How to Care for a Greyhound
Former racing greyhounds make great pets. They're huge couch potatoes, but still love running when they get the chance. If you've recently adopted an ex-racing greyhound, it takes special care to get adjusted to their new life.
Preparing Your Home
1. Get a crate.
Your greyhound is used to sleeping and eating in a crate already. A crate is a familiar housing that allows your greyhound to have personal space in your home. You can get a plastic crate (e.g. airline crate or Vari-Kennel) or a metal/wire crate.
- Airline crates are less expensive and are good for traveling. They also offer better protection in case your greyhound has an accident.
- A metal crate is more expensive, but is a better option if you plan to wean your greyhound off of the crate. The metal crate will allow your dog to see what is happening in the house and allows your greyhound to become acclimated to the new environment more quickly.
- Folding metal crates are available and can be more convenient if you will not use the crate all of the time.
2. Prepare a bed.
You can either buy a bed or make a bed for your greyhound. If you purchase a bed, look for a bed that is washable and at least 34" x 44" if rectangular or 50" if round. If you make a bed, placing an old, thick comforter on the floor will be fine.
- You can place a thick piece of foam rubber under the comforter to make the bed extra comfortable.
- If your greyhound will rest in multiple rooms, you will need to have comforter in each room.
- A well-padded bed is absolutely necessary because greyhounds are very thin.
3. Create safe areas.
Use baby or dog gates to create safe areas for your dog when you are not at home. Stairs should be blocked using gates because greyhounds are not used to climbing stairs. Also keep tops on any garbage containers and remove them from this safe space. This area can be used to keep your dog safe until he is housebroken.
- Choose a safe area that does not have glass doors or windows. Your greyhound does not understand glass and may try to go through the glass.
- Kitchen counters and dining room tables are at the nose level of your greyhound. Remove food from these areas until your greyhound understands boundaries.
Adjusting Your Greyhound to the New Environment
1. Wait a few days before you have visitors.
Give your greyhound a few days at home with you and your family before you have company. Greyhounds need time to adjust to a new home and living with new people. Your greyhound will be both fearful and excited.
- If you have children, supervise their interaction with your greyhound for the first few days. Greyhounds may not be used to playing and interacting with children.
- Your greyhound may also follow you around for the first few weeks. This helps your greyhound know that you will be a permanent presence in his life.
2. Allow your greyhound to sleep in your room.
Most greyhounds have never been left alone and are used to being housed in a kennel with other greyhounds. Your greyhound will prefer to sleep in a room with you or another family member. Do not have your greyhound sleep in a room all alone.
- Greyhounds are social animals that love being around people.
- Sleeping alone can cause your greyhound to be scared or try to run away.
- Sleeping in the same room helps your greyhound learn to trust you and become comfortable around you.
3. Potty train your greyhound.
Most likely, your greyhound is used to relieving himself on a set schedule and will bring that schedule to your home. Take your greyhound outside as soon as he wakes up. If your greyhound has an accident in your house, use a verbal reprimand. When your greyhound uses the bathroom outside, give praise and encouragement for doing the right thing.
- Do not hit your greyhound or put his nose in the accident. Greyhounds are too sensitive for this type of punishment.
- Follow your greyhound's schedule for the first few weeks. You can begin to adjust the schedule to yours.
- If your greyhound paces, walks in circle, walks to the door and looks back at you, stands by the door, or barks, you need to take your greyhound outside.
4. Use a muzzle, initially.
Have your greyhound wear a plastic muzzle when introduced to other animals (i.e. cats, other dogs) inside or outside of the home. Use a muzzle that is made for greyhounds that will allow your dog to do everything but bite or eat. You cannot predict how your greyhound will interact with other animals. Also keep your greyhound on a leash when introducing him to new animals for the first time.
- Teeth clicking and snapping and alert ears are signs that your greyhound is curious.
- If your greyhound trembles, drools, or stares intently, your greyhound may not be able to live with other small animals.
5. Introduce your greyhound to glass and stairs.
Take your greyhound by the collar and place his paw against the glass and/or mirror. This will teach your greyhound that there is an object there even though he cannot see it. You must also teach your greyhound how to walk on stairs. Grab your greyhounds paws and show the motion required to walk up and down the stairs.
- Be patient when you teach your greyhound these concepts. It will take time to learn.
- Do not force your greyhound to walk up or down the stairs. Your greyhound may become injured.
- Give your greyhound a lot of praise when you are walking the stairs.
- Keep your greyhound on a leash when learning to walk down the stairs.
Feeding Your Greyhound
1. Buy premium dry dog food.
Feed your greyhound premium, dry dog kibble. Look for food that lists meat as the first or second ingredient. Your greyhound is used to a high protein diet. It is best to purchase the dog food from a pet store or online. Grocery store brands have too much sugar, corn, and fillers that can give your greyhound gas and diarrhea.
- Recommended brands include Nutro, Nutro Max, ProPlan, Science Diet, Kumpi, Eukanuba, and PetSmart's Authority.
- You can also ask your veterinarian for recommendations.
- Purchase small bags of food at first to determine which food your greyhound likes the best. Follow the package instructions and adjust the amount of food based on the weight of your greyhound.
2. Feed your greyhound twice a day.
Feed your greyhound once in the morning and once in the evening. These meals should be equal in size. If you feed your dog only once a day, it may be too much food for your greyhound can handle and your dog may become bloated.
- Try to feed your greyhound at the same time every day. For example, 1-2 cups of food before you leave the house for the day and 1-2 cups of food in the evening.
- Do not keep a bowl of food sitting around and allow your greyhound to eat at any time.
- Your greyhound will graze on the food throughout the day and may overeat. Greyhounds should always stay lean and overeating will cause your greyhound to gain too much weight.
- A bowl of freshwater should be available for your greyhound at all times.
3. Use raised food and water bowls.
Greyhounds are tall, and it is easier for them to eat if their dishes are raised 12" or 16." You can buy a raised food dish from the pet store or you can place the dishes on a bench, overturned bucket, or some other sturdy item.
- Some greyhounds prefer to eat on the floor. Allow your greyhound to eat from a raised bowl and from the floor to determine what is best. If your notice your dog lying down to eat, keep the bowl on the floor. If you notice your dog likes to stand like a giraffe and eat, keep using the raised bowl.
4. Use additions to dry food.
Add a little bit of warm water to your greyhound's dry food. Greyhound's do not produce as much as saliva as other dogs and need the extra water to help digest food. Vegetables, yogurt, canned meat, and fresh meat can be added to the dry food as well.
- Add a tablespoon of yogurt to their food to avoid gas.
- Your greyhound will love some raw vegetables mixed in with the dry food. Carrots and spinach are popular add ins.
- You can give your greyhound canned tuna, sardines, or mackerel once a week.
- Never give your greyhound chocolate, raisins, salt , or raw onions. These foods are poisonous and cannot be digested.
5. Monitor your greyhound's weight.
You should be able to feel the tips of your dog's backbone, feel the ribs, and see the last one or two ribs. Your greyhound should not be more than 5 pounds over his racing weight. The average female should weigh about 65 pounds and eat 2.5 to 3 cups of food per day. The average male should be about 70 pounds and eat about 3 to 4 cups of food per day.
- If your greyhound needs to lose weight, decrease the amount of food by a quarter of a cup per feeding.
- If your greyhound needs to gain weight, increase the amount of food by a quarter of a cup per feeding.
- It should take about 2 to 3 weeks for your dog's weight to change. Make further adjustments or see your veterinarian if you do not see any improvements after adjusting the amount of food.
Maintaining the Health of Your Greyhound
1. Have regular exercise.
Your greyhound is a sprinting dog that does not need to walk for miles daily. However, your dog does need to get out a sprint or two every once in awhile. Your greyhound should exercise on a leash or in a fenced in area. Take your greyhound on a brisk walk at least twice a week and a short walk on a daily basis.
- Your greyhound can reach 45 miles per hour and you will not be able to catch him if he runs off.
- Avoid exercise one hour before or two hours after a meal. Exercise within these time frames can cause your greyhound to become bloated.
- If your dog is newly retired, he will have soft foot-pads because he is not used to walking on asphalt and concrete. Examine foot-pads for blisters after each walk and gradually increase the amount of time and/or frequency of your walks.
- You can apply sunburn cream with lanolin, aloe, and vitamin E to help the blisters heal.
2. Groom your dog weekly.
A weekly grooming regimen will help keep your dog in good condition. Clean their ears and teeth, cut their nails, bathe, and brush their coat every week.The frequency of bathing may change depending on how dirty your dog gets and if you have any allergies.
- Use a doggie dental kit to brush your dog's teeth. Greyhounds do not mind having their teeth brushed.
- Use a shedding blade, hounds glove, or rubber comb to brush the coat. You can brush your dog more frequently if you like.
- Your dog's nails should not touch the floor when your dog stands on a hard surface.
- Use a cotton ball and a mild ear cleaning solution to clean your dog's ears. Your veterinarian can recommend an ear cleaning solution and show you how to clean your dog's ears.
3. Keep your greyhound indoors.
Greyhounds are indoor animals. They have a short coat, thin skin, and very little body fat. Do not leave your greyhound outside in hot or cold weather. Greyhounds can easily overheat in the summer and get chilled in the winter.
- If the temperature is 32 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, your greyhound needs to wear a coat.
- Your greyhound should never stay in an outside kennel or doghouse.
- If it's too hot for you to be outside, it's too hot for your greyhound as well. Take your greyhound out early in the morning or in the evening during the hotter months.
4. Use a greyhound appropriate collar.
Greyhounds have small heads and muscular necks. A Martingale collar is ideal for your greyhound. A regular collar will slide right off, but a choke collar will hurt your greyhound because of his thin skin. You should be able to squeeze your finger underneath the collar. If you are unable to do so, the collar is too tight.
- Keep an identification tag and collar on your dog at all times.
- If your dog's weight changes, you may need to adjust the collar.
5. Bathe your greyhound sparingly.
Greyhounds do not need a bath as often as other breeds of dogs. You only need to bathe your dog once or twice a year. Use lukewarm water and a mild dog shampoo. Dry your greyhound off as soon as the bath is over. Greyhounds have thin skin and get cold easily.
- Greyhounds stay clean and have a natural sweet smell.
- If your greyhound gets muddy or has an odor, you can bathe more frequently.
- Make sure the mild shampoo you use does not have flea or tick killers as an ingredient. Also avoid using human shampoo as it is too harsh for your greyhound's sensitive skin.
6. Take your greyhound to the veterinarian.
Your greyhound should visit the veterinarian within the first 2 weeks you bring him home. Find a veterinarian that has a experience working with greyhounds because they are a unique breed. After the initial visit, your greyhound will need to see the veterinarian for yearly checkups.
- Your dog will also need annual rabies shots and a Distemper booster.
- Most veterinarians will recommend that your dog takes preventative heartworm medication throughout the year.
7. Notice signs of bloat.
Bloat does not happen often, but it can be life threatening for your greyhound. Greyhounds have a large chest cavity. If the cavity becomes filled with gas, the stomach twists and your greyhound will not be able to get enough air.
- Your greyhound will lie down and gasp for air or pace excessively if he becomes bloated
- If you notice that your dog is bloated, get him to the veterinarian in 30 minutes or less.
8. Be aware of race life remnants.
Former racing greyhounds will have some signs of their past life such as scars, tattered ears, and bald thighs. You and your veterinarian should examine your dog for any of these signs. The presence of any of these does not mean that something is necessarily wrong with your dog.
- Bald thighs are also known as "kennel butt." The hair is often rubbed away from being in a crate all of the time or due to their racing diet. Hair should regrow in 8 to 12 weeks. If the hair has not grown back in 3 months, your dog may have a thyroid problem. However, some dogs will never have hair on their thighs again.
- Your dogs ears may have been bitten by another dog at the track.