Epilepsy and a Normal Life

I love science. Most of all I like learning about the brain. I am interested in both the psychological and neurologic aspects of the brain. Because dogs learn so quickly and adapt to us I am very interested in applying my human neuroscience knowledge to my dogs. I relish seeing their minds work when I ask them to complete a task.

I became very involved in canine neurology, not by my choosing, a few years ago when Darla was diagnosed with a seizure disorder also known as epilepsy.

Epilepsy is a chronic condition and affects 2.2 million people in the U.S.(4) Working in a neurology practice I encountered patients with epilepsy. I understood the basics but epilepsy is not my passion.

I felt very frustrated when Darla had her first seizure—I knew that we were headed down a long and twisting road, not quite sure what could trigger her next event.

Seizures are caused by deregulation of neuronal activity—Just like our heart; the brain has an electrical circuit. When this circuit is disrupted it can become hyperactive causing deregulation of cellular signals and produce a seizure. This deregulation can be secondary in nature meaning that there is something in the brain causing these changes such as a lesion in the brain, irritation from blood (hemorrhage), increased pressure in the head, infectious, toxic, and metabolic causes. Most often we have no idea why a patient is having seizures and they are diagnosed with idiopathic epilepsy or primary epilepsy. The pathophysiologies of canine and human epilepsy are very similar. (2)

I remember the first night Darla had a seizure. She was in the living room lying on the sofa—her normal spot. About 2 AM I was awoken to a loud crash followed by repetitive banging. I jumped out of bed and ran to the noise. I found Darla in-between the sofa and the coffee table having a tonic-clonic or grand-mal seizure.

I am not sure what I felt at that time. I am sure that many other medical providers would agree with the following statement: you don’t feel, you do. I immediately moved the coffee table to keep her head from hitting it and I began to time the event. Her first seizure lasted about 70 seconds. She lost control of her bladder function and created a large amount of foamy saliva. Like most epileptics, Darla was out of it after her seizure. She had no memory of her name and she was very confused—she could barely put one foot in front of the other without falling.

I called the vet and they stated that she did not need to come in immediately as the seizure stopped and as long as her seizure did not last over 2 minutes and her temp remained normal her episode was not an emergency.

In the following days Darla continued to have more seizures—I was terrified that her food, treats, and certain activities were triggering her seizures. I was obsessed with figuring out triggers so I never had to see her suffer from these seizures again.

After Darla continued to have events I knew that she needed an intervention and my vet agreed. I knew that the antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) available to dogs at her time of diagnosis were not nearly as advanced as human drugs and these agents have terrible side effects. I hated to put Darla on one of those agents but I did not have a choice. You see, epilepsy is not just a chronic condition without a cure but it comes with risk of death. (1)  Darla had to receive treatment.

We tried phenobarbital and Darla did not do well with it. She was very lethargic and had some ataxia. I was talking with a training friend when she mentioned a herbal supplement that had been very helpful for other dogs. Fortunately the supplement worked well for Darla. She was able to gradually stop phenobarbital and was very well controlled for about two years on herbs with little to no adverse effects. I was so happy for her.

After having such a good run with herbals Darla deteriorated a few weeks ago. I had been out and came home to a flipped over crate and a post-ictal dog that was acting fruity. She had 4 more seizures over the next 24 hours, some at the vet’s office. While she was at the vet’s office she had one of her worst seizures. They were unable to stop it with Valium and she had to have phenobarbital. The phenobarbital worked to stop her seizures. When Clint picked her up she was so drugged and still post-ictal—she could barely walk.

My vet is really great. She knew that I was not interested in phenobarbital again as a daily treatment and was happy to prescribe us a newer AED. We landed on Keppra. Keppra is more expensive than phenobarbital. We were able to find a coupon that makes it very affordable. It also has to be dosed three times per day, which is hard, but we have a very good dog walker that can come in and give the afternoon dose if we are not home. Even though the dosing is hard to remember and it is an expensive drug we are so happy with how she is doing!

After about one month on Keppra, Darla is back to her fun-loving Sashi-biting self. At first she was a little ataxic but I am not sure it was due to the Keppra. The ataxia could have been from the large dose of Valium and phenobarbital she was given for seizure abortion, this cleared up about three days after she started the Keppra. She did have some loss of appetite at first but after about 2-3 weeks she was back on her food. Otherwise she has not had any issues. She does have to go back to the vet for blood work but so far so good!

I am so thankful that there are more drug options for Epileptic dogs and that because of these great medicines Epileptic dogs can live an exceptionally close to normal lives!

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Devinsky O, Hesdorffer DC, Thurman DJ, Lhatoo S, Richerson G. Sudden unexpected death in epilepsy: epidemiology, mechanisms, and prevention. Lancet Neurol 2016;15:1075–1088.
  2. Pitkänen A, Lukasiuk K. Molecular and cellular basis of epileptogenesis in symptomatic epilepsy. Epilepsy Behav 2009; 14 Suppl 1:16.
  3. Koestner, A. (1988). Neuropathology of canine epilepsy. Problems in veterinary medicine1(4), 516-534.
  4. Epilepsy Statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved May 17, 2017, from http://www.epilepsy.com/learn/epilepsy-statistics

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!

Why You Should Adopt a Greyhound

By now I hope you all have heard that April is Adopt a Greyhound Month. I have been racking my brain over what to post to best advertise for these amazing creatures. It’s hard to pick out one thing that sets the Greyhound apart from other dogs—they have so many lovely traits. But as I am sitting here typing with Darla’s head in my lap it came to me. 

Greyhounds get us. Greyhound-type dogs are one of the oldest dogs. They have lived with humans for thousands of years. Genetically speaking the Greyhound understands humans probably better than we understand our Greyhounds.

The fact that the Greyhound has been around humans for so long plays into why we are attracted to these dogs. I think that we cognitively recognize Greyhounds as the dog prototype. Due to our long years getting acquainted the physical aspects of the Greyhound they feel natural to us. Greyhounds are also good at following our cues making us feel like they truly understand. And who doesn’t desire to be understood—Darla gets me better than any human!

The ability of a Greyhound to place their head in your lap, you tussle their ears and they look up at you with innocent loving eyes speaks to our heartstrings. Couple these traits with their ability to co-exist well with other Greyhounds, easy upkeep, and temperament and you have the ultimate dog-living companion.

In addition to the Greyhound’s long history of living with humans they are also independent fearless dogs (generally speaking). I have posted on how difficult this independence can be when training but it is nice to have a dog that can entertain itself and not be constantly underfoot—unless you are making dinner, breakfast, a snack, lunch, or if the refrigerator door opens!

But don’t mistake their independence for being aloof. Greyhounds have a passion for life, their people, food, and for running. Greyhounds are passionate creatures. I love this passion. I love that I can fire up my Greyhound and he will prance like a pony, jump, and then do zoomies! There is nothing better!

Some folks think that Greyhound just lay around all day and I have to say that Greyhounds do enjoy lazy afternoon but most of all they enjoy showing off that big passionate heart. Just watch a Greyhound run in an open field; anyone can see the passion the Greyhound has for running and being in the countryside!

Video Credit: David Lowery

I wish everyone could experience how great it is to own a retired racer. These low maintenance dogs are all around amazing but when they are showing off their passion there is simply nothing sweeter on this planet!

I hope you consider adopting a Greyhound. If you are in the Atlanta area please check out Southeastern Greyhound Adoption, by clicking here.

A Day of Lure Coursing

 

Blogging can be a challenge. I get bloggers block and have trouble coming up with interesting Greyhound topics when this happens I turn to my husband for inspiration. He suggested a chronicle of a day in the country lure coursing. I thought that he was onto something. I hope that you all enjoy this post and folks who haven’t been to the field decide to come out for a day of fun in the country.

Lure coursing is a weekend event. On Friday night I begin packing the van. I feel more organized this way. To aid me in my OCD organization I bought plastic bins that are organized with first aid supplies, leashes, blankets, and other lure coursing accouterments. I have crates for all the Greyhound set up in my car. I have learned my lesson about having loose Greyhounds in the car after Jethro locked me out of the car and jumped out through the sunroof!

I leave my house with plenty of time to get to the field. I generally pick up breakfast as oftentimes I am very busy at the trial and have a hard time bringing myself to eat.

The trial begins with inspection and check-in usually around 9AM. At large trials like the International Invitational, inspection can start before the sun is up! This is when the inspection committee watches your Greyhound’s gait and checks for lameness. They also check the bitches to make sure that they are not in season.

Photo Credit: Cindy Frezon

After inspection, the field secretary completes the “draw” or the running order of the hounds. This is a blinded draw of the coursing hounds with a separate draw for each stake, open, field champions, and veterans.

While the draw is going on I usually walk my hounds. It is important to let your hound poop and pee prior to running—just ask Sashi – when nature calls, it calls.   I also like to stretch the hounds and warm them up, and the walk helps with this.

After the draw is posted the trial begins to get underway. I take a photo of the running order because I will forget—it is not fun to be at the line in the wrong blanket! I then head back to the van to get the hounds ready for their run. If the hounds are running on continuous loop I will wrap vetrap around the Greyhounds’ legs up to their stopper pad to prevent line burn. Also, if the ground is hard and dry I will tape their pads with elastikon to prevent a blown pad. When it is our turn I head to the line with my hounds in a slip lead and regular lead. I get in position, holding the slip lead with my right hand and place my left hand under the Greyhound’s tuck. Some people do not like to hold a Greyhound under the tuck but I find that it gives me more control of the dog. The lure starts to move and the Greyhounds lose their minds! The hounds are not released until the hunt-master says “Tally-Ho” when the lure is far enough in front of the dogs.

Photo Credit: Cindy Frezon

I let the Greyhound go as soon as I hear “Tally-Ho.” Then I get to watch my most favorite thing: a big beautiful Greyhound doing what they are best at, chasing.

The Greyhounds are moving so fast it seems that the entire course only lasts seconds.

Once the Greyhounds are back at the line, I grab mine and hurry back to my van to remove any tape or vetrap and check them for any lameness or tenderness. Once the vetrap is removed I use a pressurized sprayer with water to rinse out their nail beds. When dogs run on turf they can get a build-up of debris in their nail beds. This can be painful and a potential cause for infection. If there is a little blood in the nail bed, that is okay and it should be cleaned with the sprayer. I do not give water at this time. After they appear to be sound I walk them until their breathing becomes more normal and they are able to close their mouths. Then give them a small amount of water.

Photo Credit: Cindy Frezon

After all the dogs have ran in prelims the entire process is repeated, generally after lunch, which gives a nice break for the hounds. Once all dogs have run twice, the top hounds will run for best of breed. After best of breed is completed, all the breed winners are able to run for best in field.

Once all the running has been completed, awards are given out and photos of the winners are taken. Most often the placing dogs will get a toy (my hounds are very pleased with this).

After socializing with friends and some photos, we pack it up, head home, ready to repeat the following day.

 

Feature image credit: Cindy Frezon

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.

 

Yes, I own a racing Greyhound and no she isn’t a rescue

Am I the only Greyhound owner who gets annoyed when asked if my Greyhound was rescued?  It really gets under my skin and it seems to happen far too often.  The other day we were buying dog food and I was asked if my Greyhound was “rescued.”  I was in a particularly rotten mood and my husband elbowed me as to say “please do not unleash your bad mood on this poor kid.”  I put my bad mood aside and replied, “No, they were not rescued and yes they are racing Greyhounds.”  The kid looked perplexed but continued to bag our goods and not ask for more clarification.

I feel continually frustrated about the misinformation that makes its way into the mainstream.  It seems like the anti-racing (AR) propaganda penetrates so deeply that it has affected many people, even people who own Greyhounds.

This past week I read two articles in two different papers in North America stating complete inaccuracies about Greyhound racing and the lives of racing Greyhounds.  By no means am I saying there are no failings in the Greyhound racing industry and that it is perfect.  However, I feel that the vast majority of people working in the Greyhound racing industry love Greyhounds and respect the breed for what it is: a functional, fast, exceptional hound.

If you are into Greyhound adoption and have not visited a track, you’re missing out.  I am lucky to be a part of a Greyhound Adoption group that arranges yearly visits to racing kennels and tracks encouraging adopters to see what life was like for their Greyhound before adoption.

It is important to be thoughtful about our opinions, and knowing the details of both sides is important to understand the entirety of a subject.   Unfortunately, it seems that most of the AR supporters cannot see past outdated reports of abuse and neglect to see the positive changes in Greyhound racing today. It oftentimes seems overwhelming to educate the general public and some Greyhound enthusiasts that racing Greyhounds are loved, well exercised, well fed and happy in their professional careers.

There are certain ideas created and propagated by the AR machine about retired racing Greyhounds that have invaded mainstream Greyhound adoption.  One idea is that skittish dogs were abused throughout their professional careers.  This idea is complete rubbish.  First off, by now we all know that negative training is not successful.  Why would someone spend thousands of dollars on a dog that could create revenue and abuse it, thus diminishing their chances of success? Complete insanity.  Furthermore, dogs have different personalities just like us.  I have raised a fair number of terrier pups and for the most part they are fearless dogs, but I have seen dogs be gun shy or timid with no external cause for them to demonstrate that behavior.  Skittish Greyhounds are most likely that way do to nature not nurture.

Another idea that makes me nuts is the raw meat myth.  Feeding raw meat is not a bad thing!  Dogs are predators and they are made to eat raw meat.  Now, let’s talk about non-human grade meat.  The labeling of meat is not just based on the quality of the product but also the facility it is made it.  Lots meat packing facilities have quality products but have not obtained certification from the USDA to mark their product as “human grade.”  Most pet foods are not made for human consumption, as the regulations and certification for this labeling would be very expensive, increasing the cost of pet food.  It’s just not a logical business move. Thus, the non-human grade meat myth should be a moot point from now on.

Opinions and facts are not the same; however, opinions create gut responses and bias.  When dredging through the misinformation about Greyhound racing it is important to push our bias aside and get at the truth.  I support Greyhound racing for many reasons and as I have seen and learned more about the industry my support grows.  I hope that this article encourages you to reinvestigate your feelings about Greyhound racing immersing yourself in facts and not opinions.

 

 

 
 

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!

Collars: To Martingale or not to Martingale

Besides poop-bags, the other most commonly used product for the greyhound is a collar.  When you adopt your greyhound most likely they will be equipped with a muzzle and a martingale collar. 

When I got my first greyhound I read a lot about the martingale collar.  Everyone seemed to recommend this as greyhounds have skinny necks and can “back out of their collars.”  What I was not clear on was that martingale collars should only be used for training or walking.

Unfortunately I found this out the hard way.  One day Jethro and Darla were playing.  They both had on martingale collars.  Something happened and Jethro got Darla’s collar wrapped around his mouth.  He was struggling to free himself and choking Darla in the process.  Both Greyhounds were squealing and I was freaking out.  I knew I had to act quickly.  The saving grace was that Darla’s collar was too big and by a miracle I was able to pull Jethro close enough to Darla to give the collar some slack and pull it over her head.  Darla and Jethro were OK; however, this could have ended in disaster if I had not been right there.  I vowed only to use a Martingale collars while training.

Greyhounds can be flight risks and per their adoption agreement they need collars on all the time.  I was frustrated with what I was going to do. 

I first ordered leather fishtail collars.  These collars are beautiful and I love to see Greyhounds sporting these collars, as they look so regal.  Overall they are very effective but there was one drawback.  My hounds are quite rambunctious and they have been known to take a notion to jump in the pool with a collar on.  Their leather collars were quite worn at about a year.  Sashi has been banned from leather.  He chewed through one collar and did some damage to another.  There had to be a better product.

One day I was watching a Greyhound race and noticed that the Greyhounds were being walked to the starting box with plastic buckle collars. I found Gun Dog Supply online and ordered a TufFlex collar for Sashi.  These collars also included a brass nameplate that is riveted to the collar.  They gave off a plastic smell when I first opened the package, but it dissipated overnight.

I love love love these TufFlex collars.  Now all three Greyhounds wear these collars.  They are easy to clean, pick up no odor from the dogs, and fit incredibly well.  My Greyhounds cannot back out of these collars as long as they are adjusted in the correct position.  I have been using these collars for about one year and can’t say anything negative about them. 

However, for most Greyhounds the safest walking collar is a martingale.  If you are concerned that you will forget to take it on and off, I highly recommend buying a martingale with a buckle.  I have used these collars in the past and they are effective but get dirty quickly–or maybe Sashi just gets dirty quickly!

 

I hope that one of these collar options suits you and your Greyhound!

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