start immediately to block it from those places and show it where it is acceptable. Please be consistent; a dog cannot differentiate between when it is all right to get on the bed and when it is not, and once allowed it will be nearly impossible to reverse the behavior.
At night if you let your new greyhound into the bedroom, it will quickly settle down. Your closeness and scent are a source of security in a bewildering, new environment. Remember, however, once you have allowed the dog into the bedroom, you are committed. Like all learned behaviour, your dog will respond and will expect to be allowed to continue the behaviour.
If the dog is not allowed into the bedroom, please keep it nearby and develop its confidence with soft words of assurance.
Note that the literature suggests that training is accelerated and behaviour enhanced when the dog shares your bedroom. You are the alpha figure and the bedroom is your den. You should also be the preferred feeder for your greyhound.
Your greyhound may be perplexed by its reflection in mirrors, fireplace glass, French doors and the like. Let it explore.
On the track greyhounds live regimented, scheduled lives. Your dog will adjust more easily if you establish a schedule for feeding and walking and stick to it.
On the track, the dogs are turned out to relieve themselves four times a day. As a result your dog has not learned to ask to go out. They will learn how to let you know, but at first you need to take responsibility for establishing a schedule in place of the regular turn out your dog is use to. Time duty trips close to feeding time, usually within an hour before.
Time portion-controlled feeding. Remember that the hand that trains is the hand that feeds. Typically, your dog will start bonding at feeding times. Although others in the family may want to share in the feeding, at first it is best for one person to do the feeding.
Feed twice a day with high quality dog food. Note that an abrupt change in dog food may cause a brief period of diarrhea which can be avoided if the transition is made gradually mixing the old and new feed in decreasing proportions until the new feed is fully integrated into your dog’s diet.
If your new greyhound is just off the track, it may still be at its track weight and appear very thin. Generally, you should be able to feel your dog’s ribs and perhaps faintly see them through its coat.
Avoid overfeeding; greyhounds are not designed to carry extra weight, which can cause health problems and be harmful. If your dog needs to gain weight, it should be done gradually over several weeks.
Avoid underfeeding; it results not only in physical problems but behaviour problems, as well.
Greyhounds love rawhide bones but may not know how to hold them at first. Because their diet is closely controlled while they are racing and consists of mostly soft food, your dog’s teeth may be stained and have built up tartar needing to be cleaned by a veterinarian.
A new dog may startle easily at first — don’t sneak up on your dog from behind, come from the front. Speak softly. It will always hear you unless it is asleep.
They tend to sleep deeply and need to be awakened slowly. If your dog is asleep, please do not startle it. Greyhounds may make sassy “grumps” if you do in the same way they would with a kennel mate. Over time it will adjust to soft intrusions.
Your dog is use to being inactive for long periods, so leaving your dog to go to work or tend to other activities is not a problem if you spend some time helping your dog to understand it has not been abandoned.
All of your dog’s life has been spent surrounded by other greyhounds, so being left alone in a new house can be very unsettling. They may become very insecure if left with the run of the house when no one is around, and confining your greyhound to a small room without a crate seems to terrify some dogs.
Although they have been confined to their crates when not involved in purposeful activities, they have also been surrounded by other dogs. Again the use of a crate for the dog while you are out can ease the transition for both the dog and the owner, and leaving a radio on during your absence can soothe an insecure dog. The kennels where your dog was raised frequently leave a radio on when there is no one around.
If you are going to be gone for the day, be sure to leave fresh water for your greyhound. If the dog is left in a crate there are various ways to attach a water pail to the side of the crate so it cannot tip over when your greyhound is turning around or moving.
Greyhounds from the track are “crate trained” which means that they will not soil their crate unless they are very ill and cannot control themselves. They can make the transition from their crate to a new home with a watchful eye from you and a little patience.
When it is duty time, let your greyhound loose only if you have a safe, enclosed area. Otherwise, use a leash and training collar (a web “slip” or “martingale” collar that the dog cannot slip over its head). After your dog has relieved itself, give it lots of praise followed by its regular feeding. With this sequence of activities the dog will learn to please you, stay with you, and know that it will be rewarded for acceptable behavior.
Your greyhound is essentially a puppy at heart and a runner. Unlike other breeds, they rely mostly on sight and cannot easily find their way back as scent-oriented puppies can. Do not let it loose where it can lose sight of you or you of the dog. You will not be able to catch your greyhound if it starts to run, so do not let it loose where it can escape even unintentionally.
Greyhounds from the track do not know what traffic is, and may be easily distracted by the new sights and sounds in its new environment. Your dog’s safety and its life depend on your wisdom, care, and understanding. Never allow the dog loose where it might catch sight of something to chase across traffic.
With patience, consistency, and practice, greyhounds can be taught typical obedience commands such as sit, stay, heel, down, and come. They are anxious to please, and they have a mind of their own. Sitting may or may not be a command that they will ever take to, so be patient when trying to teach them it. Think of a horse sitting and you can get an idea of the reason why. Their body structure makes it a unique and difficult motion for them.
The most important command, return when called, is also the most difficult to teach any dog. Good books are available on dog obedience and training classes are available — consult your veterinarian. Do not let your greyhound loose in an unfenced area.
SAGA provides ongoing support to its adopters. Our Lost Dog Phone support is available 24/7 and we have access to state of the art Medical Advice with a Membership to one of the best Greyhound Medical Associations in North America. Adopters are welcome to contact us with any questions or concerns.
All greyhounds that are adopted through SAGA come with a collar and their personal SAGA Tag # with our Lost Dog Phone telephone number. This emergency telephone service is available 24/7 should your greyhound become lost.
SAGA also provides a Martingale leash, collar and muzzle set as well as the first years City of Calgary Dog License.
SAGA recommends that you purchase pet medical insurance for your adopted greyhound.
Animal Cancer Therapy Subsidization Society of Alberta (ACTSS)
The Animal Cancer Therapy Subsidization Society of Alberta may be able to help if your Greyhound has Cancer. They provide subsidies to pet owners as well as education on the availability, uses and benefits of advanced cancer therapies in the treatment of veterinary cancers.
Please go to www.actss.ca for further information.
Those of us who love Greyhounds know how special they are and we hope that you too will come to realize this. Adopting a Greyhound is a life changing event. We change our homes, our cars and even our beds and, in return, they literally change our lives! We’ve put together an Adoption Handbook that we hope will give you some further information, tips, guidelines and answer some questions you might still have.
Clicking below will download a PDF copy of SAGA’s Adoption Handbook: