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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Favorite Things

Today I am going to take a break from my regular blog post. 

Once a month I am going to dedicate a post to a Greyhound-friendly product that I love.  I love to shop and have tried various products for my Greyhounds.  I hope that my experience will help when you are deciding on what toys, collars, beds, and other hound needs to purchase.    

If you have looked at the photos on this blog you know my Greyhounds love a good ball. 

Balls are fair game in our house. You leave some brand new tennis balls lying around and you are sure to come back to some slobbery fuzz-less balls.  Balls are king in our house for humans and hounds alike!

You may be thinking balls are a dime a dozen and there can’t be one ball better than all the rest.  Well, I disagree!

When I look for a ball I want something that can easily be held in a Greyhound’s mouth, not too heavy and has some give; Jethro likes to squeeze and pump the balls in his mouth.  The ball also needs to hold up against heavy use, chewing, be able to float, and can easily be cleaned. 

Hands down the best ball meeting the criteria above is the Planet Dog Orbee-Tuff Orbee ball.  This ball is shaped like a globe and the continents are elevated and textured which is fun for chewing.  I thought those elevated continents were going to be goners but we have had this ball for about two years and the continents are still intact.  This ball does have some give, comes in various sizes, and is not heavy.  Orbee-Tuff toys are non-toxic and recyclable.  They are made out of thermo plastic elastomer (TPE) and have Olefinic oil and Peppermint oil to soften the toy.  The Peppermint oil also makes the toy and your Greyhound’s breath smell fresh. 

This ball was a game changer.  I use it most often for fetch, but if I need the boys to be extra good I will give one each of them and they will play and occupy themselves for extended periods of time.   Darla is always extra good!

Hope you try out the Planet Dog Orbee-Tuff Orbee ball and let me know what you think!

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/