All About Greyhounds

Fast Facts About Greyhounds as Pets _ ASPCA Pet Health Insurance _ tan greyhound resting on carpet

Greyhounds are a unique dog breed for many reasons. Easily recognizable by their lean, tall body and narrow head, there is much more to the Greyhound than meets the eye. In fact, many of the assumptions or theories that people have about these dogs actually aren’t true at all.

Are you curious to learn more about this wonderful dog? Then read on!

About the Breed

Upon meeting a Greyhound, one of the first things you may notice is just how soft-hearted these dogs truly are. One of the other things that people can’t help but see when they are in the presence of a Greyhound is how distinct their body structure is.

Greyhounds are often described as medium to large dogs that, on average, stand between 25-30 inches. Their typical weight ranges between 50-80 pounds, females weighing less than males. Compared to their height, a Greyhound’s weight is actually relatively low. There are a handful of other dog breeds with a similar height to Greyhounds, but they pack on another 20-30 pounds more.

Although many factors can affect their lifespan, on average, a Greyhound’s life expectancy is between 12-15 years.

These dogs are fairly calm and even-tempered and do well in households of individuals or large families. If you have younger children, it is important to monitor all interactions between your child and Greyhound. It’s equally important to teach your children how to gently play with and respect their four-legged family member.

history of greyhound dogs _ retired racing dog outside with a pink leash and collar

Breed History

One of the oldest dogs around, evidence of the Greyhound has been traced back thousands of years to the Middle East, specifically Egypt. This idea formed after finding numerous drawings of these dogs on Egyptian cave walls and various Egyptian artifacts. Throughout the years, Greyhounds were bred as hunting dogs, but they were always considered a noble breed.

Over time, these dogs found their way over to Europe, where they became beloved by royalty and hunters alike. With their incredibly fast speeds, it is no wonder that the sport of coursing (chasing of game by dogs) became increasingly popular in England. Wanting to continue this sport in America, Spanish and British immigrants began bringing the Greyhound across the Atlantic.

Towards the end of the 1800s, dog racetracks for professional coursing were beginning construction and operation. Used for gambling, dog racing is still in operation in 11 states. However, the sport remains extremely controversial, and organizations, such our strategic partner The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA®), work diligently to close coursing tracks.

Fun Fact

Greyhounds were mentioned by name in Britain’s Canute Laws, which date to 1016, they were mentioned by name in the Bible, and one appears in The Odyssey. If there’s one thing all of these references imply, it’s that Greyhounds are an old and famous breed.

Attributes

Looking at their appearance, Greyhounds definitely stand out from bulkier breeds such as Labrador Retrievers or Bernese Mountain dogs. Greyhounds have a narrow face, a deep chest and tucked-up abdomen, and a lean, muscular body with practically zero body fat.

They also have a short coat that can be found in practically any color. Due to a combination of their lean body and short hair, Greyhounds do not have much protection against cuts or bruises. Thereby, as they are more susceptible to injuries, it is important not to allow people or other animals to play roughly with your dog.

Greyhounds are often thought to be an energetic breed, but this stereotype is not necessarily true. In fact, most Greyhound parents describe these dogs as a “40mph couch potato.” The idea that Greyhounds are bursting with energy most likely comes from the fact that they are used for racing. Chances are, when most people picture these dogs, they either recognize them from the racetrack or from being painted on the side of large buses.

These dogs require one or two short walks a day, and they will want to have at least one good run a day, but besides that, Greyhounds enjoy sleeping, a lot actually. With such a low activity level, these dogs can do quite well in nearly any living environment, including apartments or in cities.

Being the fastest dog breed, Greyhounds have been recorded at running speeds up to 45mph—nearly double the speed of most other breeds.

With incredibly high running speeds and a natural prey drive, it is no wonder that Greyhound parents need to take a few extra precautions. When outside, a Greyhound should always be on a leash, the only exception being if they are in a fully fenced-in and secure area, but even then, the fence should still be at a height of 4 to 6 feet.

Because they have a natural instinct to chase small animals, caution should be taken if your Greyhound will be in the same household as small animals such as rabbits or guinea pigs. On a related note, this brings up a related question that many pet parents have, “Are Greyhounds good with cats?” While some pet parents have found that their Greyhound gets along well with practically any animal, other pet parents have found that their dog is a little too interested in the cat. Instead, these pet parents have found that the best companion for their Greyhound is another Greyhound.

Be that as it may, each dog is different and should be treated as such. With some additional training and supervision, there is a chance that your Greyhound could learn to get along wonderfully with cats or other small animals.

Being a gentle and reserved dog, many people often wonder, “Do Greyhounds bark?” Although there is no one correct answer to this question, on average, these dogs are not known for barking. Chances are, you will hear a little whimper or notice a perk in their ears, instead of a loud woof.

Fun Fact

Although they can run at incredibly high speeds, Greyhounds do not have much stamina, so they actually require less exercise than most other dog breeds.

Greyhounds vs. Italian Greyhounds vs. Whippets

Greyhounds have fairly distinct characteristics compared to many other breeds of dogs. However, they do share a resemblance to Italian Greyhounds and Whippets. So what are the differences? Most distinctly, Italian Greyhounds are much smaller than Greyhounds. Italian Greyhounds typically weigh only 11lbs and stand at a much shorter height of 15 inches.

Compared to Whippets, these dogs could be described as a happy medium between a Greyhound and Italian Greyhound. Whippets have a larger weight range, between 20-40 pounds, and they stand around 18-22 inches.

grooming a greyhound dog _ tan greyhound standing in a yard

Grooming & Care

Greyhounds, believe it or not, have minimum grooming needs. Eyes, ears, and teeth should be checked and cleaned on a regular basis to ensure that no infections or unwanted grime have built up. Their nails should also be trimmed on an as-needed basis—it’s time to cut their nails when you can hear them click on the floor.

These dogs also rarely need baths—most can go a month or longer. Of course, if your Greyhound decides to have a play session in a mud pit, their baths may need to be more frequent.

With a short coat, many people may think Greyhounds would not need to be brushed, but that is most definitely not the case. Although they do not require a daily brushing like other long-haired breeds, Greyhounds still require a few brushings every week. This will help get rid of dead hairs and will help keep their coat healthy. Before grooming, though, make sure you are using the correct brush for their particular short hair and sensitive skin—a rubber curry brush or hand mitt is ideal.

Since Greyhounds have almost no body fat, it is vital to be aware of the temperatures to which they are exposed. With no added insulation from a little extra chunkiness or a long, fluffy coat, parents of these dogs find that buying them a sweater or coat for the colder months is a must.

In addition to buying them a coat, don’t forget to add a plush dog bed to the shopping list. Due to them having little cushion between their bones and the hard floor, Greyhounds don’t find the bare floor particularly comfortable. A plush or thicker foam bed is a great choice, but many Greyhounds prefer to rest on the sofa or even in your bed.

Training

As with all types of dogs, it is important to begin training your Greyhound as soon as possible. A poorly behaved dog can create a stressful environment, which isn’t good for people or animals.

When it comes to training Greyhounds, in particular, it is important to use positive reinforcement, have a calm demeanor, and be patient. Especially if you are adopting an older Greyhound or a retired racer, extra time may be needed to acclimate them to their new environment and to teach them new commands. Don’t worry, though, these canines are intelligent so they will catch on soon enough.

Another essential item to keep in mind when you are training your Greyhound is that these dogs are known for being sensitive. In other words, even if you are not intentionally loud or harsh, there’s a chance your dog will interpret it that way and believe that they are in trouble.

In order to avoid this from occurring, use a calm, level voice during training sessions, use positive reinforcement such as praises, pets, and treats, and keep training sessions fairly short. By limiting the time you work on obedience and tricks, this should help alleviate frustrations for both you and your dog.

Fun Fact

While researching the Greyhound breed, you may have come across the question, “Can Greyhounds sit?” Although it may seem an odd question, Greyhounds can indeed sit, although many don’t find this position particularly comfortable. Because of this, some sit more off to the side or with their legs extended. While it’s a good idea to teach your Greyhound this command, they will definitely appreciate it if you don’t make them sit for too long—they prefer to either stand or lie down.

Common Health Issues

Greyhounds are overall a pretty healthy dog breed. Like any dog, though, Greyhounds can be susceptible to various health issues and, according to our claims data,* the top five health conditions that affect these dogs include:

  1. Gastrointestinal issues: A disease or disorder that can affect your dog’s digestive system, specifically their stomach or intestines.

  2. Allergies: Can be food or environmental related. Keep an eye out for possible allergic reactions, which can include swelling of the face, increased itching, and redness of the skin.

  3. Behavioral issues: These issues can range anywhere from slight aggression to being hesitant towards strangers. If you believe your Greyhound may have a behavioral problem, it is best to meet with your veterinarian and/or with a professional dog trainer.

  4. Hypothyroidism: A condition that can cause inflammation or shrinkage of your dog’s thyroid gland. A blood test can be used to diagnose this condition.

  5. Lameness: This refers to the inability of your dog to use one (or multiple) of their limbs. This can be caused by a bone fracture, injury to a joint, or a soft tissue injury.

Just because Greyhounds are susceptible to these conditions in particular, that does not mean that your four-legged friend will develop any or all of these health problems. However, if you suspect that your Greyhound could have any of these issues, it is vital that you take your pup for a check-up with their veterinarian. These professionals can help diagnose and treat problems, and they can offer helpful tips.

How to Adopt a Retired Greyhound

Every year thousands of Greyhounds are retired from racing and put up for adoption. As with any rescue, it’s important to have patience and understanding, but in no time at all, you will discover how rewarding it is to be a Greyhound parent. If you are considering adopting a retired Greyhound, here are a few items to keep in mind.

Before you know it, your rescue Greyhound will want to curl up in your lap (even though they don’t exactly fit), and they will be enjoying retirement in pure bliss.

*Internal Claims Data, 2019

The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.

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