Yes, even Greyhounds need exercise!

We all have certain parts of our day that we look forward to. I look forward to the mornings. I love my first cup of coffee and my walk. Exercise is very important for me. Exercising keeps me upbeat and energetic.

When I adopted Jethro I was told that he would need hardly any exercise and that Greyhounds are lazy. I remember hearing that a few good sprints per week would be plenty for him. This was a foreign idea to me. I had only owned terriers prior to owning Jethro and they required a lot of exercise or they were impossible to live with. But hey, Clint and I wanted a low maintenance dog so maybe my instincts were wrong.

Life with Jethro started off on the wrong foot. Jethro was a creature of habit and the lack of structure in his new environment was overwhelming for him. Prior to adopting Jethro, I had read an article that suggested waiting to start obedience with a retired racer so that they would be more bonded to you when you started. I felt that I should start training his ASAP but wanted to follow the advice of other more experienced Greyhound owners. Needless to say, Jethro became a very frustrated Greyhound that needed a routine and an outlet for his energy.

After a month of struggling with our new situation, I registered Jethro in obedience class. Our local obedience class was filled with small, yappy, fluffy dogs and big barking dogs in need of some manners. Jethro was freaked out. Fortunately, the trainer knew a thing or two about Greyhounds and hooked up us with another couple that adopted a Greyhound. The humans and the dogs hit it off! Jethro and Champ would get to work in a smaller group that was quite. I picked up some training techniques and felt that I could get Jethro where he needed to be. We started practicing at home.

I stopped reading about Greyhounds and started searching for articles on training headstrong independent dogs. Jethro’s life became very structured. We walked every morning and practiced training exercises at night. I realized Jethro and I both needed a routine if our relationship was going to work out. Walking and training Jethro was great! It stimulated our bond and also helped to alleviate some of his anxiety!

I added Darla to the mix and she loved exercise. I would often walk Darla alone to help with her leash manners when she did something good, I would run with her as her reward. She loved this and we still use running as a reward!

When Sashi came home I was not sure what to expect. I heard that Greyhound pups were land-sharks and difficult. However, I found Sashi’s puppyhood very enjoyable, as long as he was exercised. Sashi had an affinity for chewing on high-end leather goods. I learned quickly that a tired pup with nice meaty bone doesn’t eat your leather accessories. Sashi needed a lot of exercised. My nightly routine included making a vodka and tonic, sitting in a lawn chair, and throwing a ball until Sashi was pooped!

Exercise makes us all feel good, even dogs. Exercise recommendation for dogs varies by breed. Generally speaking, dogs need 30 minutes to 2 hours of exercise per day. It’s hard to say that all Greyhounds need the same amount of exercise per day. As dogs physiologically adapt to exercise—At first, the Greyhound may only be able to walk for 20 minutes but gradually adding time is important to achieve a balanced exercise program. While Greyhounds do enjoy lying around they still need exercise. Exercise is important to their physical and mental well-being.

Even if your dog doesn’t have behavioral problems and isn’t overweight there is nothing like smelling where the neighborhood cat has been and the pee of all the dogs that peed on that scrub before yours!

Southeastern Greyhound Adoption (SEGA) hosts an annual Athletes helping Athletes 5K—this year is our 10th anniversary! In addition to the 5K we also have a fun one-mile walk that you can bring your Greyhounds on. There is nothing simpler or sweeter than getting out and walking with your Greyhound. I hope to see all you Metro Atlanta Greyhound lovers at the 5K!   If you are planning to attend the 5K register here and use the code RUN4FUN17. The first 10 people to use the code will get 5$ off their race registration! I look forward to seeing you and your Greyhound at the 5K!

Separation Anxiety

A lot of my blog ideas come from previous posts.  I do research on a topic and then think about my experiences.  I think that gives this blog a distinct feel and I hope you all enjoy it as well.  The other day I way touching on some of the myths people believe about racing Greyhounds and their lives on the track.  Separation anxiety popped into my mind.  In addition to hearing that skittish dogs are products of abuse, I have also heard and read that the anxieties or issues Greyhounds have in their adopted homes are products of what might have happened at racing kennels.

Today I want to dive into my dogs’ separation anxiety (SA) journey and how it correlated to mistakes I made and not problems in their kennel lives or mistreatment.

In my “Myths Busted” post I compared a racing kennel to a military school.  I think this is the most accurate way for many adopters to understand their Greyhound’s previous life if the adopter has never been to a kennel or racetrack.  Dogs are creatures of habit and, due to that tendency, Greyhounds do very well in the racing kennel environment.  Kennels have daily routines that do not differ greatly from day to day.  This is very comfortable living for most dogs. Once the decision has been made to retire a racing Greyhound and send them to an adoption kennel, their lives change but generally speaking they continue with a stable routine.  Sometimes the retired Greyhounds have a long trip to the adoption kennels but once there the Greyhounds enjoy a routine that includes exercise, interactions with humans and Greyhounds, and meals.

The big change comes to the Greyhounds’ routine when they are adopted.  One change is they are no longer around other Greyhounds (unless there are Greyhounds in their new family).  These dogs have spent their entire lives with other Greyhounds and are now alone. They may also have more free time—they can wander around in the yard or house.  They most likely are getting less exercise than previously, possibly increasing their anxiety.  Finally the biggest change and the biggest issue is the over-abundance of affection from their new owner(s).

All of these changes influence the risk of separation anxiety in these dogs, but the biggest issue is the amount of affection we give to our newly adopted Greyhounds.

When Clint and I adopted Jethro I had firm opinions that Jethro was going to be crated and sleep in our sunroom that was close to out bedroom but not in it.  Big mistake!  The first few nights Jethro howled and I went into the sunroom every time to comfort him.  This was my first mistake and biggest mistake.  It would have been better for Jethro to be crated in our room than for me to continue to check on him.  I know this is what triggered his separation anxiety. And it was not easy to undo.

Jethro had horrible SA.  He chewed through multiple metal and soft crates, escaped through the sunroof of my SUV at a field trial, escaped from a kennel run with a d-ring, he learned how to break down a metal crate and would leave the front panel off to chew up our window seal and blinds.  I felt that I had created a monster!  I had no clue how to help him.  I consulted my friend Jennifer Bachelor and her blog.  By this time it was clear that the crate was not working for Jethro.  We began baby gating Jethro in the kitchen—we could make his area smaller than a bedroom but larger than a bathroom. We continued to leave the TV on for him and a kong.  We also hired a dog walker to check on him.  And we got another Greyhound.

The process of Jethro’s SA rehab took a long time.  He is still not a fan of the crate but deals with it for car rides and field trials.  He does have the run of the house when we are away.  I do NOT feel that Darla’s arrival fixed his issues, but it did help.  I would not recommend getting another dog to fix SA, as you have to deal the dogs’ issues and training issues, getting him stable before adding to the pack—I would have lost my mind if I had two dogs like Jethro!

After my experience with Jethro, I looked at Darla’s arrival completely different.  If I was home and not playing or training Darla, she was crated.  I made the crate fun—she got raw bones, feet, and hooves that she was not allowed out of her crate.  She slept on a dog bed in my room.  I did NOT shower her with affection: she had to earn it.  Darla and I had a “working relationship” for about a year.  It seemed like she respected me for giving her stability and security and over time we developed a relationship of best friends.  I do not regret one aspect of Darla’s training and she is a very balanced Greyhound and extremely secure.  Sashi was also trained in this manner—he likes his crate so much that he will hang out in there when we are home!

You can have too much of a good thing.  We have to remember that saying when adopting our Greyhounds.  We have to focus on a routine that we set and they live by.  We must exercise and train our Greyhounds—just because they lie around does not mean they do not need stimulation!  And we have to remember that affection will come but security is much more important and what we should strive for.

 

How to get a solid recall

By now you have probably noticed there are a lot of pictures of my dogs running and playing without leashes. I want to make it clear that generally speaking my Greyhounds are leashed.  However, when we are in the country we allow our Greyhounds to be off leash.  Our dogs are familiar with our property and understand their “boundaries”.

My Greyhounds did not come with off-leash manners and it took a lot of work to train off-leash manners.  So how did I go about teaching my Greyhounds to come? Recall training is not a once and done type of command.  Recall training has to occur frequently and you have to be ready to give you Greyhound a huge payload when they come to you vs. following that amazing coyote scent or chasing an armadillo. 

At first we did a lot of work in the backyard.  I would send a Greyhound out and allow them to start their sniffing.  I would watch on the deck and when I noticed they were very interested in something I would call them and give them a high value treat—think canned dog food, mac&cheese, or raw tripe in a small container.  After they had successfully completed this on a small scale I increased the distraction and the distance. 

After mastering the backyard we would begin working on recalls at our local private dog park. This was a good location because it was safe but also full of new exciting smells and distractions.   Again I would wait until they became interested in something and then call them giving them a huge payload. 

We continued with this exercise until I felt they were ready to head to our country fields. 

The boys were relatively easy to teach a recall to.  Both Sashi and Jethro are huge momma’s boys.  They are not going far from me.  I can’t put on make-up without Sashi watching!  The cord was not cut with the boys.  Training a recall took a few huge payloads in a few different locations and they were hooked. 

Darla was not that simple.  Darla is a complicated Greyhound.  She is very independent and when I first got her she could take me or leave me.  However, she did want to hang close to Jethro and she loves food.  The issues with her recall came when she wanted to do more independent activities and realized that she could wonder off from Jethro.  This caused some stress—we thought all of our Greyhounds had great recalls but Darla did not.

Darla was deemed a flight risk and leashed.  Clint and I wanted Darla to enjoy the independence of sniffing and hunting around our fields.  We began reworking her recall and giving her another chance at off leash activities. 

We took her to the fields and the first time she did well and stayed with me, I thought that she had it!  The second time was not so pleasant.  As soon as we unleashed her she was off. Fortunately she was with Sashi and he has an excellent recall.  We called him and she remembered what she was supposed to be doing.  And came running back to us for her reward.  I want to note how important it was that we were happy and rewarded her when she came back.  She did not do exactly what we wanted her to do but we want her to associated coming to us with happiness and rewards, not us being frustrated.

After this experience we knew we had more work to do. We tried her off leash again this past week in our fields.  She did much better.  I have learned that once she is off leash she is going to run like crazy. The difference this time was that when we called her she did a turn-face and came back to us, ready for her jackpot reward. 

We will continue to do more and more off leash training with Darla and we will allow her more and more off leash time.  Hoping to balance her training with her positive experiences. 

No matter if you are considering allowing you Greyhound off leash or not, training your Greyhound to a recall is one of the most important things you can do.  We have to remember that accidents do happen and the better prepared you are the better chance you have a good outcome. Good solid recalls take time.  It is important to start slow and practice often.  Sometimes regression is part of the learning process and should not be considered a failure but an opportunity for learning.  Training you Greyhound should be a fun positive process for you and your Greyhound. 

For more off-leash training tips check out Jennifer Bachelor’s Blog Never Say Never Greyhounds.  This is the premier blog for training Greyhounds!

Amateur Running Sports: Open Field Coursing

Today’s post is from guest writer Audrey Hsia.  Audrey is a Greyhound enthusiast.  She owns Greyhounds, Hungarian Greyhounds or Magyar Agars, and Dachshunds.  Audrey’s knowledge on Greyhounds and running sports is extensive.  She has been a wonderful resource to me as I have expanded my knowledge on the caring and keeping of Greyhounds.  I hope you all enjoy this post as much as I did.

Open Field Coursing, or OFC as it is called by most participants, is a competitive field sport for sighthounds in which the dogs are set on live, wild jackrabbits and judged on their ability to pursue the hares. Although competitive coursing in the United States dates back to about the 1860’s, modern open field coursing originated in the 1960’s with the founding of the National Open Field Coursing Association (NOFCA). NOFCA was and remains the primary sanctioning body for open field coursing in the United States, but there are several other smaller groups organizing coursing events as well. These include the North American Coursing Association (NACA) and The Coursing Conservancy (TCC).

No matter which group is putting on the coursing meeting, the format is largely the same. OFC meetings can be either one of two types: breed stakes or mixed stakes. Breed stakes, as the name implies, are stakes where only breed is competing against itself. Mixed stakes are open to all sighthound breeds that are recognized by the sanctioning body, and dogs entered are competing against each other regardless of breed. Stakes are advertised as either breed stakes or mixed stakes prior to the running of the meeting; that way participants can choose to run their dogs only in breed stakes, only in mixed stakes, or both types as they please. In order to make a valid stake of either type, there must be at least five dogs entered to fill all of the placements.

Photo Credit: George Bell

Before the coursing meeting begins, all participants will meet at a designated location, usually a restaurant or gas station located near the field where the dogs will be running. At that point, roll call will be conducted and if the stake is large enough (15+ dogs), dogs will be divided into separate fields with separate judges. Once roll call is complete the courses are drawn into trios or braces at random. Each dog in a course is assigned a colored blanket (yellow, pink or blue), which the judge will use to identify the dogs during each course.

After all that prep work is done, everyone gets in their cars and drives out to the field. With few exceptions, the courses will be run in the order they were drawn. The course that is up is called to the front, while all the other participants line up behind to form a gallery, which will help to flush out the hares as the line moves forward.

Once a hare is raised, the huntmaster will assess whether or not all the dogs are sighted on it and/or whether or not it is likely to result in a viable course. Assuming all dogs are sighted and everything else is promising the huntmaster will yell “Tally ho!” signaling to the handlers that they may release their dogs. The judge, who is either walking alongside the gallery, or perched on top of a hill or tall vehicle will then observe the course and score the dogs on their performance. The dogs are scored using a category scoring format with each category being worth a certain amount of points. Categories include things like speed, agility, and endurance, with extra points being awarded to dogs who touch, take or attempt the take the hare. Unlike traditional English or Irish coursing, American open field coursing places a fair amount of value on dogs making kills during their courses. In fact, most if not all American OFC titles require that the dog make at least one kill during its career in order to make champion.

Preparation for open field coursing is very labor intensive for the dogs and handlers. Due to the unpredictable nature of the sport, it is imperative that the dogs be as physically fit as possible. Courses can go on for several minutes, and the hares frequently lead the dogs into terrain that can be difficult to navigate safely. As such, the best thing a handler can do to prepare a dog for open field coursing is to bring it up from a young age in preparation for the sport. This means giving their puppies ample opportunity to explore and exercise on varied terrain so that they can learn how to use their bodies safely and efficiently while they are still young and haven’t reached their peak speed. As adults, daily conditioning is essential especially if your dog is not competing on a regular basis to help maintain their fitness. Brisk walks, road work, and opportunities to gallop are all very good ways to keep a dog conditioned for open field coursing.

Besides preparing your dog physically for an OFC meeting, there are many other things you need to prepare for a day in the field. Comfortable walking shoes are a must, as OFC meetings can go from sun-up to sundown if hares are not plentiful. Depending on the terrain, you may also want to invest in chaps or gaiters to protect your legs from thorns and weeds which you may encounter while trying to flush the hares from their hiding places. Dressing in layers is also advisable, as temperatures can fluctuate throughout the day. Investing in a comfortable backpack or hunting vest is also a must, as you will need to carry plenty of water for you and your dog, as well as snacks, a first aid kit, coursing blankets, extra leashes, slip leads, and a GPS or other tracking device if you choose to use one.

Overall, Open Field Coursing is a challenging sport, but for those who make the effort it is guaranteed to be rewarding in a way that no other sighthound sport can be.

Feature photo credit: Audrey Hsia

 

Amateur Running Sports: NOTRA

Today I am continuing my series on amateur running sports for Greyhounds.  In addition to racing and lure coursing I wanted to write about Open Field Coursing (OFC).  I did not feel I was a good person to write about OFC, as I have never been to an event (most are out west).  It was suggested to have a guest writer post on OFC, and I thought that was a great idea.  Next week you will be hearing from Audrey Hsia about OFC and greyhounds.  I hope you all enjoy it!

Back to this week’s post on NOTRA or oval racing organized by the National Oval Track Racing Association. So what is NOTRA?  NOTRA is oval racing.  The hounds are usually boxed at the start but can be hand slipped.  The distance of the track is between 241 yards and 440 yards.  Greyhounds run three programs in one day.  Generally 4 hounds run together, although depending on the number of entrants this can change.  To have a Greyhound meet there must be at least two Greyhounds entered.  Just like in LGRA or sprint racing, the Greyhound that reaches the finish line first wins.  Also, winning and placing Greyhounds earn points that accumulate allowing them to earn titles. 

NOTRA requires a little more thought from the Greyhound than LGRA or sprint racing.  The Greyhound needs to make a path to get around the track.  Some go immediately to the rail while others tend to run mid track and can make up time in the back stretch of the track.  Each dog is different and will generally prefer a certain location on the track.  The running style of different Greyhounds is fascinating to watch.  If you go to a few meets you will see you dogs’ style develop and they will learn more with each run. 

Photo Credit: Trent Rees

What do you need for NOTRA?  You need a muzzle and the same 1-4 racing blankets you bought for LGRA.  You also need to talk with the race secretary prior, as first time entries will need to be reregistered through NOTRA (your NGA number is fine).   Your hound will need to be certified as well – if you Greyhound ran professionally generally they are good to go – but please check with the race secretary prior to the meet.  If you have never boxed your Greyhound, it might be a good idea to practice this a few times prior to your first official meet.   

As always, make sure you are aware of any injuries your Greyhound may have had on the pro track.  Make sure that your Greyhound is at racing weight and well conditioned.  Also, please check with your vet before beginning in amateur running sports to make sure your Greyhound is healthy enough to sustain these activities. 

NOTRA is a lot of fun.  You are able to see your Greyhound’s mind work as they improve with each trip around the track.  I also feel that NOTRA reinforces that racing is not a bad or cruel sport but fun and Greyhounds love it. 

I hope this has been helpful and you consider trying NOTRA with your Greyhound in the future. 

Please check back next week for the final post in the amateur running sports series on Open Field Coursing by Audrey Hsia. 

 

 

 

Feature Photo credit: Javier Ocasio

 

 

 

 

 

Amateur Running Sports: LGRA

Photo Credit: Carl Doby

I hope you all found the lure coursing piece useful and fun.  Today I want to discuss sprint racing, also know as LGRA as it is organized by the large gazehound racing association.    

LGRA is a favorite of mine.  I love the raw speed that sprint racing provides.  I also like LGRA because the fastest dog wins, which removes any subjectivity from the event.  However, it is not perfect.  Today I will talk about what LGRA racing is and what you should think about if you decide this is the sport for you and your hound.

First, make sure you are aware of any injuries your Greyhound may have had on the pro track.  Make sure that your Greyhound is at racing weight and well conditioned.  As always, please check with your vet before beginning in amateur running sports to make sure your Greyhound is healthy enough to sustain these activities. 

OK, now what is LGRA?  LGRA is a sprint race of 200 yards with three programs.  Generally four dogs compete in each race, this number can change depending on the entrants. Dogs are usually boxed at the start just like in pro racing and then they chase a drag lure for 200 yards.  The hound that gets to the finish line first wins the race.  LGRA is simple and a blast to watch.  My dogs love it!  Based on the number of entries, the dogs are awarded points.   The larger the entry the more points for the winner and placing dogs.  Once your dog has accumulated enough points they are able to obtain titles.  (I have never seen a Greyhound get excited about a title, but the competition is fun for the owners.)

Photo Credit: Carl Doby

Besides having a fit dog, you need a muzzle and racing blankets for LGRA (1-4). Usually there are plenty of experienced Greyhound people at these events and will allow you to borrow blankets or muzzles if needed. Prior to arriving at the meet you need to contact the race secretary to register your dog and check if they need a certification run.  Dogs that have raced in NOTRA or have raced professionally generally do not need a certification. However, it might be helpful to run some practice runs prior to your official meet to see how things work and get the hang of boxing your Greyhound. 

I overall enjoy LGRA racing.  I like that LGRA focuses on raw speed – the Greyhound does not have to consider manipulating turns or when is the best time to really turn up the speed.  There are two things that I wish were different.  I wish the length of the sprint were longer.  I feel that Greyhounds are just getting up to top speed when the race is over and another 100 yards would be better for a lot of Greyhounds.  I also wish there was a trap for the lure.  When the lure stops, after the sprint with plenty of run out (area for the Greyhound to decelerate) all the dogs clobber the lure.  Removing a Greyhound off a lure is very difficult and I have a very small bitch.  I cannot imagine having to manipulate a 65+ pound Greyhound off a lure!

LGRA is rather safe, as it is a straight line without any turns; however, these Greyhounds are running hard and as with any strenuous athletic activity, injuries can occur.  As always check your Greyhound’s feet after each run.  If the ground is hard and you are wrapping pads, it is important to remove the vetrap after each run to make sure their feet are OK.  I generally leave the elastikon in place if they haven’t run it off. 

LGRA is a great sport for retired racers.  It focuses on the Greyhound’s raw speed and is a blast to watch.  I hope you now know a little more about LGRA and how much fun it is!  Tune in next week for another post on amateur running sports.  


Feature Photo credit: Carl Doby

Amateur Running Sports: Lure Coursing

By now you are probably aware that I think greyhounds are much more than 45 miles per hour couch potatoes.  You may be thinking, I would love for my greyhound to have a more active lifestyle, but where do I start?

When I first adopted Jethro I was in the same boat.  I knew about lure coursing but the other greyhound running sports were a mystery to me. 

I am going to create a three-part series about amateur running sports in America.  I am going to give you the details on: lure coursing, LGRA, and NOTRA.  I hope that you will better understand the various options of running sports and find one or two that are best suited for you and your hound!

I am going to start with my most favorite amateur running sport, lure coursing.  

First things first, what is lure coursing?  Lure coursing was created the mimic open field or hare coursing– I am not sure that lure coursing creates this but it does create a nice athletic event to evaluate your hound’s ability.  The idea is that the course should represent how a hare would behave in the open field.  To create this, two to three white plastic garbage bags (lure) are tied to a line, and then the line with the lure attached is pulled by pulleys that are propelled by a generator throughout the course.  There are two main ways to move the lure around the course: continuous loop and drag operated.  Continuous loop courses allow running of multiple dogs quickly, as the line never comes off the pulleys, creating a continuous loop.  However, in some long straights of the course the line can “ride high” and cause line burn or other injuries to the hounds.  Drag operated lure does not cause line burn and some feel more engaging for the hound to chase.  I prefer running my dogs on drag lure.  It does take additional time to restring the entire 600-900 yard course.  However, this is minimal and does not usually slow down the trial.

Photo Credit: Cindy Frezon

Now that you’re looking forward to a beautiful day in the country, what does you Greyhound need to do?   All dogs competing in lure coursing will get two opportunities to run.  If they win their stakes they will have the opportunity to run for breed and if they win their breed they would have the opportunity to run in Best in Field.  Your Greyhound might potentially have to run four times in a day – that’s a lot of yards!

Prior to beginning any amateur sport, your Greyhound needs to be in tiptop shape.  The Greyhound needs to be at their racing weight and well conditioned.  It is important that you know if they had any injuries while on the track as that could impact the decision to lure course them or not.  As always, discuss this idea of running sports with your vet to make sure your Greyhound is healthy enough to compete.    

Photo Credit: Cindy Frezon

So where do I go to find a trial?  The good news is that there are lure coursing trials just about every weekend somewhere in the U.S.  There are also three main organizations that host lure coursing events: American Sighthound Field Association (ASFA), American Kennel Club (AKC) and the National Lure Coursing Club (NLCC).

American Sighthound Field Association (ASFA) is the original lure coursing organization.  Mirroring ASFA, the AKC also holds lure coursing events that function in a similar format to ASFA.  Both organizations have three stakes: open, specials (AKC)/field champions (ASFA), and veterans.  Both organizations judge on enthusiasm/overall ability, speed, follow, agility, and endurance.  Generally, three dogs will run together.  There are two points to consider when running AKC.  First you have to apply for an AKC registration number, as AKC does not recognize your Greyhound’s NGA registration and you will need a purebred alternative listing (PAL) number from AKC.  Secondly, even if your hound is certified by ASFA, the AKC requires them to be recertified unless the Greyhound has obtained their field championship title with ASFA.  I do not understand the AKC certification rule; it seems silly that a certified hound must have to recertify, as any dog that competes in ASFA long enough should be able to obtain their field championship. 

The final lure coursing organization is the National Lure Coursing Club (NLCC).  This organization runs a brace elimination format.  Again the hounds will run at least twice and up to four times.  The brace elimination format calls for two hounds running together at a time.  The loser of the course will fall into the B bracket and the winner will move on in the A bracket.  The beauty of NLCC lure coursing is the judging.  Lure coursing is a subjective running sport; however, NLCC makes it as objective as possible.  Scoring is in a tally format meaning that the dog that wins the run up (distance to first turn) is awarded 2-3 points, the hound that gets to the next turn first is awarded 1 point, if a hound passes another hound they are awarded 2 points, and the hound that gets to the stopped lure first is awarded 1-2 points.  I like this format, as it is easier to assess how your hound is doing on the course and understand the judge’s pick.    

Photo Credit: Cindy Frezon

Another important point is that all these organizations have a singles stake.  This is very important to beginners.  The singles stake allows hounds to run without another dog.  This allows the hound to become accustom to the lure and running longer distances.  These hounds are scored by the criteria per the organization that they are running with.  Generally hounds compete in singles a few times prior to getting their certification to compete in the open stakes.  I recommend running in the singles stake as it gets you, the handler, in a competitive mind frame.  You are no longer waiting for breaks or the end of the meet to run your hound but part of the meet and you have to follow the order of the meet.  Placements are awarded for this stake as well. 

I hope that now you know more about lure coursing and the options in your area.  This is an incredibly fun sport for you and your Greyhound.  I hope to see you on the field soon!

Hope you check back next week to learn more about amateur running sports for your hound. 
Photo credit: Cindy Frezon Photography

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why performance matters: What Racing Gives Us

Boston Public Library, Print Department
Feature photo credit:
Greyhound racing in Florida at the finishing line from the Tichnor Brothers Collection at the Boston Public Library, Print Department 
 is licensed by CC BY 2.0

 

Last week I discussed why performance is historically important to the Greyhound.  Without performance we would not have the Greyhound we know and love.  I also discussed that coursing was where all Greyhound sport originated and explored some of the history of the breed.  This week’s blog is about the recent history of the Greyhound in the U.S.

In the late 1800’s the Irish created park coursing, which used similar rules of coursing that were used in Britain; however, the size of the course was smaller.  Many feel that this is when folks decided that even with shorter courses the greyhound was still exhilarating to watch.  The Irish developed their coursing club in 1916.

The first mechanical lure was used in 1876.  It was used in a 400-yard straight course.  This was not found to be exciting and many spectators did not enjoy this type of sport.  It took about 30 years for the mechanical lure to become popular.

In the meantime Greyhounds were coming into the United States.  For the most part these dogs were settled out west to help with jackrabbit population control.  Even General Custer was a fan of the Greyhound, using them as scouts prior to battle.  You bet these Greyhounds were coursed out west!

In 1906 the National Greyhound Association (NGA) was organized.  The NGA was responsible for registering Greyhounds in America and keeping up with Greyhound breedings.

In 1919 the first Greyhound track was opened in Emeryville, CA.  This was designed by the entrepreneur Owen P. Smith and financed by George Sawyer.  The track used a mechanical lure that was propelled by a motorized cart on the inside of a rail.  The total length of the track was about 3/16th of a mile.  These early races were poorly attended but Sawyer had an idea on how to fix this.

Sawyer encouraged Smith to introduce wagering and they began allowing wagering on races.  While attendance increased, they were still unable to make money and the track ended up going bankrupt.  Smith took his mechanical lure and went to Florida.

Collection: The Tichnor Brothers Collection Location: Boston Public Library, Print Department licensed by CC BY 2.0The World’s fastest greyhounds race at West Flagler Kennel Club, Miami, Florida from the Tichnor Brothers Collection at the Boston Public Library, Print Department licensed by CC BY 2.0

Tracks were popping up throughout Florida in the 1930’s.  These tracks were helpful for tax income throughout the Great Depression.  More and more states allowed Greyhound racing to flourish.  At Greyhound racing’s height it was the sixth most popular sport in America.   However, often times when money changes hands undesirable attention comes.

There were speculations of illegal actives associated with greyhound racing.  These speculations did not come to anything and did not hurt American Greyhound racing; it was at its height in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.

Nightly gathering for greyhound racing, West Flagler Kennel Club, Miami, Florida from the Tichnor Brothers Collection at the Boston Public Library, Print Department licensed by CC BY 2.0

In 1987 The American Greyhound Council (AGC) was created.  The AGC oversees Greyhound welfare from puppyhood to retirement.  The AGC inspects Greyhound farms to make sure they are within their guidelines for proper Greyhound care.  Once the Greyhound arrives at the track there are state regulation in place for Greyhound welfare as well as track contracts that kennels must comply with to continue racing.  The AGC follows the numbers of greyhound adoptions.  They also follow the economic impact of greyhound racing.

The early 2000’s were a hard time for the racing.  There were reports of mistreatment of Greyhounds throughout the news.  There was also a decline in live betting.  This caused multiple tracks to close their doors.

During these hard times, the people of Greyhound racing did not tuck their tails and run.  They worked tirelessly with the AGC, adoption groups, and state regulatory bodies to ensure the welfare of the Greyhound and the integrity of racing.  Currently 90% of all retired racing greyhound are adopted or returned to farms as pets or for breeding purposes, a much higher percentage than that of other dog adoption organizations in the U.S.   The goal of AGC is to expand adoption efforts and increase that to 100%.  This percentage is sure to increase as more and more people want Greyhounds as pets and more adoption organizations are willing to take on complex cases.

In addition to creating wonderful pets, Greyhound racing is important economically.  It is estimated that the racing industry employs 14,000 people with an annual payroll of 194 million dollars.  The racing industry also pays an estimated 86 million in taxes to federal, state, and local governments.  The racing industry donates an estimated 6 million dollars to charities, including greyhound adoption groups.

Greyhound sports have always been the essential component of the Greyhound.  Without coursing and racing, the dog that we love would most likely not be in existence.  Continued support of athletic activities of the Greyhound is needed to promote this breed.  Continued recognition of performance is essential to for us to be the best stewards of our breed.  Thanks to the great work of AGC, adoption groups, and the NGA we are able to welcome these professional athletes into our homes to be wonderful companions.  We all know that greyhounds give us fulfillment but we must remember that our Greyhounds need fulfillment as well.  Greyhounds can find fulfillment in multiple ways but the most special is in their passion for the chase!

If you are interested in adopting a Greyhound or learning more about the breed please check out: Greyhound Pets of America and the American Greyhound Council.

Sources:
Economic Impact statics: The American Greyhound Council c/o The National Greyhound Association.  Retrieved from http://www.agcouncil.com/economic-impact-statistics
Frequently Asked Questions About Greyhounds as Pets: The American Greyhound Council c/o The National Greyhound Association.  Retrieved from http://www.agcouncil.com/frequently-asked-questions-about-greyhound-pets/

Pet Statistics: The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Retrieved from http://www.aspca.org/animal-homelessness/shelter-intake-and-surrender/pet-statistics  
The History of Greyhound Racing c/o The Greyhound Racing Association of America. Retrieved from http://www.gra-america.org/the_sport/history.html

Why all the chatter about breed standard?

A few days ago I wrote an article about what it means to adopt a Greyhound.  Overall this article was well received.  However, some comments I found thought provoking.  I also reviewed other posts throughout social media and there continued to be a theme:  what is the standard for a greyhound and why that matters to you as an owner.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) judges each breed of dog based on a written standard.  You can review the AKC written standard for greyhounds below.

Head –  Long and narrow, fairly wide between the ears, scarcely perceptible stop, little or no development of nasal sinuses, good length of muzzle, which should be powerful without coarseness. Teeth very strong and even in front.
Ears ­ – Small and fine in texture, thrown back and folded, except when excited, when they are semi-pricked.
Eyes ­ – Dark, bright, intelligent, indicating spirit.
Neck – ­ Long, muscular, without throatiness, slightly arched, and widening gradually into the shoulder.
Shoulders – ­ Placed as obliquely as possible, muscular without being loaded.
Forelegs ­ – Perfectly straight, set well into the shoulder, neither turned in or out, pasterns strong.
Chest ­ -Deep, and as wide as is consistent with speed, Fairly well sprung ribs.
Back ­ – Muscular and broad.
Loins ­ – Good depth of muscle, well-arched, well cut up in the flanks.
Hindquarters ­ – Long, very muscular and powerful, wide and well let down, well-bent stifles.  Hocks well bent and rather close to the ground, wide but straight fore and aft.
Feet ­ – Hard and close, rather more hare than cat feet, well knuckled up with good strong claws.
Tail ­ – Long, fine and tapering with a slight upward curve.
Coat ­ – Short, smooth and firm in texture.
Color ­ – Immaterial
Weight ­ – Dogs, 65 to 70 pounds: Bitches, 60 to 65 pounds

If you are like me when you read this, it sounds very similar to what you see in a National Greyhound Association (NGA) greyhound.  First, what is the difference between the AKC and NGA?  Both are registering bodies; however, the NGA is special as they only register greyhounds.  All American racing greyhounds are registered with the NGA.  The NGA doesn’t have a written breed standard so to speak; rather, NGA greyhounds are bred to a performance standard, meaning they are judged on their ability to excel in running sports.  When we look at the AKC written standard for the breed, the NGA greyhound fits the description in that standard.  So why do we find ourselves disagreeing on the breed standard again and again?  The answer is rather complicated.   I think that show breeders thought that breeding a greyhound with exaggerated structural features was sexy and the dog would be able to compete in the group and best in show ring at dog shows.   They succeeded.  There is no functional purpose or advantage for the exaggerated changes we see in most greyhounds that compete in the show ring.

Actually, dogs that are exaggerated are not good for our breed and here is why.  These dogs are not functional in that they are deficient in athletic ability.  They are able to participate in running sports but unable to compete on the same level with coursing-bred greyhounds or racing greyhounds.  If you read into the written standard above you will understand all these qualities are desirable because they improve the greyhound’s speediness and athleticism.  By exaggerating the structural features called for in the written standard we are taking the functionality and the most important part of the greyhound away.

I have listened and read comments about show greyhounds and see things such as “isn’t she beautiful” or “she’s living art”.  I appreciate these opinions but I want to know if they have ever seen a greyhound running after a lure or quarry.  Have they ever seen true poetry in motion?

I am not sure that I will ever feel that a hound standing in a ring is more lovely than a hound doing what they were bred to do for centuries.  I will never see how loping in a ring can be more beautiful than raw power on the coursing field or sand being flung all over the track by a hound that can scoot.

I understand that dog shows are a lot of fun to a lot of people.  I wish we would see more functional dogs at these shows.  I proudly support the breeders that are promoting functional hounds and I hope that in the future at Greyhound specialties you will not see a dog win breed in the ring that is not able to compete in the field but instead a Greyhound that can win in the ring and on the lure coursing field.

As stewards of our breed we must advocate for functionality.   Our focus should not be on what can win the group and best in show ring but what can make a hare turn and break track records.  We simply must focus on the raw power of our breed; after all, it’s why they are still with us.

Official Standard of the Greyhound. c/o The American Kennel Club.  Retrieved December 1st, 2016 from http://images.akc.org/pdf/breeds/standards/Greyhound.pdf_ga=1.268297802.576806201.1479637347

Six Greyhound myths BUSTED!

It seems that every time my husband or I take the greyhounds for a walk we get a ton of questions.  We get a lot of questions about the quality of life at the track, if greyhounds really do love to run, if they need a lot of exercise, if they eat a lot, if they will chase small animals, if they bark, and most frequently if they can sit.

Today I am going to do my best to debunk these six myths about greyhounds. 
 

1.)  Greyhound tracks are terrible places.  Tracks and kennels get a bad rap due to lack of knowledge about the racing industry.  There are state regulations as well as individual track regulations for greyhound racing.  These regulations are in place to ensure the integrity of racing and the welfare of the dog.

I think of the racing kennels and tracks as a military school; the dog goes there to learn a trade and is supported throughout its career by a team of people who have dedicated their lives to the breed.  As the dog ages it inevitably slows down, cue the adoption kennels. 

 After a dog is hurt or has graded off she is sent to an adoption group.  While in the adoption group she has a health check, is spaded or neutered, and is placed.  In the US greyhound adoption is skyrocketing.  There are some locations in the country that have waiting list for greyhounds.  This excitement about adoption is attributable to the effortless work of kennels and adoption groups. 
 
2.) You must have to exercise that dog all the time!  Yes, greyhounds love to run.  Please come and look at my grassless back yard and you will see that greyhounds LOVE to run and nothing can stop that love. 
 
Their love of running doesn’t equate to a need for intense exercise.  Greyhounds are sprinters.  They accelerate quickly but this is not sustained for long periods.  Greyhounds are perfectly happy with a nice daily walk and do not need a lot more exercise. 
 
 
 
If you want to participate in any dog sports with your greyhound, I would recommend additional exercise.  You will have to gradually work the dog up to longer periods of exercise, as they are not used to long endurance intervals. 
 
3.) I bet those greyhounds eat you out of house and home.  Depending on your feed it can vary greatly.  At the track greyhounds are fed a mixture of raw and usually a good quality kibble.  Once these dogs enter the adoption kennel they are switched to a kibble and most continue on kibble.  As with all mammals, greys have some GI issues and certain feeds can exacerbate this for certain hounds.  Probiotics are important to maintain a healthy system.  I can’t average the cost of feeding a grey; it depends on the size and sex of the hound and the type of feed they are getting.  The most important thing to remember is to keep the hound within 3-5lbs of their racing weight or at their racing weight.  Greyhounds are skinny we should not be trying to fatten them up!
 
 
 
4.) I bet those dogs can’t live with a cat or small dog.  It’s true, greyhounds love to chase things.  Honestly all dogs love to chase but there is something special about watching a greyhound chase.  Sometimes greyhounds mistake small fuzzy animals for a lure.  This can be an issue when a grey has a strong prey drive.  The good news is that most adoption groups test the dogs with smaller dogs and cats prior to adoption so that the adopter understands how the new dog will fit it their home.  There are plenty of greyhounds that co-habitate with small dogs and cats without issue, but please check with your adoption group before bringing your greyhound home.  Supervision between these interactions is needed until stable relationships are formed in the home. 
 
 
  

 

5.) Greyhounds don’t bark.  Overall greyhounds are rather calm quite dogs but yes, they do bark and sometimes they will even sing.  Most greyhound owners find this trait charming and even encourage it, I know we do at our house.  

 
 
6.) Greyhounds can’t sit. Of course my greyhounds can sit.  Sitting is not the most comfortable position for most greyhounds and sometimes they appear a little odd while sitting but most can sit.  Some hounds are natural sitters and seem to enjoy the position while others are not.  Sitting is a great command for your grey to learn and is easily taught.
 
 
Myths busted!  Greyhounds are truly dogs and enjoy doing dog things.  The important thing to remember is that there is something special about this breed, something much better than any other breed can offer!
Feature photo credit: Trent Rees