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Running and Retired Racing Greyhounds:
A Dangerous Combination

by Judy Kody Paulsen, Founder, GCNM

(Excerpt from Summer 2000 issue of GCNM News)

The image is one of a graceful canine athlete, half running, half flying through the air. Everyone marvels at their speed and agility, but few consider the consequences of allowing these retired athletes to run at full speed without proper conditioning.

"Retired" is the key word here. Once retired from racing and while awaiting an adoptive home, these greyhounds are not exercised as they were while active racers. No longer given access to the "sprint paths," nor allowed to run on the track, these dogs are essentially confined to a life of eating and sleeping in crates with very brief "turn-outs" to relieve themselves, then back into the crate again. Rapid deterioration of musculoskeletal structures occurs.

If given the opportunity to run, particularly while accompanying other dogs or pursuing a moving animal or object, these retired racers will give it all they've got — conditioning or no conditioning. These dogs rely on the common sense of their human companions to protect them from injuries resulting from over-exertion or over-extension. Muscle, ligament, tendon and bone injuries occur often during the first few weeks at new adoptive homes that ignore these warnings. Gradual re-introduction to the athletic lifestyle these dogs once enjoyed is a must.

Any greyhound that has been retired from racing more than a week and has been kept crated while awaiting adoption, needs to be on a conditioning program before being allowed to run freely (always in a fenced area!). Walking your greyhound on a leash one to two times a day, about 1/2 mile, for the first week is a good way to start. The longer the greyhound has been retired and crated, the more gradual the conditioning routine should be. Brief, supervised romps after the first week can be allowed, but, as difficult as it may be, you should discourage "flat out" running any further than once across a moderate-sized yard until the third week. Even with conscientious monitoring, these speedy canines manage to injure themselves more often than most other breeds.

Distance running and jogging with your greyhound should be avoided under any circumstances. No matter how well-conditioned a greyhound is, it must be remembered that these dogs are sprinters and are not physiologically suited for long distances. Anything over a mile is a long distance for a greyhound. Most greyhounds have never run over half a mile. Greyhounds are extremely vulnerable to heat stroke and should never be allowed to run in warm weather. Extended play with other dogs, during the heat of the day, is an invitation to disaster for your greyhound. Always have plenty of fresh water available and during the summer; your greyound might enjoy a "dip" in a kiddie pool in your yard.

Remember too, greyhounds coming from the track have never walked on rough surfaces, such as gravel or asphalt. Their feet have only touched soft sand, smooth cement, and the flooring of crates the entire time they have been at the track. Because of this, bruising, splitting and tearing of the foot pads can occur if care is not taken to avoid these surfaces when first introduced into their adoptive homes. Very brief, gradual exposure to these surfaces will eventually toughen the pads, but efforts to avoid this should be taken during the first week of arrival from the track.

Most retired racers have suffered at least one musculoskeletal injury during their racing career. These injuries re-inflame easily and can produce a chronic problem if great care is not taken to avoid continuous aggravation to a pre-existing sprain, fracture or strain. As exhilarating as it is to watch your greyhound run, please remember that these dogs are much more fragile than they appear. Don't make your greyhound pay for your mistakes; enjoy their graceful elegance, but don't let them be the ones to pay the price of pain, or worse yet, their life.

Be smart, be kind — protect your greyhound.


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