Adopting a greyhound who was once on the dog-racing circuit is a learning situation not just for you and the dog, but also for you and the greyhound-owning community. This is a group of people who are immensely dedicated to the breed and this form of rescue, and it has a language all its own.
I’ve chosen a few common words from the vocabulary of this community to serve as a sort of “starter kit” for anyone who wants to enter. I learned these words over the course of a year living with my new hound.
When I first took my greyhound outside it was snowing. She had recently come up from Florida and probably not seen a lot of snow. I heard a weird sound and looked down to see her teeth were literally audibly chattering together. I thought she was just really cold but actually this is something they do when excited, or scenting the air, or even really happy. Also known as: air nit.
That is actually what’s called in the veterinary literature. Greyhounds don’t tend to have a lot of fur anywhere, but this often diminishes to none at all on the underside of the chest, front of the neck and rear end and backs of thighs. It can be exacerbated by rubbing or stress, but many greyhounds remain partially bald even in the most easygoing of adoptive homes. Also know as: baboon butt, bald thighs syndrome, or kennel butt.
A lot of greyhound events will not allow non-greyhound dogs to attend. [Editor’s Note: This is understandable, since some greyhounds are small breed-aggressive after so many years of being trained to chase a “bunny” around the track.] Sometimes some kind of plausible reason is given, sometimes not so much. It really limits my participation. Is this a just an inevitable side effect of purebred-based groups? In any case, Vera prefers to have her big brother around when she goes out, and I plan my calendar accordingly.
With their thin fur and low body fat, greyhounds don’t like being cold for any period of time, especially when they are inactive. So there are various items of greyhound clothing for the neophyte to navigate. One of these is a soft coverall to wear inside the home. When going outside, heavier coats, slickers, snoods and even booties may be called for. Also know as: jams
Any canine member of the pointy-head brigade needs a collar that will not easily slip off. Enter the “martingale,” which has a loop that tightens when the leash is pulled. It is a lot gentler than a choke chain but enough to prevent the collar constantly falling off. Although some greyhounds may still be better off with their leash attached to a body harness instead.
Greyhounds can have a really goofy way of lying around on their backs with their long legs pointing out at weird angles. I used to refer to this as “the Full Monty,” but I am told the proper term is “roaching,” after the resemblance to the appearance of a dead cockroach.
“Roo roo roo” is a sound that greyhounds like to make. It completes a repertoire of peculiar barks, grunts, groans and whines. People will tell you that greyhounds don’t bark a lot. Well, except for the ones who do. Also known as: a-roo, singing, siren.
No not those nasty little insects. The colors and patterns for greyhounds have their own language: Brown is red. Gray is blue. Blonde is fawn. And small spots are ticks. So while I might think I have a white and brown dog with spots, I actually have a white and red greyhound with ticks. So the correct answer to, “What makes a greyhound tick” is “a dominant modifier of the white spotting gene.”
Vera cut her leg just stepping through the ice in a puddle. I couldn’t believe it. She often has little dings and scrapes, especially on her elbows. This is why when greyhounds are exercised together they often wear muzzles. It is not because aggression is likely to occur but just to avoid any accident, because lacerations are caused very easily and more difficult to treat than with other dog breeds.
My greyhound’s favorite things seem to be zoomies and snoozies. Zoomies can strike suddenly. A sudden attack of 40 m.p.h. can be quite impressive to witness. It also comes out in the forms of leaping, spinning and figure-eights. I removed some of the furniture from my apartment because indoor zoomies were causing some collisions.
Discovering words like these really helped me understand some of my greyhound’s behavior and make a better home for her. But I also realized that we did not need to be fully fledged members of the greyhound subculture. We can just be a woman and a dog (and another dog).
About the author: Emily Kane is a New Zealand-born animal behaviorist of the throw-back radical behaviorist type, albeit with a holistic-yuppie-feminist-slacker twist. She spent many years as an animal behavior researcher and is now more of an indoor paper-pushing researcher. Her early dog-related education came from Jess the Afghan Hound and Border Collies Bandit and Tam. It is now being continued by her own dogs and extended dog family and some cats (and her three aquatic snails Gala, Granny and Pippin — they think of themselves as dog-esque).
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