Showing posts with label lincolnshire greyhound trust. Show all posts
Showing posts with label lincolnshire greyhound trust. Show all posts

21 December 2012

A Greyhound's Christmas Wish

Image: Greyhound wearing reindeer antlers
Stevie's Christmas Wish
© Susan McKeon, All rights reserved

I was playing about on photoshop with a photo of Stevie and it struck me that many a greyhound's wish this Christmas, would be to find a forever home, which is why I came up with my recipe for a 'pawfect' Christmas (if you can't read the 'recipe' in the picture, here it is below):

The recipe for a 'greyt' Christmas
Take a greyhound (or 2, or more)
Add a sprinkling of reindeer dust
Place into a forever home
Allow to settle in
Look forward to a lifetime of love

As anyone who reads my blog will know I'm a greyhound nut. After being dog-less for most of my life, I fell in love with the breed seven years ago and after giving Mina a home, went on to give two more greyhounds - Stevie & Jasper - their forever homes.  I'd love more greyhounds but we'd need to sell the car for a van, buy a bigger house and I suspect, if I did sneak one home, I'd need a new husband!

Greyhounds make 'greyt' pets

Each year in the UK around 8-10,000 greyhounds retire from racing.  There are a number of charities that rehome greyhounds including the Retired Greyhound Trust (RGT), Greyhound Rescue West of England (GRWE), Lincolnshire Greyhound Trust (LGT), Greyhound GAP and all of them do a marvellous job. However, there are many greyhounds in rescue kennels and rehoming charities this Christmas who are still searching for a home to call their own.

This post is an unashamed plug to highlight the 'greyt' companions that greyhounds make, after racing.  There are so many myths about this noble breed that often put people off adopting them, so with Stevie, Jasper & Mina in mind (along with all the greyhounds currently looking for homes), I hope to bust some of those myths & encourage you to think about adopting a greyhound...

Common myths about greyhounds

1.    They must needs lots of exercise
Err, no! Greyhounds are bred for short bursts of speed not stamina. Most are happy with two 20 minute walks a day, which means they're often suited to homes that may not have the time for very long walks each day.  They can walk for longer but their stamina should be built up before embarking on a lengthy walk.

2.    You can never let them off lead
Whilst it's true that greyhounds have been bred and trained to chase, it's not true to say that they can NEVER be let off a lead.
Like any dog, training a reliable recall takes time and every dog is different. Some greyhounds may struggle with recall but many can learn it (check out Mina's video below).

However, it is always better to err on the side of caution. If you haven't trained a recall - DON'T let your greyhound off the lead and expect them to come back when you call them!  Also, if you've not worked on impulse control, you'll find it difficult (if not nigh on impossible) to call a greyhound back to you when they're in chase mode.

3.    They can't live with cats or other small 'furries'
Really?!? Someone better tell that to my 3 hounds!  In all seriousness though, not ALL greyhounds are suited to living with cats or other small furries.  For some the chase instinct is so strong that it would be dangerous to place them in a home with another small furry.

All rescue/rehoming centres can advise you whether a greyhound is cat-friendly, cat-trainable or can't live with cats.Many greyhounds, with careful training, can adjust to life with cats, chickens and even rabbits!

4.    They must be aggressive as they wear muzzles
Again, this is another misplaced myth. Greyhounds are generally one of the least aggressive breeds (Duffy et al, 2008*). Aggression and a successful racing dog don't mix.They wear muzzles in racing to prevent any potential injuries (their skin is quite delicate)

5.    They're picky eaters because they are always so thin
Most greyhounds have a good appetite and they're naturally slim dogs (you should be able to see the outline of the last 3 ribs). Some greyhounds may be picky eaters - but many breeds can be picky.

6.    You can't train a greyhound to do anything other than run
Whilst most greyhounds won't have been taught any voice cues or basic 'obedience' training during their racing careers, that doesn't mean that they are incapable of learning new behaviours post-racing.

Each of my three greyhounds are different in the way they learn and in their capabilities (just like us humans)...

Mina, sitting pretty on her wobble board
Mina is the one who seems to enjoy learning the most. She can sit, lay down, stand, wait (until released) and stay (until I go back to her).  She's had a go at agility (until her canine catastrophe ways meant she had to retire) and used her lovely long nose in scentwork.  She loves trick training and does a mean retrieve and recall.

Stevie & me in the Official
Ahimsa Dog Training Manual

Stevie is very food motivated (which helped with training). He was 'cat-trainable' when he arrived with us and I spent a lot of time working on his impulse control around food and then the cat.  For a dog that used to think nothing of snatching a treat out of your hand, we can now put treats on his paws and ask him to leave them (and he will) before we release him to eat them. Stevie came to us with great recall and like Mina, he's really taken to nose work.

Jasper the greyhound with Tula the cat
Jasper & Tula

Jasper is the 'hardest to reach' of all my three hounds and although I've learned something from each of them, Jasper is the one who has taught me the most. His recall is improving, he's got a good wait and has grasped targeting.  I've also introduced Jasper to nose-work and he loves it too.

Greyhounds competing in agility & obedience

If you'd like to see how successful greyhounds can be in doggy disciplines like agility or competitive obedience, you really need to check out the marvellous Never Say Never Greyhounds blog.  Jennifer and her greyhounds excel at agility and the blog is a 'must-read' for any greyhound fan.

Greyhounds in the home

Most greyhounds adapt very well to life after the track. Their reputation as the 45mph couch potatoes is very true.  Most of the time they are very laid back (and could give Tula, the cat, a run for her money in the sleeping stakes). They're very affectionate and each have their own personality.

I can't imagine my life without a greyhound in it. To quote an oft used phrase:
"Greyhounds aren't my whole life, but they make life whole."

So, if you've ever considered offering a greyhound a home, I'd urge you to visit your local greyhound rehoming centre and go and meet some.  Be warned though, greyhounds are addictive and one is often not enough!

*Duffy,D. Hsu, Y. and Serpell,J.A. (2008) ‘Breed differences in canine aggression.’  Applied Animal Behaviour Science 114 pp.441-460

02 March 2010

'Gone to the dogs' - a look at greyhound racing

Everyone who knows me, knows I love greyhounds...

I'm a committee member and volunteer for a local charity which rehomes retired racing greyhounds and given half a chance I can bore for England on the joys of living with these most noble of hounds.

When I'm out and about with the hounds, I'm often asked whether I race them, to which my retort is usually: "No. I can't keep up with them!"  The next question is usually about what my views are on greyhound racing...
Two of my hounds are retired racers; Jasper (pictured above) and Stevie (pictured later in this post). Mina was a stray, and to my knowledge, has never raced.

Greyhound racing is an emotive subject which is often in the news. I 'd like to state that I am neither for, nor against greyhound racing, which may seem at odds with my love for the breed. I have spent time at racing kennels.  I have been to greyhound races at different stadia in the UK and, through the Lincolnshire Greyhound Trust, I work with retired racing greyhounds looking for their forever homes.

What is apparent to me is that the majority of the dogs I have seen have been well looked after and well cared for - both on and off the track.  It is unfortunate that what appears to be a minority of trainers with little or no regard for their dogs' welfare make the news, but then again 'bad news' sells newspapers! There is still no excuse though, for mistreating these animals and one ill-treated hound is one hound too many.

The charity works closely with a number of trainers and we have waiting lists for dogs to come into our kennels. The hounds we rehome come to us at all ages... some are young and have no chase instinct, some are not successful racers, some have had injuries and have retired early, and some come to us at the end of their racing careers.

It is true to say that greyhound welfare needs to be improved by those making money out of the sport. New legislation is being introduced by the UK Government in April 2010, which goes part way to redressing this and influential charities such as The Dogs Trust are continuing to campaign for improvements to greyhound welfare. A campaign which I support fully.

In the USA many states have banned greyhound racing; racing is per se illegal in 36 States and Massachusetts is the latest State to ban commercial dog racing. In the UK many tracks have closed with Walthamstow closing in 2009.

However, what would happen if greyhound racing was banned in the UK? Would it be driven underground to independent (illegal?) flapping tracks, which may have even less regard for the hounds' welfare? What would happen to the thousands of dogs that used to race at licensed tracks? What would happen to the breed as a whole? Unlike pedigree show dogs, racing greyhounds are bred for strength, fitness, health and stamina NOT for looks. A show greyhound does look somewhat different to a racing greyhound.

The list of question goes on as will the debate over whether it's right or wrong to continue greyhound racing...

Finally, I would like to share a view of greyhound racing from a friend of mine, who owns several retired racing greyhounds and who, by her own admission, is an "animal rights placard waving lefty."  Reproduced, with kind permission from my friend, Jayne, here is her take on the world of greyhound racing:

"Last Friday we went along to Peterborough to watch Chapelane Mac race. Now, no-one was more surprised than me to find myself there: I am your stereotypical tofu munching, knit your own tea bags ,tree hugging animal rights placard waving lefty when it comes to stuff like this.Yes I am the sort of person who thinks the Grand National should be banned and I've put my money where my mouth is when it comes to anti fox hunting etc etc.So you can guess that I was probably never going to feel too comfortable with the idea of dog racing.

Anyway I went along because I wanted to see for myself what its all about and try and get an informed view of what the dogs' experience of track life actually is.

The dogs were there for all to see getting prepped up for their race.We watched the trainers go through the pre-race stuff and the dogs all looked happy and some were obviously very excited and couldn't wait to be off.  Chapelane Mac (Jock) was looking beautiful and was very perky and impatient for his race.  Fine looking boy that he is, I'm sure he'll create a wave of adoration when he retires!

As they were paraded up and down the track I really enjoyed seeing how alert and proud the dogs looked.  It was lovely to see them in the peak of physical health and so beautiful. The atmosphere was very exciting.

The call came and the dogs were put into the traps.  I dont like seeing this bit as to me it has looked like they are positively stuffed into them against their will. But into the traps they went and the bell rang.The dogs took my breath away as they flew out of the traps.  I couldn't believe the power and the speed.  It was one of the most exhilarating things I have ever seen. Jock looked like he was having the time of his life and before I knew it I was yelling my head off for him to run run run!

At the end of the race the hounds all bounded up to their trainers not looking the least bit tired and it was back to the kennel block. This was the bit I was really impressed with.  I watched the staff carefully towel down and clean each dog.  Faces were washed free of sand and feet were washed,inspected and nicely dried too.  They all had plenty to drink and time to recover.  Much like we all do with our own hounds really-there seemed that same kindness and care.

After a few more thrilling races I decided to get a closer look at the dogs going into the traps so went down to trap side. Ok some of them didn't look terribly keen on going in, but they didn't look terrified either. They weren't being 'stuffed' in-they were being lifted in!  It amused me to see one or two trainers whispering in their dogs ears as they waited-I like to think they were giving them a last minute pep talk but they were just probably keeping them calm.  Once in, it sounded like the dogs were excited about what would come next judging by the pawing and yapping!

I loved the whole experience to be honest.  I know I only saw a tiny window on what greyhound racing is really like and fortunately no dogs were injured but the dogs really did seem to love it.  Of course I wasn't really expecting to go down there and see nasty people beating poor exploited Grey's into racing their little hearts out without so much as a bowl of water afterwards but I did have preconceived ideas about how I felt about making money out of dogs etc .And I now feel more at ease with the whole idea.

I also feel like I understand my own dogs a little bit more now that I have a tiny insight into their 'other' life.  Especially Seamus who loves to run still and regularly acts the fool and tries to get me running him on his lead.

I'm so glad I went and it certainly wont be the last time.  I'd recommend it to anyone else like me who doesn't really know much about the world of racing or who hasn't made up their mind about what they feel about it.  I feel more confident about dispelling some of the myths that the general public tend to bring up at meet and greets too.  I know that we have some really responsible trainers who contribute here and I have already been able to tell the public about the additional support that they provide to the trust.So...yes...give it a go.  And its worth the trip for the carpet in the main bar alone! "

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