10 things every would-be Greyhound or Lurcher guardian should know…
This month, rescue charities nominated by you will be receiving special deliveries of delicious, nutritious Supadog Greyhound and Lurcher food to feed hundreds of hungry hounds, waiting patiently for their forever homes. These special dogs make fantastic family pets – as long as you understand what makes them tick and why they need love, kindness and patience to thrive. They’ll pay you back in spades and you’ll wonder why you never got around to welcoming a rescue hound into your home before...
1. They like to run, but don’t need loads of exercise
Greyhounds are the speed kings and queens of the dog world with the incredible ability to clock up over 50 mph in short bursts. However, they don’t actually need lots of exercise. A couple of 20-minute walks a day, plus the chance for a run (best in a safe, enclosed space) a few times a week will keep them happy. These noble hounds are actually couch potatoes who may sleep for as much as 16 to 18 hours a day on comfy bed or sofa, often with their legs stuck out at the most peculiar angles.
2. They’re low maintenance and easy to get along with
Greyhounds’ smooth, shorthaired coats are low maintenance and a weekly brush and occasional wash will keep them looking their best. Independent and non-territorial, they’re unlikely to bark at the door and may not even be bothered to get up to greet your visitors.
And, while they may be large dogs, they’re agile and graceful and won’t get under your feet. Independent by nature, they’re often quite happy to just be in the same room with you, most probably snoozing on the sofa. They’re also gentle and polite when meeting new people, which makes them easy to take on outings.
Their friendly and laid-back nature mans they tend to get on well with children – although, as with all dogs, youngsters need to learn to respect their space. Greyhounds also make ideal companions for the elderly. They’re very quiet in the home and don’t bark and rush around. Many make excellent PAT (Pets As Therapy) dogs, providing love and companionship to people in nursing homes or people with disabilities.
3. No two Lurchers are the same
Lurchers are usually a cross between a sighthound breed – such as Greyhound, Saluki or Whippet – and a Collie or Terrier. Because they’re a mixed breed, no two Lurchers are the same – in looks or temperament. One might have the stamina of a Collie and the gentleness of a Greyhound – another the cuddliness of a Whippet with the swiftness of a Saluki. Unsurprisingly, their mixed-breed genes (a hint of Collie, a touch of Terrier) can mean that they have a tendency to become easily bored, which can lead to destructive behaviour. Hide and seek and fetch games are a good way to keep Lurchers mentally stimulated, along with a selection of chew toys as a preferred alternative to things they shouldn’t be chomping on.
4. Always be ready to create a diversion
Greyhounds and Lurchers are sighthounds with a highly developed prey drive. This means it’s their instinct to chase small animals, so care must be taken around cats, smaller dogs and other animals that may stir up their hard-wired hunting behaviours. Practicing recall regularly in a safe, enclosed spot is essential, so you can be confident that your hound will come when you call them. And, never leave the house without some tasty, high value treats in your pocket, so you’re ready to distract your hound if they catch sight of something small and fluffy on the horizon. Providing a selection of toys to chase and play with can also help to channel their hunting urges away from the local wildlife.
5. You’ll need to get all the kit
Because they’re shorthaired and slender, greyhounds need their very own wardrobe of coats to match the seasons – from waterproof raincoats to light spring and autumn wear and extra cosy winter fleeces. As a rule of thumb, If the weather is chilly enough for you to need a coat, so do they. What’s more, because their head is narrower than their neck, they require a specific type of collar that won’t slip off. Raised feeding and water bowls will also be welcome (the floor is very far down for tall hounds).
You may also need to invest in a muzzle – these can be really helpful for taking fearful dogs to the vet or out in public. Blue Cross recommends the Baskerville muzzle – its open basket weave allows the dog to breathe freely – and is available from vets and good pet shops. Make sure you get the correct size for your dog – the piece that goes across the nose mustn’t rub their eyes. Former racing Greyhounds will be used to wearing a muzzle, but it’s important that your dog associates wearing one with positivity and fun. Blue Cross has lots of tips here >>
6. Be on your guard to outwit stealthy food thieves
Both Greyhounds and Lurchers have scavenging natures. This, coupled with their long, long legs, means they can easily reach food left on kitchen tops or tables and will seize any opportunity to chow down on things that aren’t good for them. It’s also worth investing in a dog-proof bin. Greyhounds and Lurchers actually have very specific nutritional needs, which is why Burgess has developed food especially for them. Burgess Supadog Greyhound and Lurcher includes glucosamine to help stiff joints and overworked legs, Omega 3, which is beneficial in helping temperature regulation and promoting a glossy coat and healthy skin, prebiotics to help digestive health, and a slightly lower level of protein, as too much protein may cause anxiety and hyperactivity. Plus, for every sack purchased, Burgess donates 20p to Greyhound and Lurcher rescue centres – so it’s a win win!
7. They’re incredibly loyal and loving to their human companions
Greyhounds have been bred for thousands of years to be sociable, non-aggressive animals who work well with others. Greyhounds are by nature gentle creatures and they adore human company. In fact, they’re renowned for being extremely affectionate – there’s even a thing called the ‘Greyhound full body lean’, which is just one of the ways these long-legged canines show that they love you. Greyhounds and Lurchers are at their happiest when they are warm, cosy and in their guardian’s company.
8. Rescue Greyhounds may have never lived in a home before so will need your help to adapt
Any dog being re-homed is likely to be a little anxious and withdrawn, so let them take things at their own pace. Once they feel safe and settled in, their true personality will start to shine through. In the meantime, your Greyhound or Lurcher will be very glad for a quiet bed in an undisturbed area of the house to call their own. Positive, reward-based training is also really important for rescue hounds. Some of these dogs may have never lived in a home with a human family before and it can be a very bewildering experience for them to begin with. Positive reinforcement training is one of the ways that your dog learns to trust you and understands what’s required of him or her.
9. They’re sensitive souls who need patience and kindness
Your new four-legged friend has a lot to learn but dogs are incredibly adaptable. With gentle guidance they will thrive – but stern words or impatience can shatter the confidence of these sensitive souls. Take their training slowly so that they don’t have to take too much on board in one go. If you’re relaxed and affectionate your Greyhound or Lurcher will be too.
Remember that almost everything is going to be new and either exciting or frightening at first and they will be easily confused or distracted by all the things they see at home and on their walks – ex-racers may have never seen other animals or even other breeds of dogs. Your role is to reassure them and be there for them. Speak softly and calmly, let them explore and use a gentle ‘no’ plus a blocking motion if appropriate to stop unwanted behaviour. As with all training, show an alternative behaviour that can be rewarded instead.
10. Having a Greyhound means you’re in good company
The Greyhound is one of the oldest known breeds of dog, dating back to an ancient breed in Egyptian times. They were often owned by royalty and, by the 11th century in England, were owned exclusively by the nobility. Today, famous greyhound lovers include bestselling author Jilly Cooper, James Crossley (Hunter from the TV series Gladiators), Twiggy, spoon-bending psychic Uri Geller and X-Factor winner Leona Lewis.
FINDING YOUR GREYHOUND OR LURCHER
There are all manner of rescue charities with Greyhounds and Lurchers waiting for their forever homes – including Greyhound Trust, Forever Hounds and Greyhound and Lurcher Rescue. Reputable rescue organisations will discuss your situation and work with you to find the most suitable canine companion – and offer you support while your new pet settles in. This may mean that you have to wait for the right dog, but it’ll be worth it.
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Sources: dogstrust.org.uk, foreverhoundstrust.org, rte.ie, puppyleaks.com, dfordog.co.uk. bluecross.org.uk, greyhoundtrust.org.uk