When you think of greyhounds, you may immediately picture racing greyhounds flying around a track, legs pumping hard as they chase an artificial lure called a 'bunny'. Greyhounds are actually the second fastest land animal as far as their accelerating power is concerned. The greyhound was developed to be incredibly fast; they have exceptionally long legs, a deep chest containing a heart that is actually larger than other breeds, and a spine that is so flexible it allows the greyhound to gallop with its signature ground-covering suspension.
But there is so much more to the greyhound than just its ability to fly when it takes off after something.
Greyhounds and Racing
Greyhounds have existed as a breed for thousands of years, originally being bred as a fleet-footed hunting dog. Elegant, with intelligent eyes and a noble carriage, the greyhound has a soft temperament and are beautiful in appearance. These sweet-tempered dogs are gentle, without the desire to fight.
For many years greyhounds were raced at dog tracks across the United States. Over recent years, however, greyhound racing has been phased out in many states where it used to be a popular form of entertainment, and currently only 4 states still have active greyhound racing. For many families, adopting a retired racing greyhound served as their introduction to this delightful breed of dog.
A typical male greyhound weighs 60-88 pounds and come in around 30" in height at the shoulder. For females, you can expect them to weigh 57-75 pounds and reach 28" at the shoulder. A greyhound's build is slender and their skin is thin, making them prone to sores if not provided the proper type of bedding when they sleep or travel.
The average life span of a greyhound is 10-14 years, making the greyhound an lively addition to your family for many years to come. Finding a local veterinarian familiar with certain peculiarities of greyhounds is one of the best ways to ensure that your greyhound lives a long, happy life. They are remarkably healthy dogs, with few hereditary conditions that could cause problems for them.
Greyhounds are an AKC breed, and there are 18 acceptable colors for greyhounds, including black-and-white, fawn, blue, red, and black, as well as a variety of brindled colors. Greyhounds have a slender muzzle, and their ears actually hug against their heads in order to be more aerodynamic! Greyhounds have long, skinny tails that may help them keep their balance while running at speed up to 45 mph.
Greyhounds often seem to have 2 speeds: wide open and complete stillness. Your greyhound will love spending most of its day curled up against you on the couch, tucked under a blanket somewhere sleeping, or lazily hanging out in a beam of sunlight on the kitchen floor. But then, at odd moments, your greyhound may suddenly run crazily around the house in a sudden burst of energy.
Since greyhounds were created to run, you want to give your greyhound the opportunity to run around in a safe environment, such as a fenced-in yard or a dog park. They love chasing tennis balls with you. But after expending that energy, your greyhound will also take the opportunity for a long nap.
Greyhound owners know that their greyhounds have an unusual personality. These calm dogs are sweet and affectionate, needing physical contact with their human family members. They tend to be a little goofy, and they can perform a variety of vocalizations and other behaviors to express their emotions. Some of the sounds that greyhounds make include chattering, air snapping, howling, grunting and groaning. Let's look at a few of the ways greyhounds make their wishes known to you.
If you've ever been so cold that your teeth were chattering, you have a good idea of what this would sound like! Some greyhounds use their lower jaw to make a chattering noise as a way of showing that they are happy. This behavior can be seen when the greyhound owner comes home after work, or when its time for dinner! If your greyhound is chattering and it's not cold where you are, he is showing you how happy he is!
Another strange behavior some greyhounds exhibit is called "nitting"; this is when your greyhound nibbles on your arm or the side of your body. This nibbling is done very gently and is performed with just the front teeth. Nitting is a way your greyhound shows you he is extremely happy, but it can be mistaken for aggression by someone not familiar with this behavior. Also, it is best to be aware that nitting can actually leave a bruise.
One of the most familiar behaviors of greyhounds involves leaning on his family members. Greyhounds are pack animals, which means that they are very social creatures. One way to show that familial attachment is to have close physical contact with their favorite human. Since greyhounds are so large, they cannot just curl up on your lap; this is one reason that 'leaning' behavior is part of the behavioral traits of greyhounds. Let's unpack this concept of leaning with a little more detail.
Reasons for Leaning Behavior
There are several reasons that greyhounds choose to physically lean against their owners. These include:
Show of Affection
As mentioned above, greyhounds get attached to their owner and seek ways to show their love and affection. Leaning against their owner and family members is one way to increase the physical contact between dog and human. This makes your greyhound feel comforted.
Greyhounds like to show their affection with their entire body, so at times they may curl up against you in bed, while at other times they may lean their body up against you.
Greyhounds are very sensitive dogs. They do not do well when spoken to harshly during discipline and tend to get overly stressed in certain situations. When your greyhound is feeling anxious, he may come to you and lean up against you for emotional support. This allows your dog to draw strength and support from you, thus lowering his stress levels.
For example, If your dog appears anxious when strangers arrive at your home, don't be surprised if he comes to lean against you for comfort. He is in a situation where he is uncomfortable, and he is coming to you for reassurance. This is where you can make the situation better for him by softly speaking some reassuring words to him. You could also give him a gentle pat on the head or a soft rub to his back to let him know things are all right.
Greyhounds have muscular hind legs; this can create a problem with them being able to find a comfortable position for sitting down. Greyhounds, especially dogs that have been retired from the racetrack, have exceptionally tight muscles in their rear that can prevent them from sitting the way other dogs sit down.
One way they accommodate for this is to find alternative ways to rest. This can include leaning up against you as your dog distributes some of his weight onto you. Remember, you can always rest against a nearby wall if necessary to support the both of you.
You will often find greyhounds sitting with their legs spraddled out in unusual ways, curled up in a ball, or stretched out on their backs in a wide variety of poses, all in an effort to get comfortable. Now that you understand the 'why' behind the reasons your greyhound chooses to lean up against you, it makes it easier to accept that your greyhound is looking for ways to show you his love as well as get himself into a comfortable resting position.
When Leaning Becomes a Problem
Leaning against their owner is a natural trait of greyhounds, but at times, it can become a substitute for confidence. If you feel like your dog is leaning on you too much, you need to look for additional signs that may indicate that your dog needs some supplemental training in order to build up his self-confidence.
If your dog shows destructive behavior in your absence or excessive clinginess when you are in certain settings that he finds stressful, you may want to speak with a dog trainer or your veterinarian to see if the behavior is something that needs to be changed.
Your veterinarian may suggest some changes that you can make to try to help your greyhound build up his confidence. This may include not allowing him to lean on you for long periods of time, or you may be prescribed some medication for your greyhound that can calm him down during a stressful situation. Your vet may send you to a trainer who can help you do training exercises with your dog to help your greyhound manage his stress levels and also to help him develop other ways of showing you his love.
As you can see, greyhounds are an unusual breed of dog with many peculiar yet endearing habits. They are a sweet addition to your household, where they will provide your family with plenty of entertainment, affection and love. Greyhounds thrive with an affectionate owner who doesn't mind PDA!