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GREYHOUND ADOPTION MYTHS
Those of us who have worked in greyhound adoption or just own these dogs hear some of the craziest stories when we're out and about with our dogs. From people who don't really know anything about the dogs or racing and think they know it all. Well, all they know is what someone has told them and the person who told them only knows what someone told THEM. Round and round these myths go, like the 'whispering game' played by children, becoming more exaggerated with each turn, rumor becoming 'fact.' And some becoming so ridiculous we have to laugh at them. The "linoleum torture" is probably the best example.
So, without further ado, herewith are presented just a few of the more popular myths about these beautiful animals and the people who race them:
The linoleum torture: "Greyhounds are punished by making them walk on linoleum or other slippery floors; that's why they're so afraid of them."
Greyhounds have small feet for their size and these floors ARE slippery. They've spent their first few years without having to walk on anything like it and they're not comfortable doing it once they've moved into a home. They seem to be able to overcome that fear when it comes time to go into the kitchen for dinner, though.
The starved racers: "Greyhounds must be starved to be so thin."
Greyhounds are thin due to genetics. They have been bred for speed for over 8,000 years and fat does absolutely nothing for athletic prowess. Is Carl Lewis starved? No, like all runners, he and greyhounds have very little body fat and a lot of muscle. Would a starvation diet give a dog more energy? Not hardly. The kennel diet is very similar to what any athlete eats: meat, vegetables, pasta, rice and vitamin supplements. A healthy retired racer will weigh only about five pounds over his racing weight.
Steroids: "Greyhounds are given unhealthy doses of anabolic steroids to make them faster."
Anabolic steroids cause weight gain and racing greyhounds have to be kept within a few pounds of their 'set' weight, established at the beginning of their racing careers. Too much variance and they get scratched from the race which doesn't do much for the trainer's budget. Besides, urine tests are conducted before or after each race and any drugs found, including those intended to mask the presence of enhancement drugs, would disqualify the dog. For some reason people seem to equate "hormones" to steroids. Female greyhounds are given hormones to keep them from going into heat (for obvious reasons) much like women take birth control pills to prevent pregnancy. Does this mean women are on steroids?
The crate: "Greyhounds are kept in small crates, unable to move. Their backs are so curved because they're deformed from cramped quarters."
If a racing greyhound were to be crammed into a crate so small he couldn't move around his muscles would stiffen and he couldn't run anymore. Why would someone who makes a living by having his or her dogs win want to do that? And their backs are curved due to genetics. If you watch greyhounds in full stride you can see their back feet reach almost to their heads; the long, powerful stride gives them more speed. Blame the Pharaohs. They bred them to chase game. And if you want to see a greyhound with a REALLY curved spine, take a look at one of the AKC variety - that's never been in a crate.
The crate, two: "Greyhounds are crated almost 24 hours a day and are only let out to race."
At the kennels greyhounds are let outside to relieve themselves and play for about a half hour, four to six times a day. And think about it: dogs are basically lounging animals. Once they reach maturity pet dogs spend the vast majority of their time lying around the house. A greyhound's crate is his bed.
No human attention: "Racing greyhounds are deprived of human contact."
From almost the moment they're born greyhounds are handled by their owners and later their trainers. They have to be used to being handled or they won't cooperate with their trainers and handlers. If you can't get the dog to the starting box the dog can't win a race.
Trained to run: "Greyhounds are forced to race."
Greyhounds LOVE to run and even as little pups they race with their littermates for the fun of it. Like any other breed of dog they don't need to be taught how to run. The only difference is these particular dogs are a lot faster than the others.
Live bait: "Greyhounds are trained using live rabbits."
Live lure training is illegal in 49 states and any trainer caught using live lures is banned from racing. And who would teach the rabbit to run around a track?
Abuse: "Greyhounds are forced to race with injuries."
How likely would it be that an injured dog would win? Isn't winning the whole idea? Would Ken Griffey play center field with a sprained ankle or a broken leg? Some people actually believe greyhounds are forced to race with broken legs - ridiculous! The track vet wouldn't allow it anyway.
Abuse, two: "Greyhounds bear scars from abusive trainers, including cigarette burns."
Greyhound puppies play as rough and tumble as any other breed but they have very thin skin, with little hair to protect them, so they get scraped up more than most dogs. And when they race the dogs are in close competition and bump into each other frequently; another dog's muzzle or toenail can leave a scratch and with so little hair every scar shows. How many scars does your neighbor's golden retriever have under all that hair?
The cattle prod: "Greyhounds are zapped with cattle prods if they sit down in the starting box before a race."
Greyhounds aren't comfortable sitting to start with and when they're in the box they're so excited that's the last thing they're about to do. Besides, if someone shocked them with a cattle prod they'd then be afraid to even step into the box.
Fixing races: "To alter the odds trainers sandpaper a fast dog's pads so they'll be tender and he won't run as fast."
If you took sandpaper to a dog's feet they'd be so tender he wouldn't even walk to the starting box. For probably a week. If you did it to make them smoother and cut down on traction that would be a waste of time; they run on sand all the time - they're already smooth.
The end of a career means the end of a life: "All or most greyhounds are put to sleep once they're done racing."
When a person comes into a pet store where an adoption group is showing retired racers and says this you point to the dog she's petting and ask: "Does this dog look dead to you? Or that one there?" The majority of retired racers are placed in homes by adoption groups, some are privately placed by their owners and some go back to the farm for breeding.
"50,000 (or 100,000, depending on who's talking) greyhounds are put down annually because they don't win."
First of all, fewer than 30,000 greyhounds are registered each year, a little more than 80% of those whelped. Second, for the approximately 50 tracks in the US to fill their race cards they need about 50,000 dogs actively racing. It takes the equivalent of nearly two full years' of pups born to fill the needs of the tracks so simple arithmetic will tell you that if the racing industry put down 50,000 dogs a year they wouldn't be in business anymore. There wouldn't BE any greyhounds.
Cats: "Greyhounds are not safe with cats."
A picture is worth a thousand words.
Hyper: "Greyhounds are hyperactive."
A picture is worth two thousand words.