Frequently Asked Questions
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 50-65 pounds, and about 26 inches at the shoulder. Like any breed there is variation, but these are average sizes.
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.
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!
RDRP 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.
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.
The rest of the time, they are content resting on a soft bed or sofa.
Do they need a crate?
A crate is not required. RDRP encourages 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. (RDRP 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.
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. While they enjoy a good romp around a fenced yard or in an enclosed area, they do equally as well with a brisk daily walk.
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.
Walking: At the track the dogs are accustomed to 3 turn outs daily for bodily functions. Additionally, they are taught to walk well on lead. Greyhounds must always be leashed when walked outside of a safely fenced area. They may never be walked without a leash as they are sight hounds and always ready for a good chase, even after a blowing paper bag or leaf
Personality: Greyhounds are quiet, well mannered, loving and sensitive. Because of their gentle nature, they do not make good watch dogs. Greys are easily trained with positive reinforcement. A firm NO! is all that is needed to correct unwanted behaviors.
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. Greyhounds should never go to dog parks as they are highly susceptible to injury and one can never predict the other dogs or their owners. Greyhounds should NEVER use a retractable leash!
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.
RDRP 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, 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 total. RDRP also recommends that the food be split between two meals, A.M. and P.M.
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.
Do Greyhounds bark?
Greyhounds do bark, however, they are a relatively quiet breed.
Greyhounds Are Great Companions
Greyhounds are happiest in the company of those they love. They eagerly await your arrival with wagging tails. They like to nuzzle, love people, love to love and to be loved.
While racing, greyhounds are “kennel broken,” which means they are trained not to relieve themselves in their living area. They are clean dogs by nature and would prefer to relieve themselves outdoors when given a choice. These two factors, combined with specific advice from a RDRP representative at the time of adoption, lead to an easy transition into life as a house pet.
Are Greyhounds good with children?
Many books on dog breeds describe the Greyhound as being too “high-strung” for children, which is entirely false. Most Greyhounds have a very quiet, calm disposition and are good with well-mannered children. However, any dog of any breed that has not been raised around children must be watched carefully, and all interaction between dogs and children, no matter how trustworthy the dog or the children, should be supervised by adults. Most Greyhounds have never seen children before leaving the track. Education in the unique traits of greyhounds is advisable for both your children and their friends.
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).
RDRP “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.
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.
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. RDRP will provide guidance on selecting the right match for your family, and we will have the dogs meet to make sure they are compatible. Most matches are suggested by humans but approved by the dogs.
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.
Greyhounds Are Smart
Many Greyhounds excel as therapy dogs. Others score well in agility and obedience. All find the perfect way to make themselves a member of the family. 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. We also have access to outside training programs so please consult with RDRP for advice.
Shedding: Greyhounds have short coats and are not big shedders. Some believe that lighter color dogs shed more than darker colors. A good weekly brushing with a comb or glove eliminates most shedding. Greyhounds are considered hypo-allergenic and are often suitable pets for those with allergies. They do shed however, and should be groomed about once a week, more frequently when shedding. They should be bathed as needed.
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. Some 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.
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!
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.
Can I use an “Invisible Fence” with my Greyhound?
RDRP 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
Can I use a Flexi leash or tie-out on my Greyhound?
NO! RDRP 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 cannot 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.
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.
RDRP 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”. RDRP also recommends that muzzles be used for cat and small dog testing, because of the vast size difference between the animals.
RDRP 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. Never muzzle your greyhound while walking them in public as they could become victims of injury.
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 but may not be excellent swimmers. Care must be taken to assess your pet’s ability to swim.
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.
Like other deep-chested breeds, Greyhounds can be prone to bloat, or torsion. This is a life-threatening condition in which the stomach becomes twisted. Symptoms include a distended abdomen, repeated vomiting with no results, pacing and restlessness. Bloat is a very painful condition that can be fatal quickly; immediate medical attention from your veterinarian or emergency veterinary clinic is absolutely essential. You may wish to discuss bloat with your veterinarian so that you know in advance what to do should it happen in order to improve your dog’s chances for survival. In order to prevent bloat, do not allow your Greyhound to exercise just before and for an hour or so after eating, and don’t let it drink large amounts of water immediately after eating dry dog food.
Special Needs: A non-slip, “martingale type” collar accommodates his/her narrow head and wider neck. Raised bowls make eating easier. A soft bed is always appreciated. Most of all, patience and love are the best tools to ease the transition from track to home.
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