Greyhounds and Dog Parks
(By Meredith Dowell, Greyhound Welfare Volunteer & Former President)
Basically, where dog parks are concerned, it is paramount to use common sense, exercise precaution (and safety!) and KNOW YOUR DOG. Heat of the day? Skip it. Tons of dogs, many of whom are rambunctious? Skip it. Thugs riling up a pit bull by twirling him around on a rope? Get out quick (and yeah, this happened once at a dog park while I was there). Your greyhound likes to attack small fluffy dogs for sport? Stay away (even if the dog park has an area for small dogs; there’s always an idiot who will bring his lil’ fluff over to the big dog side because “oh, she thinks she’s a big dog!”). Your greyhound is afraid of all other dogs (except maybe greyhounds)? Don’t torture your dog. Throwing her into a huge pile of strange dogs (a technique known as “flooding”) does more harm than good. If your dog is a jerk (like mine!), don’t go. Ideally, dog parks would be used to hang out with dogs you know during off peak times and when the situation can be controlled as much as possible. I know several of our adopters get together early on Saturday mornings at one dog park, when the visitors are pretty much all greyhounds.
To muzzle or not to muzzle at dog parks? My rule of thumb is that when the group of dogs playing are all greyhounds, they should all be muzzled. Always. No exceptions. I don’t care if your dog rubs his muzzle on the fence like a jail house cup, keep the muzzle on. If one dog is muzzled, they must ALL be muzzled. But whether to muzzle in mixed company is a bit of a quandary. Personally, I don’t do it. My dog can’t defend himself appropriately (and he frequently has the need to defend himself because he apparently smells irresistible) and none of the other dogs are muzzled so he wouldn’t stand a chance if an actual fight broke out. If, however, you’ve got a dog who can be snarky, you’d better bring one. Or better yet, stay away from the dog park because if your dog is snarky, he’s probably not having a good time anyway. I will say that when Turbo (Meredith’s greyhound) had his dog park days (pre-jerkdome), I did bring his muzzle, more to assuage the fears of other dog owners when he’d play a little rough (he tends to get bitey with submissive dogs; even though he’s not biting hard and not hurting the other dog, it’s enough to freak out their owners to see a 75lb greyhound happily gnawing on their 15 pound beagle’s leg).
It would be fantastic if all dog owners would use basket muzzles at dog parks, no matter what breed they have, but that’s just not going to happen. Your dog is your responsibility and it’s up to you to keep him safe. So, while socialization is great, be smart and don’t take unnecessary risks.
Recommended Rules for Greyhound Fun Runs
These are recommended guidelines are for “fun runs” where greyhounds are the only dogs present. Though much of this guidance applies to any type of “fun run”.
Keep in mind that a fun run is not a competitive race. It is supposed to be enjoyable for the dogs and the humans. The goal is to give the dogs a safe environment to be off-lead and socialize.
These dogs are retired. They are not conditioned to run in a large area at racing speed. When they are at the racetrack, on their off days from racing they are trained and kept in top condition. Our retired greys are not in top condition to run at racing speeds.
At public dog parks, go early before other dog breeds show up so the run can be done with just other greyhounds.
- ALL dogs are to be muzzled; no exceptions.
- Your dog should not be fed prior to running.
- Trim your dog’s nails before the run to avoid broken/dislocated toes or shucked nails, and to prevent puncture injuries to other dogs.
- Have a first aid kit for your dog. Know where the emergency vet is in relation to the Fun Run area.
- Bring water for your dog if there is not a water source at the fun run area.
- Important to warm up your dog before running, particularly when the weather is cold. In cold weather keep them in a blanket or coat, and walk the perimeter of the play area (maybe several times) or park a few blocks away to give the muscles some time to get warm before sprinting. Helps to reduce number of injuries.
- Keep the exercise area small. Greyhounds do not need a large area to romp/run. These dogs should NOT be allowed a large enough area to reach high speed – racing speed of 40 to 45 miles per hour. It will lead to potential injury whether it’s damaged pads, stressed muscles or worse. The racetrack is a groomed and angled surface that is regulated so it’s conducive to dogs running at high speed. Fun run exercise areas are not. The dogs cannot run at high speed or racing speed in a smaller exercise area.
- The dogs only need to run for 5 minutes or so and they are done.
- Limit the number of dogs running at any given time. This provides more control over the situation.
- Learn which greys are the more rambunctious or possibly competitive dogs. Don’t let those dogs all run together. Be selective about which dogs are allowed to run together. Any dog with unacceptable behavior should not be allowed to run that day, or let that dog run alone while all the other dogs are held.
- When your dog is running pay 100% attention to what is happening with that group of dogs running. The minute anything becomes a little bit competitive or rambunctious, all the owners of the running dogs must step in and break it up. The dogs are going to feed off of that energy and ramp themselves up. Give those dogs a “time out” from running and let another group of dogs run.
- Cool your dog down by walking them after a hard run so they don’t get cramps.