SPCA New Zealand

Greyhounds make great pets - not bets!

22 September 2022

The commercial greyhound racing industry is officially on notice in New Zealand, with a recommendation due by the end of the year from Racing Minister McAnulty as to whether it has a future in our society. SPCA thinks commercial greyhound racing should be a thing of the past, so here we look at why they make great pets!

Greyhounds make great pets - not bets!

Greyhounds can make a great companion for the whole family. Like any breed of dog, each greyhound is an individual with a unique personality. As with all dogs, their behaviour is impacted by a combination of genetics, early life experiences, and training.

Greyhounds are often discussed in the context of commercial greyhound racing but in this article we want to discuss greyhounds in another role - that of the beloved family pet.

Couch potatoes

Greyhounds are the fastest breed of dog in the world, so it may surprise people to find out that they are happy to spend most of their day lounging around on the couch. Greyhounds are sprinters so after a quick run around they love nothing more than to snuggle up. These long-legged, gentle souls are often great with people too.

Greyhounds are not known for being noisy, meaning you probably don’t need to worry about upsetting the neighbours.

So, whether you live on a lifestyle block or an apartment, a greyhound could be the perfect fit for you.

Skip the puppy stage

Greyhounds bred in New Zealand are almost exclusively bred for the commercial greyhound racing industry. Although many more greyhounds are bred and imported than go on to race, their racing ability is only apparent as they get older. For this reason, greyhounds available for adoption are typically adults.

Adopting an adult dog comes with many benefits as you will generally have a clearer idea of their personality, and you can skip some of those awkward puppy phases, such as teething and toilet training.

Adjusting to life in the home

Most ex-racing greyhounds will have grown up in kennels, so life in a home may take some adjustment. However, many greyhounds do successfully adjust to life as a family pet.

While some trainers may do a great job of socialising their puppies, not all greyhound puppies receive adequate socialisation and training needed to set them up for an easy transition to life in a home.

Some greyhounds are known in the industry as “spooks”. These dogs have a severe fear response to any novelty and may find common household noises or even simple experiences, such as going up stairs or meeting new people, overwhelming. It is not clear if this behaviour is due to inherited traits or early life experiences, such as a failure to adequately socialise these dogs as puppies.

While greyhounds are often friendly, gentle dogs, if they have not been adequately socialised with smaller animals, they may show signs of predatory behaviour. For this reason, it is recommended that they should wear a muzzle in public, unless you are totally confident that your greyhound can be trusted around any small animals they may encounter.

Health and maintenance

Greyhounds are generally healthy dogs and their short sleek coats require little grooming. Having said this, like all breeds, there are some health conditions which are more common.

Research has identified dental disease, trauma and osteoarthritis as being more common in greyhounds. Greyhounds are four times more likely to suffer from dental disease than the general population of dogs. While this could be partly due to inherited breed disposition, limited veterinary and other dental care during their early rearing and throughout their racing life appears to also play a role.

Regular veterinary dental checks, dental treats and tooth brushing with pet-safe toothpaste can help you to keep them smiling.

What if commercial greyhound racing is banned in New Zealand?

The greyhound racing industry is on notice. If the Minister makes a recommendation at the end of this year to end commercial greyhound racing, this could mean up to 3,000 greyhounds may be looking for a home – although any rehoming effort is likely to be over a number of years, if the industry is ‘wound down’ over time. Worryingly, the industry does not appear to be taking steps in preparation for this – in fact the 2021 annual report shows that the industry bred more in the 2020/2021 season than the previous four seasons.

SPCA has encouraged the industry to prepare in case commercial greyhound racing is banned in New Zealand and has offered support to facilitate rehoming through existing rehoming facilities and rescues.

While some are concerned that an end to greyhound racing might mean an end to the breed, it is important to remember that only seven countries currently allow commercial greyhound racing but greyhounds remain a popular dog breed worldwide. Greyhounds can make wonderful companions so let’s ensure they have a future as pets, not bets.”

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