Kelly Faircloth adopted her first greyhound, Shadow, in 2001. The sleek black dog sporting a large scar on its side sidled up to her, and she fell in love.
“He kind of stuck his butt up in my lap,” she says, describing her visit to a rescue center where she met Shadow for the first time. “And I said, ‘Well I guess this is the one.’”
Faircloth, president of Greyhound Rescue & Adoptions of Tampa Bay for the past 14 years, has lost count of how many she has fostered since — but the number is definitely more than 75, she says.
Over the next three years, between 7,000 and 14,000 greyhounds (according to some estimates) like Shadow will need foster or forever homes after Florida voted in November to end greyhound racing. The figure is staggering, but greyhounds are low-maintenance and cheap to adopt, experts say, making them the perfect dog for anyone looking for a new best friend.
The thousands of dogs that will come off of the active greyhound tracks in Florida — three of the state’s 11 tracks stopped offering live racing shortly after the vote — will likely find homes across the country. And there are still six tracks throughout the South and Midwest, not including Florida, so you can still do your part to give a retired racing greyhound a new home if you live outside the state.
Why You Should Adopt a Greyhound
Full disclosure: My wife and I have owned a greyhound for a little more than a year, and she has completely changed my life. There’s a certain specialness about these animals that Greyhound Advancement Center co-founder Ken Wuelfing says creates a cultlike atmosphere around groups of greyhound owners.
They’re not common at most dog parks around the country, so here’s a quick description of your average greyhound: They’re skinny creatures with heads smaller than their necks, and they weigh from 57 to 90 pounds depending on the sex. (Our female, Tiki, weighs in at 68 pounds).
“The thing about greyhounds is they act so grateful,” says Faircloth. That is truly the best way to describe the pure joy they seem to exude at merely lying next to you on the couch — it’s a far cry from life in a kennel and on the track.
But we’re Penny Hoarders, so there are more than intangible, lovable properties that make greyhounds great pets.
They Are Perfect for You if You Work From Home
Greyhounds don’t bark. Seriously.
They may whine a bit when you get home from some time out of the house or might even have been taught to “speak” in their foster home or during training (Tiki knows Spanish, so if I say “habla” she happily barks). But, for the most part, they’ll quietly examine the world around them (with long ears erect, of course.)
“They’re almost invisible until you want attention or they want attention,” says Wuelfing, who worked from home beside his greyhound for the last 10 years with clients such as insurance giant Liberty Mutual. “Having an unprofessional phone experience was not really something that was an option.”
Also, they make great apartment dogs since they don’t move around a lot or make much noise.
Greyhounds Are Cheap and Relatively Low Maintenance
Adopting a greyhound costs anywhere between $200 and $300 with shots and an initial veterinarian appointment included. A greyhound puppy will cost you well over $2,500, and most dogs of any breed bought from a breeder or pet store can cost between $750 and $2,000, according to this study from Bankrate.
Greyhounds seldom shed and shouldn’t require regular grooming appointments, which can run more than $40 at a pet store. And, since time is money, you won’t spend huge chunks of your day walking your greyhound. They love to run… for a bit… but they’re mostly couch potatoes.
Greyhounds Make Excellent Starter Dogs — and Great Training Programs Are Available
All the above reasons make greyhounds excellent starter dogs.
“They’re very easy to handle,” says Wuelfing, who, with his wife Joanne, has put nearly 500 greyhounds through the Greyhound Advancement Center, a training program that partners with a local prison. “They don’t tend to be afraid of people.”
And through the Wuelfings’ center, you can get a fully trained dog for an additional $150 to $200. The program, which lasts up to 10 weeks, matches a greyhound with an inmate at Florida’s Hardee Correctional Institution, during which time they learn to sit, stay, come, shake and perform other commands. (As I mentioned, Tiki is bilingual.)
“It helps their personality blossom and better connect with people,” Joanne Wuelfing says.
We put Tiki through the program (she graduated at the top her class in August of 2017!), and it proved to be invaluable. She has never once pulled away while on a leash.
Some Pros and Cons to Know About Before You Adopt a Greyhound
At this point, you may be convinced that you should bring home one of these deerlike dogs. But, as with all breeds — and especially since they have a unique upbringing on the track — greyhounds have quirks that might be pros or cons depending on your lifestyle.
1. They tend to be nervous nellies
Greyhounds may have rarely interacted with humans or dogs other than their fellow breed while on the track. So when they’re thrust into the larger world, they can be more shy and anxious than other breeds.
But, like other types of dogs, they also have their own personalities, and you should meet and bond with one you plan to adopt before doing so.
2. Those weird heads? Yeah, they need a special collar
You can’t just throw any old collar on greyhounds. Because of their head-to-neck ratio, you’ll need to order a martingale collar, which is thicker and tightens around their neck without choking them.
Further, their skinny bodies and long legs make it difficult to walk up and down stairs (along with the fact that they probably don’t initially even know what stairs are) or eat and drink from regular dog bowls. So you will need to buy special platforms for their food and water, and you might want to consider the layout of your home.
3. They do come with some health considerations
Greyhounds tend to eat a lot of wet food on the track, which means they usually have plaque problems once they retire. The organization from which you adopt should include a thorough teeth cleaning with its adoption fees.
You will want to brush your greyhound’s teeth daily. And you can buy oral-care drops to add to your greyhound’s water bowl.
Also, make sure the vet you pick is familiar with the breed. Greyhounds need a specific type of anesthesia that differs from what’s used on other dogs.
“The teeth are the big thing,” Joanne Wuelfing says. “They really don’t have many other problems.”
4. They may not get along with your cat
While Faircloth has fostered plenty of greyhounds alongside cats, some greyhounds are just not compatible with kitties. That can be due to an association with the fake rabbit they chase while on the track.
I once pulled a muscle trying to catch Tiki when she slipped out of her collar and chased a cat through our neighborhood park. (She was off leash at the time — our mistake.)
5. You might have to crate them for the first few days
As I mentioned before, greyhounds likely have no idea what a house or apartment is — let alone something like a washing machine. They’re used to living in a crate.
The organization from which you adopt will likely provide you with a temporary crate to keep your greyhounds in while they adjust to the sights and sounds of their new home. (Tiki only needed to stay in her crate for the first day when we went out for food.)
6. Don’t expect a Labrador-like personality; they’re more like big cats
When planning to adopt, don’t expect your greyhound to be a dog that will shower you with affection like a lab or other overtly enthusiastic breed. They are very happy dogs, but for the most part, they will just stand next to you and lean on your legs when they want to show you they love you.
They’re sort of like big cats in that way.
7. They love to run — for a few minutes
Also like cats, greyhounds are happy to lie around the house all day. If you have a big backyard or take them to a large dog park, you can get them to sprint a few times.
It’s fun to watch.
8. If you don’t have a fenced yard, you’ll need to keep them on a leash
Remember my story about Tiki spotting a cat?
On the track, she easily topped 40 miles per hour while running one of the dozen races she won in her 200-plus race career. So you can imagine what would happen if she managed to run free.
That’s why Faircloth recommends that Greyhound owners have a fenced yard or keep their dogs on a leash at all times. “They are fast,” she says. “And if they spot a bird, they are going to take off, and no human is going to catch them.”
9. They are totally going to be the stars at the dog park, but don’t expect them to make too many doggie friends
As I mentioned earlier, greyhounds don’t really know how to be dogs since they have had a unique upbringing on the race track. So most of them will be awkward at making friends when you take them to the dog park.
But, they will be a total hit with the humans there.
10. But, they are fiercely (OK… passively) loyal to the dogs with which they live
Greyhounds might not understand anything about your current dog, its breed or behavior, but they will form a tight bond. So tight that when we separated our greyhound and whippet during a trip out of town, Tiki pooped inside, ate a few sets of blinds and developed an ulcer from the separation anxiety.
As long as we keep them together, the greyhound does very well when we go on long trips. But it’s truly heartwarming to see the love Tiki has for her sister, Josie.
It emphasizes an opinion we tell everyone: Greyhounds are the most lovable dog breed in the world. Despite all their quirks and weirdness.
Alex Mahadevan is a data journalist at The Penny Hoarder. His greyhound, Tiki, can inhale her food in one bite.
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