5 reasons why greyhounds make great family pets
They're easy to live with, low-maintenance and happy to be left alone to sleep, writes Chrissy Skelton, a PhD student in the Department of Anthropology
Each year, thousands of Irish greyhounds need to find a new home. If your home is ready for a new pet, you might want to spend some time considering whether or not a greyhound is a good fit for you.
But, you might say, aren't greyhounds super-fit athletic dogs that need to be homed only with lycra-wearing families of muscle-laden statuesque people? Read on …
They're a breed with a community
There are a few dog breeds that entitle you to become a member of a community, but greyhounds are one of those breeds. While dog walkers are approachable and willing to talk, greyhound enthusiasts will cross the road to admire your greyhound and tell you their experience.
Many Irish people have been involved with greyhounds as trainers, kennel hands or as race spectators, and their passion for the breed appears to bridge customary gender and age divides. Men of an older generation will happily approach a woman with a greyhound for a chat and reminisce. While most breeds will have groups on social media and the occasional meet-up, sighthounds (the type of dog which hunts by sight rather than by smell such as greyhounds and Irish Wolfhounds) have weekly group walks throughout the country.
They're easy to live with
With the exception of mischievous puppies of any breed, greyhounds are easy to live with. They are quiet and, because they’re not territorial, they’re unlikely to bark at the door. In fact, many can’t be bothered to get up to greet your guests. They do not have the usual ‘doggy’ smell that gets into the fabric of cars and homes.
Their coats are low maintenance and a weekly brush and occasional wash will keep any loose hairs at bay. Most do not shed a great deal, so your clothes and floors will not be covered with hair. Racing dogs are kept in kennels, so they grow a thicker layer of fur. Once they become a house dog, this ‘kennel coat’ can be gradually brushed out.
Greyhounds are calm, gentle and tolerant of being handled. Their affectionate nature combines with their laziness for the ‘greyhound lean’—they will stand and rest their entire weight against your legs when they’re given a rub. They’re excellent with children, though, as the proverb goes, let sleeping dogs lie. Racing greyhounds are not accustomed to being woken without warning and some can get a fright.
'These are not ordinary dogs'
We usually see greyhounds depicted in photos as tremendous athletes where they are captured mid-stride with muscles bulging. What the public does not see, but owners will largely agree on, is that they are lazy dogs. Made for a quick sprint, these dogs require two 20 minute walks a day and an off lead run a couple of times a week in a fenced-in area. Like most dogs, they will enjoy hour long walks in the mountains or along the canal, but they’re unlikely to destroy your house if they don’t get it.
And what do they do when they’re not on their walk? They sleep. These are not ordinary dogs. They're not like terriers or collies who, after their brief post-walk nap, pop up ready to bark at passers-by or look for another round of fetch. They're not like spaniels or retrievers who need to constantly touch you. Greyhounds are independent. You might call them the cats of the dog world. They love some interaction, but they’re happy to be left alone to sleep.
They like their accessories
It is commonly understood that our dog (or our children, job, home, etc) reflects our identity, so what better way to indulge our quirks than through our pet’s possessions? Greyhounds do not have a layer of body fat like other breeds do. If the weather is cool enough for you to need a coat, so do they. Because their head is narrower than their neck, they require a specific type of collar that won’t slip off.
The array of choice for style and fabric of accessories is astounding, from classy herringbone coats to cute snoods with bunny ears. An entire cottage industry is dedicated to greyhound accessories for dogs and humans alike, including face masks. As Covid-19 quarantine continues, masks are shifting from the functional disposables to reusable statement pieces such as the greyhound patterned ones that sold out within an hour (http://tiny.cc/li6ksz) or as charity fundraisers with greyhound art from renowned designer Richard Skipworth.
How to pick the right greyhound
The more you understand your own needs, the better able a rescue organisation will be able to match you with a suitable companion. When considering a greyhound, there are questions you might ask yourself. Do you need a dog that enjoys being with children? One that’ll play nicely with other breeds? Or maybe one with a low prey drive who won’t chase your cat? (While any dog will have a keen interest in pursuing a cat or hare, a greyhound is fast enough to catch one.)
Reputable rescue organisations can help with any reasonable requests. You may have to wait for the right dog, but it’ll be worth it when you’re together for a decade or more. If you’re serious about a particular greyhound, ask to ‘foster to adopt’. This will give you a trial period for you and your greyhound to adjust before you commit.
Still not sure? Ask the next person you see with a greyhound what they think. They’ll be glad you asked.