Greyhound: Dog Breed Profile

Characteristics, History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Greyhound dog

 

Capuski / Getty Images 

With the ability to run at speeds upwards of 45 miles per hour, the Greyhound is the fastest dog breed in the world. Their long legs and narrow, streamlined bodies make Greyhounds racers by design. The breed's history traces back to the times of the Ancient Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks, who probably had Greyhounds or similar dogs. The Spanish Galgo is oftentimes confused with the greyhound.

These dogs can also make excellent companions for all kinds of people and many do well with children. Greyhounds are extremely affectionate with their families and may prefer not to be left alone. They are rarely aggressive and respond well to strangers.

Breed Overview

  • Group: Hound
  • Size: 60 to 80 pounds
  • Coat and Colors: The coat is short and smooth. Greyhounds are seen in a variety of colors including black, blue, fawn, red, white and various shades of brindle, or a combination of any of these colors.
  • Life Expectancy: 10 to 13 years

Characteristics of the Greyhound

Affection Level High
Friendliness High
Kid-Friendly High
Pet-Friendly High
Exercise Needs High
Playfulness High
Energy Level Medium
Trainability Medium
Intelligence High
Tendency to Bark Low
Amount of Shedding Medium

History of the Greyhound

Archaeological evidence of greyhound-like dogs dates back 8,000 years to the Middle East, making it one of the most ancient of dog breeds. Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans likely had Greyhound-type dogs. By the ninth century, the breed could be found throughout Europe, and Spanish explorers brought them to the Americas in the 1500s.

Greyhounds were classically used for hunting and coursing. They were among the earliest dog show participants. The breed is typically not used for hunting in modern times, and live game coursing is illegal in many places. However, the traditions of racing and lure coursing continue.

The Greyhound was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1885.

Coursing greyhound
February 1923: At the Waterloo Cup held at Altcar, near Liverpool. Topical Press Agency / Getty Images

Greyhound Care

The Greyhound has a short, smooth coat that needs little grooming. The breed sheds at a low to moderate rate, so an occasional once-over with a soft brush or grooming mitt should be sufficient. The typical Greyhound only needs occasional bathing. Trim their nails regularly, keeping them short to prevent slipping on slick floors.

Contrary to popular belief, Greyhounds are not usually hyperactive or overly energetic. Though excellent athletes, they can also be couch potatoes most of the day and are even suited to apartment life. They love to run, but a moderate amount of daily exercise should be enough to keep a Greyhound motivated and fit. Don't allow a greyhound off-leash, however, as they are prey-driven and will bolt away after small animals. It is good to have a fenced-in area where they can run around.

Both proper training and socialization are both very important for greyhounds. Fortunately, most can learn and adjust well. Though Greyhounds can sometimes be obtained from a breeder as puppies, the majority of pet Greyhounds are retired racers.

Racing dogs have a very different life from the average companion dog. When not racing, they spend a lot of time in kennels and have usually never seen the inside of a typical home. They are leash-trained but have typically not been exposed to things like stairs and glass doors. Cats and other small animals may provoke their predatory instinct until they learn the animal is a family member.

Retirement usually begins between the ages of 2 and 5, depending on the dog. After this, the transition to companion life may take a few weeks. In some ways, it is almost like a second puppyhood. With a gentle and patient demeanor, you can help your Greyhound with this stage. Some retired racer adoption groups will have their dogs spend some time in foster homes to help acclimate them to the new lifestyle.

While they can tolerate hot weather, they will get chilled in cold weather. You may need to provide a sweater for your greyhound in winter.

Greyhounds are not aggressive, and they can be sensitive. It's best for them to be in a peaceful household and be spoken to with kindness.

greyhound puppy in bed
Alessandro Manco / Getty Images

Common Health Problems

Responsible breeders strive to maintain the highest breed standards as established by kennel clubs like the AKC. Dogs bred by these standards are less likely to inherit health conditions. However, some hereditary health problems can occur in the breed. The following are some conditions to be aware of:

  • Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus: The tendency to produce gas and bloat, which can lead to stomach torsion and a medical emergency.
  • Hip Dysplasia: An inheritable condition that leads to lameness and arthritis.
  • Osteosarcoma: An aggressive bone cancer and one of the first signs is lameness. It can be treated with amputation and chemotherapy.
  • Hypothyroidism: A thyroid condition that can treated with medication.
  • Sensitivity to Anesthesia: Greyhounds need less anesthesia than other dogs of the same size and the regular dose can be deadly. They metabolize barbiturates slowly.
  • Sensitivity to Insecticides: Greyhounds are sensitive to pyrethrin-based flea collars and sprays and need to use alternative products.
greyhounds as pets illustration
Illustration: The Spruce / Emilie Dunphy

Diet and Nutrition

Male Greyhounds need 2.5 to 4 cups of dry food per day, and females need 1.5 to 3 cups. Divide this into two meals—because they are prone to bloat, they are at risk of stomach torsion if they gulp their food or eat too much at once. It is common for them to gain 5 pounds after they retire from racing, but you should monitor your pet's weight to ensure it doesn't gain more than that. If your dog is putting on weight, discuss the proper diet with your veterinarian and get recommendations for feeding schedules, amounts, types of dog food, and exercise.

Pros


  • Do not shed much or require a significant amount of grooming

  • Not in need of a lot of exercise, though they get spurts of energy once in a while

  • Docile dogs that are polite and sweet

Cons

  • Don't make good watchdogs, despite their large size

  • Fast runners, so can't be let off a leash

  • Can't spend a significant amount of time outside in cold weather because of temperature sensitivity

Where to Adopt or Buy a Greyhound

The most likely place to adopt a Greyhound is from a breed-specific rescue group, such as:

The National Greyhound Association also offers a list of endorsed regional greyhound rescue groups on its website.

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

Adopting a retired racer is a wonderful thing to do. If you would like to share your life with this unique dog breed, take the time to do your research first. Talk to your veterinarian, other Greyhound owners, greyhound rescue groups, and reputable breeders to learn more.

If you’re interested in similar breeds, look into these to compare the pros and cons.

There’s a whole world of potential dog breeds out there—with a little research, you can find the right one to bring home.