The Greyhound is such an elegant, refined, gentle and almost artistic looking dog that many people long to own one as a pet. While these are certainly characteristics of the well trained, socialized and exercised Greyhound, there is also another side to the breed as well. Many potential owners don't consider the possible challenges to owning these dogs until they actually have one in the home. Knowing all aspects of the temperament and traits of the Greyhound can help determine if you are committed to the lifelong care of this wonderful breed of dog.
The first trait of the Greyhound that may make it a challenge for ownership is the size of the dog itself. While they are narrow of body and very athletic dogs, they are also not small or even medium sized dogs. Mature female Greyhounds can weigh up to 65 pounds and males up to 85 pounds, but it is all lean muscle, not bulk or fat. While they are large dogs they do surprisingly well in very small homes and living conditions, provided they have the required amount of exercise per day. Many owners of Greyhounds are amazed at the small space that these dogs curl up in, just wanting a quiet area to keep track of the family as they go about their business.
Unlike many of the hound group the Greyhound is not generally a high attention seeking dog. They are affectionate and loving but not highly demonstrative. This is not to say that some members of the breed aren't true type A personalities, it is just less common in the Greyhound than in many of the other types of hounds. The typical Greyhound is very sedate indoors and highly inactive, not prone to running, chasing or playing inside of the house.
Training a Greyhound is typically a very pleasant experience. They respond to positive praise and rewards and are a dog that thrives on routine. Most are very easy to house train provided a feeding and outdoor schedule is used and crate training is highly effective with this breed. Since some Greyhounds can be a bit timid or nervous, crate training also provides the dog his or her own place to go to relax or rest. They are great with calm children and are loving towards kids, as long as children understand that when the dog is in the crate or designated area they are not to bother him or her. Typically most Greyhounds are very non-aggressive with strange children and other people. Some are good watchdogs but the breed as a whole is not effective as a guard dog, despite their larger size.
The Greyhound has been bred for thousands of years to be a fast sight hound with an ability to have a sustained, fast pace combined with fast directional changes and even faster bursts of speed. Since they are so quick to dart out after prey or movement they do need to be kept on a leash when outside of the yard for their own safety. One interesting feature of the modern Greyhound is that they have very little homing ability and if they run off after something they may not be able to find their way back home as easily as other breeds. This is probably due to their 100% dependence on sight rather than scent. Potential owners considering a Greyhound have to accept the fact that these dogs have to be on a leash or in a fenced yard or play area throughout their life. Taking a Greyhound off leash in an unfenced area is really dangerous for the dog.
Greyhounds need a moderate amount of exercise to stay happy and health on a daily basis. They love long walks, jogging or playing games that include chasing and running. Most Greyhounds are not easy to teach to fetch, but some will enjoy chasing the ball, Frisbee or other object even if they don't understand the concept of bringing it back. A Greyhound can do very well in an apartment provided this routine exercise is provided.
Despite their larger size the Greyhound has a very unique body structure and metabolic rate. They have difficulty in controlling their body temperatures in very cold and wet climates or in very hot conditions. It is highly recommended that owners of Greyhounds considered this breed a true housedog and only provide long periods of outside time in the best possible weather conditions. The lighter coated Greyhounds may also be very prone to sunburn and skin problems in hot weather, leading to more serious problems such as cancer if constant burning occurs.
The Greyhound can be a good dog for living in a heated, climate controlled type of kennel although they do best when they have constant contact with other dogs and the family. A nature pack hound the Greyhound is wonderful with almost every other type of dog provided the dog is not physically demanding with regards to rough types of play. The submissive behavior of the Greyhound often is misunderstood as timidity or fear of other dogs, but it is really a response to working effectively in a pack.
Cats are typically not a problem as long as the Greyhound is raised with the cat and the cat is not prone to running from the dog. Once the cat runs the dog will automatically chase, resulting in a greater chance of injury or death to the cat. If the Greyhound is raised with the cat the cat becomes part of the pack or family and the issue should not be a worry. Smaller animals are not a good match for the Greyhound and are seen as prey, regardless of the type of socialization provided. This doesn't mean they can't be in the same house, it simply means the owners have to keep the dog and the other pets separated or supervised at all times. Caged smaller animals may be very acceptable provided the dog is restricted from the areas where the other animals are kept.
Most Greyhounds will have an average lifespan of about 12 years and the breed is typically healthy with few genetic problems. Many Greyhounds are highly sensitive to insecticides and medications, often meaning that owners have to consider alternative types of flea treatments, worming procedures and medications. There are vets that specialize in working with sight hounds and Greyhounds that can provide holistic and breed safe types of treatments that still allow for flea and parasite control using effective and safe options.