The Pros & Cons Of Greyhound Adoption

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

  1. They’re quiet: studies show lower levels of nuisance barking than average dogs
  2. They have low aggression towards people: this was one of the key findings from the Howell study
  3. They are good with children: the same study also showed that they can be considered a family-friendly dog
  4. They are good on lead: studies show this but you’ve no doubt also seen how gentle they are on walks
  5. They don’t need lots of exercise: They love a run, and still need a daily walk, but nothing too strenuous- weird, huh?
  6. 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:

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 cats5485
Predatory behaviour towards small dogs25.431.8
Predatory behaviour towards large dogs9.710.8
Aggression towards unfamiliar animals27.261.9
Aggression towards familiar animals26.930.2
Fear of unfamiliar adults2127.8
Fear of unfamiliar children18.315.8
Generalised fear or anxiety28.433
Fear in new situations41.432.9
Fear of thunderstormsn/a46.6
Fear of other noises (e.g. traffic)3838.1
Separation anxiety42.615.4
Constantly following owner73.869.3
Destructive (garden)46.89.1

So we have two main issues:

  1. Predation and aggression towards small or unfamiliar animals
  2. 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.

You can read more about anxiety post-adoption here.

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.

Further Reading

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 science124(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.

Have something to add? Comments (if open) will appear within 24 hours.
By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. Meet his team here.

4 Replies to “The Pros & Cons Of Greyhound Adoption”

  1. Another really nice, balanced article.
    I have rescued 2 ex racers, and fostered several others and they are beautiful dogs. Certainly not perfect, but then, nor am I.
    There does seem to be a very high number of these rescue animals who fall prey to osteosarcoma, and there has been evidence cited that it may actually be higher in Australian racing circles due to the large numbers (‘thousands’ have been quoted) of offspring which can be produced from one sire or dam (who may go on to develop OS). It has been hotly contested by pro racers. Can you comment on this? Where would one find evidence either way?

  2. Thanks for your professional report on greyhounds! We have fostered a few and loved them! Hope to adopt one. They can be a bit mischievous but this can usually be redirected with a bit of patience. They are great for the elderly and people who need a companion. You don’t trip over a greyhound like a little dog as they’re sensitive. Needless to say we love them cheers Henny

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