Greyhounds and Children
Greyhound adoption organisations were established in the 1970’s out of concern for greyhounds once their racing careers were over. Supported by the greyhound industry, the Retired Greyhound Trust (commonly known as RGT) was founded in 1975 http://www.greyhoundtrust.org.uk by a group of greyhound lovers who wanted to see each and every retiree go to a loving home to live out the rest of their days.
Many other rescue and rehoming organisations have been started across the world to help in this worthy cause. The National Greyhound Adoption Programme (NGAP) was founded in Philadelphia, the US in 1989. The Greyhound Adoption Programme (GAP) was established in Australia, in various states, since 1995, with more charities and trusts being formed and dedicated to finding homes for greyhounds coming out of this commercial industry.
Despite their reputation as a formidable athlete, greyhounds are very sweet natured and undemanding dogs. Many of the organisations running greyhound adoption programmes have a job to educate the public on the suitability of greyhounds as pets, and especially their demeanour around children.
I hope in this blog I will be able to dispel any concerns a person may have towards adopting a retired racer when they have children in their home.
Can greyhounds and children become best of buddies?
Greyhounds are gentle, laid back characters which make them great companions for children. They are more likely to pick themselves up and walk away from a disruptive child than snap at them, however, like all dogs, they have their limits. Most retired greyhounds have come straight from a race track and have never been in the company of small people crawling around or tottering about near them, but they adjust well and become caring sidekicks for many children.
All re-homing agencies will run temperament tests with the dogs in their supervision, and that will determine whether they are a suitable choice for homes with children. As with all new dogs into the family home, parents need to supervise the introductory period and monitor both their child’s behaviour and their new pet’s reactions.
The greyhound is a larger breed of canine and are significantly bigger than a small child, but they are naturally more reserved and tend to move around calmly. They are not commonly known for being hyperactive or boisterous, preferring quiet, relaxed environments where they can rest and doze. Now, children are not always quiet and relaxed, and it will take time for an ex-racer to get used to these new creatures and, with a little guidance from their new owners, how they need to behave around.
Greyhounds are sensitive to touch and in those first few months will find small hands grabbing at them from nowhere a little surprising. They will soon understand this is the way children interact and have no cause for alarm. This breed does have a thin coat, and not much in the way of body fat which makes accidentally pinching and scratching easily felt but remarkably many rehomed greyhounds become extremely tolerant around children and quite often have no issues with bear hugs and little ones stabilising, but squeezing, hand holds.
Of course, not all adopted greyhounds will become firm friends with their new smaller family members but almost all will regard them with a level of respect and will not harm them. I am sure it goes without saying that no dog is beyond reacting defensively when provoked and retired racers are no exception to this. If a pet dog is treated well and has no reason to feel threatened, it will not behave aggressively. Parents should teach their little ones to be kind and caring to their pets and know that there are consequences to malicious actions.
Keeping everyone safe
There are some areas where it is worth being extra vigilant and recognising if your new addition to the family starts to act protectively or zealous. If your greyhound displays signs that he should be left alone, then it is worth heeding this rather than trying to change them. We all want our own space sometimes, and this often occurs in dogs when are eating or in their beds.
Food can be, for a lot of dogs, something to guard and protect. It’s a survival instinct kicking in, and some display it more than others. Food tolerant testing will be conducted by the retirement centre before allowing a greyhound to be rehomed so in most cases new owners will not experience any issues here. I believe that common sense should prevail here; a dog is still an animal and will defend its food if it feels like it could be taken away from them. Children should not wander around any dog while eating, just to be on the safe side.
Many dogs see their beds as their haven. Their own space to relax away from all the commotion of the world. As I mentioned earlier, greyhounds are sensitive to touch and can be startled easily. If in a deep sleep, when they are in their sanctuary, or actually anywhere in the house, their first reaction could be to instinctively defend themselves. This is not an act of aggression but could result in an accident and then a very nervous child.
The point I really wanted to get across is that a retired greyhound is no more of a threat to a child than any other dog taken in to be a family pet. If anything their good natured and loving temperament make them an ideal option. They crave human affection and could be a fantastic childhood friend, but all have their own personalities. Some might get less tolerant with age, but again, they will take themselves off and find a relaxing spot in most incidences. All owners will get to know their adopted greys little ways and will fall more in love with them for it.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. My own retired racer, Tipps, was a handful when we got him but he has since settled in well and is now a cherished member of the family.