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.

The Fovea has it

Science really gets me excited.  What is most exciting is when something new is discovered.  This could be a new treatment, new technology, or revisiting of a previously thought notion or idea.

Eyes are one of the coolest organs in the body.  They are windows to the brain and some would say to the soul.  In humans the vital sign of the eye is visual acuity—you know, when you have to cover one eye and read the eye chart.  20/20 vision means that you see the same as a normal eye would see at 20 feet.  20/100 vision means that you see what a normal eye would see at 100 feet.  As you might imagine it’s much more difficult to test the visual acuity of a dog’s eye—they can’t tell us what they see.  Due to this, some scientists believe that the visual acuity of the dog has been underestimated.

We know that dogs see differently than humans do.  For many years we have known that dogs can see much better in low light than us; they have rapid vision that allows them to detect rapid changes in the light, and, due to the placement of their eyes in their skulls, they have wider visual fields than we do (Miller & Murphy, 1995).

All of these qualities aid the dog, a predator, in its ability to hunt.  However, the acuity at which the dog can focus was thought to be diminished, as the dog is known to lack a fovea (Miller & Murphy, 1995).  Fovea centralis (fovea) is a structure in the human eye.  The fovea is a depression within the retina that contains a large number of densely packed cones type cells that are responsible for visual acuity (Beltran et al., 2014).

For years scientists have felt that the dog’s visual streak was responsible for their visual acuity.  The visual streak is an area in the retina with increased amounts of photosensitive retinal ganglionic cells and cone cells (Miller & Murphy, 1995).  However, in 2014 things changed.

In 2014 the canine retina was evaluated with in vivo (in life) and ex vivo (in death) imaging (Beltran et al., 2014).  The researchers found an area in the retina very similar to a non-human primate fovea, which they deemed the area centralis.  This area was tiny but full of densely packed cone cells (Beltran et al., 2014).  This area was not a fovea-like depression but was very similar from a histologic standpoint to what is seen in the center of the human fovea, the foveola (Beltran et al., 2014).

You may be asking why is she so excited about this? This information is incredibly important.  This indicates that a dog’s visual acuity is actually better than previously thought.  The visual acuity of a dog was thought to be about 20/50 (Miller & Murphy, 1995).  Based on the findings in this study, the visual acuity of the dog would be between 20/24 and 20/13 (Beltran et al., 2014).  That means that dogs could be able to see at 20 feet what a normal eye would see at 13 feet!

The canine eye is an important structure for multiple reasons.  For our Greyhounds the eye is important for racing, lure coursing, coursing, hunting, fetching, running through agility obstacles, and their everyday lives.  Just imagine having better than perfect vision and then adding a wider visual field, the ability to detect rapid changes in light, and the ability to see in low light—I would be overwhelmed with that much stimuli going through my brain all the time!  Dogs are complex animals and the more we learn about them the more I amazed by all they do!

Beltran, W. A., Cideciyan, A. V., Guziewicz, K. E., Iwabe, S., Swider, M., Scott, E. M., Aguirre, G. D. (2014). Canine retina has a primate fovea-like bouquet of cone photoreceptors which is affected by inherited macular degenerations. PLoS One, 9(3), e90390. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0090390
Miller, P. E., & Murphy, C. J. (1995). Vision in dogs. J Am Vet Med Assoc, 207(12), 1623-1634.

 

 

Do Greyhounds think like us?

Have you ever wondered what makes a Greyhound happy?  Or even if your Greyhound experiences any emotion like we do?

I have.  Jethro recently had a spontaneous injury to his back.  He was paralyzed from the pelvis down.  We were lucky and he was able to have surgery to fix the issue.  He is getting better but he still has a long road ahead of him.

Jethro is a high-strung Greyhound that does not like to be still; he has “extra personality.”  He has been miserable while he has been sick.  He whines and seems listless.  He is only happy when he is eating, outside, cuddled up to Clint or me, or playing nose work.  We have ben playing a lot of games and that has made this experience better for the both of us.  Jethro may be the best trained of the bunch at this moment!

This experience made me think about the emotions dogs may feel.  I wondered how Jethro’s brain was processing his condition.  This experience made me want to know more about dog cognition.

Dog cognition is an up-and-coming field.  There are several centers around the U.S.  studying dogs.  We have learned that dogs are special compared to other animals.  Dogs are able to learn our cues even better than chimps and other non-human primates.

I was shocked that a dog could understand what I want him to do more quickly than a non-human primate.  A study published in Interactions Studies in 2009 looked at New Guinea Signing Dog (NGSD), along with four breeds of dogs registered with kennel clubs—the the Siberian Huskie, the German Shepherd Dog (GSD), the Toy Poodle, and the Basenji (Wobber, Hare, Koler-Matznick, Wrangham, & Tomasello, 2009).  The researchers tested three types of cues on these dogs—they set out two bowls of food, the first cue was pointing and turning toward one bowl, the second was handling a block and then setting it in front of a bowl, and the third was covering the dogs’ eyes and sitting the block in front of one bowl (Wobber et al., 2009).  In experiments with the NGSG and the kennel club dogs both reacted to these cues (Wobber et al., 2009).  This is incredibly interesting, as wolves do not do this (Hare, Brown, Williamson, & Tomasello, 2002; Virányi et al., 2008).  Furthermore, the NGSD is a breed that has had very little human involvement in their breeding and they still picked up on these cues similarly to the pure breed kennel dogs (Wobber et al., 2009).

This does not prove that dogs experience emotions as we do, but it does show that dogs are very in tune with humans.  They are paying attention to us and respond accordingly.  For instance, when I get my camera case out, my Greyhounds know we are about to go run.  Dogs pay attention to what we do.

There continues to be a lot of research focused on the dog’s cognitive system.  Hopefully someone will eventually be able to answer our question about the emotions our Greyhounds feel or don’t feel.

For now we have to do our best to not anthropomorphize our Greyhounds.  We understand that they are in tune with us but do not necessarily feel what we perceive that they feel.  We have to remember they are dogs and sometimes what makes them happiest is a nice run in a field, a good beef neck bone, an ear rub, or a nice game of nose- work!

 

Hare, B., Brown, M., Williamson, C., & Tomasello, M. (2002). The domestication of social cognition in dogs. Science, 298(5598), 1634-1636. doi:10.1126/science.1072702
Virányi, Z., Gácsi, M., Kubinyi, E., Topál, J., Belényi, B., Ujfalussy, D., & Miklósi, A. (2008). Comprehension of human pointing gestures in young human-reared wolves (Canis lupus) and dogs (Canis familiaris). Anim Cogn, 11(3), 373-387. doi:10.1007/s10071-007-0127-y
Wobber, V., Hare, B., Koler-Matznick, J., Wrangham, R., & Tomasello, M. (2009). Breed differences in domestic dogs’(Canis familiaris) comprehension of human communicative signals (Vol. 10:2, pp. 206-224). Interaction Studies: John Benjamins Publishing Company

 

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: 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

 

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 Performance Matters: A Simple History of Greyhound Coursing

Feature image from The Greyhound & the Hare

 

For many years it was thought that the Greyhound originated in Egypt and the Middle East.  However, there were written accounts in the 1800’s stating that the Greyhounds originated from Celtic lands.  In 2004 this was proven.  The paper titled “The Genetic Structure of the Purebred dog” evaluated the molecular structure and differences in 85 breeds of dog.  This study proved that the Greyhound, along with the Borzoi, Irish wolfhound, and other herding breeds, were of European descent and in fact were genetically different from the African and Middle Eastern sighthounds.

There are accounts of the Greyhound noted throughout British history.  In Shakespeare’s play King Henry V, Shakespeare uses the Greyhound in the King’s monologues prior to battle.  Henry V said to his men, “I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips, straining upon the start. The game’s afoot.”  Shakespeare compared Henry V’s armies to Greyhounds because he knew the keenness, tenacity, and passion of the Greyhound.

The Tudor family was also fond of the Greyhound.  Henry the VII’s coat of arms included both a red dragon as well as a white Greyhound.  Henry the VIII had a great love of coursing, then called hunting.  It is noted that he converted some of his land into a course and it was used by two coursing societies.  However, that land has now been repurposed into a golf course.

From The Greyhound & the Hare

In the sixteenth century Queen Elizabeth I and Lord Norfolk developed the first coursing rules, “The laws of the leash.” These rules formalized the rules for coursing, focusing on the scoring of the Greyhound’s performance, rules for the slipper, and the handling of the hare.

Coursing focuses on the Greyhound’s greatest skill, the speediness of the chase.  More points are awarded to the Greyhound for speed and ability to pass another Greyhound than actually taking-out the hare.

Throughout the Tudor reign, the Forest Laws were in effect; these laws were established in the middle ages and strictly enforced by William the Conqueror.  People and dogs caught breaking these laws were mutilated and often times killed.

Coursing continued to be a sport of the nobles, waxing and waning in popularity throughout the reigns of Charles I and II.  During the reign of George the III, in the eighteenth century, coursing no longer was a private sport for the nobles but a sport for gentlemen.  Most of the participants coursed either Greyhounds or Whippets and made wagers on their hounds.

In 1776 The Lord of Orford in Swaffham, England created the first coursing club.  The original “laws of the leash” created by Lord Norfolk were still in effect and used.  Interest in coursing grew and more and more clubs originated.

From The Greyhound & the Hare

 

By the time of the industrial revolution, more people had free time and money to participate in hobby sports.  Coursing was also much cheaper than foxhunting.  Greyhounds and Greyhound coursing took off. Participants of the sport realized that if they had a winning hound there was additional income for breeding and selling puppies.  While these breedings were documented within the kennels, there was not an official Greyhound stud-book until 1882.

So why is this a big deal?  Coursing gave us the modern day Greyhound. The competition of coursing created a well-engineered dog that was thrilling to watch and fast.  The history of our beloved Greyhound gives us more insight into why people continued to breed Greyhounds and created the Greyhound that lives with us today.

There is still more to the story.  With the invention of the mechanical lure Greyhound Racing was created.  I will talk about racing in part two of this series, stay tuned!

 

Sources:

Alchin, L.K., Elizabethan Era. e.g. Retrieved December 3rd, 2016 from www.elizabethan-era.org.uk
Parker, H. G., Kim, L. V., Sutter, N. B., Carlson, S., Lorentzen, T. D., Malek, T. B., … & Kruglyak, L. (2004). Genetic structure of the purebred domestic dog. science304(5674), 1160-1164.
Shakespeare, William. King Henry V. Retrieved December 14th, 2016 from http://shakespeare.mit.edu/henryv/henryv.3.1.html
Winters, Jane. Early English Laws: Forest Laws. Retrieved December 3rd, 2016 from http://www.earlyenglishlaws.ac.uk/reference/essays/forest-law/

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

What it means to adopt a greyhound

Every American Thanksgiving the American Kennel Club has its national dog show.  The Best in Show (BIS) dog gets tons of advertising and often times many people throughout the country are exposed to a dog that is “beautiful”.  This advertising causes an increase in desire for the BIS dog breed.  This year the BIS went to Gia the greyhound.  Gia is an AKC greyhound that has never competed in amateur running sports a day in her life as she was bred for the ring only.  She is not the typical body type of the NGA greyhound or retired racer.  She is an exaggerated form of the AKC breed standard for Greyhounds. Nonetheless, she is advertising for the greyhound breed and her handler gave serious prompts to the greyhound as a great living companion or pet.
 
Since Gia won BIS there have been several articles published talking about why to add a greyhound to your household, and I have taken issue with some of this; they encouraged me to write this post!  None of these articles captured what adding a greyhound to your home truly means.
 
Many articles spoke about the traits of greyhounds and what the greyhound can and cannot do.  These articles also suggested what is needed to provide one of the fastest land mammals a perfect home (I am not sure there is a perfect home).
 
I disagree with most of this.
 
These writers have completed some research or googling of the greyhound but are missing one important piece of the puzzle:  they have never owned a greyhound.
 
While I was pondering the characteristics of a retired racing greyhound and what I would tell a potential adopter about the breed, I asked my husband, a non-dog-person but a greyhound aficionado that I would trust any greyhound decision to, what makes a retired racer special? Without a moment’s pause, he said “heart.”
 
Retired racers are raised to have “heart”.  By “heart” I mean passion.  They are raised to chase with all their “heart”, hang-out with their kennel mates with all their “heart”, and love their people/trainers with all their “heart”. Everything a greyhound does is with all their “heart”.  Greyhounds are independent dogs that do not need human affirmation like many other dogs.  Greyhounds choose their humans and they do it with all their “heart”.
 

After Gia’s win if you decide to adopt a greyhound, make sure that you know you are not just getting a thin skinned dog that doesn’t bark, but a dog that has “heart”. You’re getting a dog that has been loved by trainers, a dog that loves to chase, a dog that loves to live and lives her life to the fullest, and a dog that inspires you to be a better human.  My friends, greyhounds are more than any dog, more special than anything in the world, and able to give more than their all, as they give their “heart” in all they do.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Greyhound Teeth and Gums

 A few weeks ago I wrote an article on greyhound digestion.  We learned that greyhounds rely on the crushing power of their molars to break down food, as they lack the enzymes needed to begin carbohydrate break down in their mouths. 

Due to this, dogs’ teeth are important to their overall health.  Greyhounds are known for their bad teeth.  Today, I want to discuss the greyhound’s teeth and gums, how gingivitis occurs, and then how to get your greyhounds mouth into tip-top-shape!

If you have even been around a greyhound puppy, you know why they are called “land-sharks.  They have super fine sharp teeth that will cut through skin and bring you to your knees.  Thankfully at about six months these 28 extremely sharp weapons fall out and replaced by 42 permanent adult teeth.  Dogs have four types of teeth: canines, incisors, premolars, and molars.  The canines are responsible for ripping or tearing flesh and the molars are responsible for crushing.  These adult teeth lack in sharpness but are efficient at bringing down quarry and enable the greyhound to tear through bone and muscle. 

Just as the adult teeth need to be strong to function, they also depend on strong gums for support.  Gums are tissues in the mouth that are covered with oral mucosa.  Gums help keep the teeth aligned and supported.  If the gums are not healthy the teeth cannot be healthy either. 

So why do greyhounds have such “bad” teeth?  There are several hypotheses but no clear answer at this time.  The national greyhound adoption program (NGAP) blames this on a raw diet fed at the kennels; however, I disagree.  A raw diet with meaty bones should promote good dental care.  Some feel that there is a lack of concern about teeth in the greyhound industry and point out that there is only a half page on tooth care in the greyhound bible AKA Care of the Racing Greyhound: A Guide for Trainers, Breeders, and Veterinarians.   I am not sure that this is that accurate either, as tooth brushing is not difficult and could be covered quickly.  The cause of bad teeth could be debated all day and a clear answer may not surface.  Let move on to how tooth decay and gingivitis occur and how to prevent this.

Dogs have bacteria in their mouths, and certain bacteria are part of their normal flora (friendly bacteria).  They also get bacteria in their mouths from eating, licking, chewing, and doing dog things.  These bacteria stick to the teeth.  If these bacteria are not removed from the teeth they cause irritation to the gums.  This is called gingivitis.  Most likely your hounds have gingivitis if their gums bleed with brushing.  This is commonly seen early in an oral care program.  Regular teeth brushing and chewing can reverse this.  If these bacteria are not removed they will continue to build up on the teeth.  This build-up of bacteria (tarter) will weaken the enamel of the teeth causing decay.  This build-up of tarter can also affect the bone under the gum supporting the tooth if not removed.  Once the bones supporting the teeth are affected the dog has periodontitis.  This is not reversible and can cause tooth loss if not stopped.  

The importance of the teeth and gums are paramount.  Teeth not only support our nutritional needs, but if they are diseased, they create an entryway for bacterial to enter into the blood stream and potentially cause life-threatening infections.  

How do we prevent this from happening to our best friends?  Number one most important thing is brush their teeth.  I admit that I am not the best at daily brushing, but after writing about the horrors of periodontitis I can promise you there will be daily brushing in our house!  The second thing is to feed raw bones.  Raw bones are irritants to built-up tarter on the teeth.  The grinding of the bone helps to remove the tarter on the molars as you can see in the photo above.  Please, do not feed cooked bones, as they can be extremely harmful to dogs.  The cooking of bone denatures the proteins and causes splintering of the bone when chewing.  Finally, encourage chewing!  I love planet dog toys.  The Orbee-Tuff line holds up to my aggressive chewers and the toys have a nice peppermint scent to help with bad breath.  

I hope that this article is helpful to you and your hound.  Below is a video of how we brush teeth.  Promoting clean teeth and gums is one of the best things you can do for your greyhound!