Updated November 28, 2020
Have a look at the figures above. Any legitimate dog rescue charity would dream of numbers like these.
These are what greyhound adopters reported in a recent study, and I’m not surprised. I see tremendous levels of satisfaction among greyhound owners. They are a genuine alternative for new dog owners.
Like all dog breeds, there are good points and also things you need to know. This is your evidence-based guide to what to expect from an adopted Greyhound. Let’s start with the good things.
What’s Great About Greyhounds
- They’re quiet: studies show lower levels of nuisance barking than average dogs
- They have low aggression towards people: this was one of the key findings from the Howell study
- They are good with children: the same study also showed that they can be considered a family-friendly dog
- They are good on lead: studies show this but you’ve no doubt also seen how gentle they are on walks
- They don’t need lots of exercise: They love a run, and still need a daily walk, but nothing too strenuous- weird, huh?
- They’re healthy: have a look at their inbreeding coefficient and you might just guess why
Plus you get a warm, fuzzy feeling from knowing you saved one. I don’t want to depress you with the numbers but they aren’t good.
Choosing A Greyhound
All breeds have pros and cons, and Greyhounds are no different. However, before I list potential issues, let me say this: choose your Greyhound rescue organisation carefully and you’ll benefit later. Look for a standardised behavioural assessment of:
- Acceptance of handling
- Resource guarding
- Response to new situations
- Prey drive towards small dogs and cats, both on and off the lead
With so many needing adoptions, it’s better for everyone to apply strict selection criteria at the start. And it shows in the figures. The reported failure rates of 3.2% after 1 month and 7% after 6 months are as low as it gets.
Do Greyhounds Need Muzzles?
The rules on greyhound muzzling vary from state to state. Muzzles are not required to be worn in Victoria, whereas in NSW a retraining program is required first. In South Australia, there are three ways to get a muzzle exemption:
- Greyhounds adopted through the GAP program can be awarded the numbered green collar that entitles them to go without a muzzle
- GAP can also organise (for a fee) the assessment of Greyhounds who weren’t acquired through the program
- Private assessment is also possible by qualified and approved persons (see us for recommendations in Adelaide)
In each case, once a dog has passed their assessment, the owner/adopter sends the signed paperwork away to receive a license card that they then carry at all times when out without a muzzle.
Other Greyhounds must be muzzled when not on your property. It’s not as bad as it sounds- their lightweight wire muzzles aren’t a major problem either in looks or use. Greyhounds must also be on a leash at all times when in public. Recently South Australia has been trialing greyhound days at certain off leash dog parks but you need to book these quickly as demand is high.
Possible Problems With Greyhounds
Medically, Greyhounds are a healthy breed and you can expect few problems. Three notable exceptions are:
- Periodontal disease is worse than average
- Bone cancer is common, on a par with other large breed dogs
- Atopic dermatitis may be more common too
This table shows the more common behaviour problems reported in two major studies. If the figures seem exaggerated, it’s worth noting that I combined ‘sometimes’, ‘often’ and ‘always’ to get these numbers. I’ll explain them afterwards.
|Behaviour sometimes/often/always||% in ANZ Study||% in Italian Study|
|Predatory behaviour towards cats||54||85|
|Predatory behaviour towards small dogs||25.4||31.8|
|Predatory behaviour towards large dogs||9.7||10.8|
|Aggression towards unfamiliar animals||27.2||61.9|
|Aggression towards familiar animals||26.9||30.2|
|Fear of unfamiliar adults||21||27.8|
|Fear of unfamiliar children||18.3||15.8|
|Generalised fear or anxiety||28.4||33|
|Fear in new situations||41.4||32.9|
|Fear of thunderstorms||n/a||46.6|
|Fear of other noises (e.g. traffic)||38||38.1|
|Constantly following owner||73.8||69.3|
So we have two main issues:
- Predation and aggression towards small or unfamiliar animals
- Anxiety and fear in a range of situations
The Australia-New Zealand study was done only one month after adoption, which I think explains the much higher rate of destruction and separation anxiety. This fact also gives hope that these behaviours will settle down.
To me, the bigger potential issue is predation and aggression towards cats, small dogs, and unfamiliar animals. While common in theory, in practical terms it’s almost never a problem. Greyhounds should have been pre-assessed before adoption, and especially if they are screened for a muzzle exemption.
If you own a cat, care is still advisable, especially at the beginning. Even if you are not required to use a muzzle in public it is sensible to use one at home until you know things are OK.
The various anxiety-related behaviours probably come from the deprived environments these dogs lived in before adoption. They seem to improve with time, except for one.
You may just have to get used to having a quiet and gentle shadow around the house. It’s a small price to pay for rescuing such a beautiful animal from oblivion.
Elliott, R., Toribio, J. A. L., & Wigney, D. (2010). The Greyhound Adoption Program (GAP) in Australia and New Zealand: A survey of owners’ experiences with their greyhounds one month after adoption. Applied animal behaviour science, 124(3-4), 121-135.
Howell, T. J., Mongillo, P., Giacomini, G., & Marinelli, L. (2018). A survey of undesirable behaviors expressed by ex-racing greyhounds adopted in Italy. Journal of Veterinary Behavior.
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By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. These articles are from a series regularly posted on email and Twitter. Subscribe via email here to never miss a story!