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Greyhound Dog: Breed Info, Pictures, Traits & Care

Written by: Matt Jackson

Last Updated on May 16, 2024 by Dogster Team

Italian Greyhound

Greyhound Dog: Breed Info, Pictures, Traits & Care

The Greyhound is best known for its incredible speed. They can run at up to 40 miles per hour on average, but this hunter is not built for stamina, and its tendency to spread out and lounge on the sofa has earned it the nickname of the “world’s fastest couch potato.”

It is a sensitive breed and can become withdrawn if mistreated, even if the mistreatment isn’t intentional. The Greyhound also has a very high prey drive and it will instinctively chase anything that runs or darts away. A strong leash and a keen eye are essential facets of Greyhound ownership.

Breed Overview

Height:

27–30 inches

Weight:

55–90 pounds

Lifespan:

10–14 years

Colors:

Black, white, fawn, brown, gray

Suitable for:

Gentle, experienced owners who are looking for a low-maintenance dog

Temperament:

Loyal, gentle, sweet, independent, sensitive, lazy

The Greyhound is the fastest dog breed in the world, but only for a few minutes at a time. This turn of pace has seen the breed used for racing events and this, in turn, has seen the breed face considerable mistreatment. When dogs are too old or slow for racing, they are usually abandoned or euthanized, and even while they are racing, they are kept half-starved and confined to very small cages.

Potential owners are encouraged to rescue Greyhounds, where possible, and they will be rewarded with a quiet, low-maintenance dog that needs surprisingly little exercise and care.

However, it can take time to get through the emotional barriers that abused Greyhounds have established.

Greyhound Breed Characteristics

Energy
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High-energy dogs will need a lot of mental and physical stimulation to stay happy and healthy, while low-energy dogs require minimal physical activity. It’s important when choosing a dog to make sure their energy levels match your lifestyle or vice versa.
Trainability
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Easy-to-train dogs are more skilled at learning prompts and actions quickly with minimal training. Dogs that are harder to train will require a bit more patience and practice.
Health
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Some breeds, due to their size or their breeds potential genetic health issues, have shorter lifespans than others. Proper exercise, nutrition, and hygiene also play an important role in the lifespan of your pet.
Lifespan
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Some dog breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, and some more than others. This doesn’t mean that every dog will have these issues, but they have an increased risk, so it’s important to understand and prepare for any additional needs they may require.
Sociability
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Some dog breeds are more social than others, both towards humans and other dogs. More social dogs have a tendency to run up to strangers for pets and scratches, while less social dogs shy away and are more cautious, even potentially aggressive. No matter the breed, it’s important to socialize your dog and expose them to lots of different situations.

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Greyhound Puppies

italian greyhound dog sitting on the couch
Image By: kasakphoto, Shutterstock

The availability of Greyhounds is strongly linked to the popularity and occurrence of Greyhound races. These events have diminished over time, which is positive news for the breed because racers tend to be poorly treated by trainers and euthanized or abandoned when they reach the end of their racing lives. However, because there are fewer races, there are fewer breeders, and there are fewer Greyhounds up for adoption. This means that supply is down. This can lead to higher prices, but if you are looking for a pet-grade Greyhound, it has seen prices drop as there is less call for racing stock.

You may have to spend some time looking for breeders. And when you find a potential breeder, take care to ensure that they are reputable. Avoid those that breed racing dogs. Ensure the puppies get some degree of socialization, ideally by being kept in the house rather than a barn or other outbuilding. When you meet the puppy, it should be alert and inquisitive without being too friendly. It should look healthy. Check that the parents were screened and underwent health checks, especially for dysplasia and joint conditions that are common to the Greyhound breed.

Greyhounds tend to be friendly and welcoming, but they can be standoffish with strangers. The key to ensuring your Greyhound falls on the friendly side of the spectrum is good, early socialization, which should start when your dog is still a young puppy. As well as plenty of socialization, you should start training your hound as soon as you get it home.

Do consider adopting a Greyhound, rather than buying one. The reduction in races means there are former racers who need good homes. Specialist Greyhound rescue shelters exist and these tend to have a steady supply of dogs in need of loving families. When adopting, get as much background as possible from the shelter. Many owners won’t give the full picture when they hand a dog over, but the shelter should at least know how the dog reacts around other dogs, and potentially even cats. They should also know how the dog reacts to people it knows and strangers.


Temperament & Intelligence of the Greyhound 🧠

The modern Greyhound got its start in England in the 19th Century and all modern Greyhounds can be traced back to a single dog, called King Cob, who was whelped in 1839. However, the Greyhound likely existed way back in Ancient Egyptian times and is considered one of the oldest domesticated breeds. During these times, they were worshiped as gods and because of this, only royalty were permitted to own Greyhounds. Cleopatra owned Greyhounds and so, too, did Queen Elizabeth I. General Custer raced his Greyhounds the day before he set off for Little Big Horn.

The modern Greyhound retains its regal temperament. It is sleek and beautiful and this breed isn’t prone to excessive barking or noise-making. In fact, if you provide enough exercise, a pet Greyhound will spend the majority of its time stretched out asleep.

Thanks to its propensity to stretch out and relax, and because it isn’t necessarily a high-energy breed when at home, the Greyhound can adapt to life in an apartment, but owners will need to get out and give it a couple of high-intensity walks every day to ensure that it is calm and relaxed.

Bred as a hunter, the Greyhound does have a high prey drive. If it sees anything moving quickly away from it, the coursing hound is likely to give chase. This means it will run after squirrels, rabbits, or anything that looks small and potentially furry.

Good with strangers, the Greyhound will usually also be good with other dogs on walks and can be introduced to other household pets.

Are These Dogs Good for Families? 🏠

Woman is hugging Italian greyhound puppy
Image By: Veera, Shutterstock

Greyhounds make excellent family pets, although they will try and steal couches and beds for themselves. They have long legs and long necks and snouts which means they can wriggle and probe into just about any space. Expect to lose your seat to a new pet Greyhound!

Although they are good with children, they don’t like having their naps disturbed and children looking for a playmate may be disappointed, especially if the Greyhound has had its daily sprint.

It is not an aggressive breed and shouldn’t pose any threat to visitors, including friends of children. It can be quite sensitive, though, and may look for a quiet spot away from the hustle of a loud family house. And, while it is a loving dog, it isn’t usually the type to curl up on your lap to go to sleep.

Does This Breed Get Along with Other Pets? 🐶 😽

The placid nature of the Greyhound typically extends to other animals. It will get along with dogs in the dog park, but you do need to keep it on a leash because it will chase anything that runs. Yours may even fancy its chances of catching birds as they take off or as they are in flight. At home, keep small animals in their enclosures, unless the Greyhound is behind a closed door. Their turn of pace will catch you unawares, and it could lead to heartache if your hamster or other small furry pet is enjoying the run of the room.

Gradual introductions will be needed if you are introducing a Greyhound to a family cat. They may get along, but if your cat feels threatened and runs away, the Greyhound will give chase. The height and athletic prowess of the breed means that it will be able to clear stair gates, too, so you should use a leash for the first few meetings and ensure your cat has somewhere very high up to escape to. It will get along with other dogs and may enjoy the company of a canine companion.

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Things to Know When Owning a Greyhound:

This regal dog is adaptable and can live in apartments or homes with small yards, as well as those with bigger gardens. But, you will need to ensure that the garden is securely fenced to prevent your Greyhound from escaping when it attempts to chase small animals.

They are not territorial and are not aggressive, but they can be sensitive. This means they can become anxious and depressed if you scold or shout at them. And they may become depressed if you argue or fight around them, even if it isn’t targeted specifically at the dog. They do better in calm environments and when given space to stretch out.

greyhound standing on grass
Image Credit: nonmisvegliate, Pixabay

Food & Diet Requirements 🦴

When it comes to a feeding regimen, Greyhounds can be prone to bloat which means they are better fed smaller meals more often. This means feeding at least twice a day, and the possible use of a slow feeder bowl to help prevent gastric problems.

If you feed dry food, you will need to provide around three or four cups of food per day. The exact amount you feed will depend on the dog’s age, health, and exercise levels. If your vet has recommended feeding a specific diet or amount of food, follow these recommendations over manufacturer guidelines.

If you feed canned food, follow the guidelines on the packaging, allowing a little more for very active dogs. Treats should only make up 10% of your dog’s daily diet, by calories, so be careful when using treats for training or as rewards for good behavior. Always ensure there is a bowl of fresh water out and make sure it is clean and filled at all times.

Greyhounds are meant to be skinny and lithe, and it can take new owners time to get used to this ideal physique. Ensure you aren’t overfeeding because you think your Greyhound is too thin. If in doubt, check with your vet: they will be able to recommend the ideal weight and advise on diet.

Exercise 🐕

Most people’s experience of Greyhounds is seeing them run during races, or at least seeing images of them running. They can reach speeds as high as 45 miles per hour. But, they are sprinters, rather than stamina-based long-distance runners. This means when they do run, they run hard. Otherwise, they tend to be quite laid back.

Ideally, you will be able to find some way to give your Greyhound intense daily exercise, rather than short, slow walks. If you have a fenced-in garden, throw or kick a ball around and encourage your pup to chase it. Otherwise, look at signing up for a humane coursing event. Although Greyhounds aren’t really designed for stamina, some owners do run or even cycle with their Greyhounds, but you do need to ensure both of your safety.

The breed can do very well in agility and will certainly excel at any speed-based events. However, they have skinny legs that are prone to injury so, if you take your Greyhound running or to take part in any other activity, ensure you don’t overdo it.

brindle greyhound dog standing in flower field
Image Credit: Natallia Yaumenenka, Shutterstock

Training 🦮

Socialization is important for this breed. Although it is known as a friendly breed that will get along with strangers as well as family, it can be aloof or standoffish with strangers if it hasn’t had the appropriate socialization, which should start when your dog is still a puppy.

It is possible to socialize an adult dog, even if it hasn’t had any experience with this before, but socializing a puppy will set you and your dog up for a life of happy first meetings. To socialize your dog, take them out walking to parks and to areas where you will meet people and other dogs. Try changing the route, as well as the time of day, and ensure that your puppy comes into contact with a wide range of people. Ensure they get used to cyclists and joggers, people in uniforms, and young children as well as old people. The better socialized your young puppy is, the easier it will be to meet new people and face new challenges later in life.

One way to enhance your young puppy’s socialization is by attending puppy classes. These offer the opportunity to meet people and dogs, and they also teach the basics of training. Training should start as soon as you get your pup home and it means encouraging good behavior while discouraging bad behavior. Because of the high sensitivity level of the breed, you should avoid shouting at or punishing a Greyhound. Use distractions to prevent bad behavior and offer plenty of praise and rewards for good behavior.

Grooming ✂️

Grooming requirements for a Greyhound are minimal. They have very short coats that need only occasional brushing. But brushing does help remove dead hairs and also helps keep your dog’s coat clean.

Nails will need regular trimming. They wear down naturally when dogs walk or run on hard surfaces, but this is unlikely to be enough to keep them at an optimal length. If you can hear your dog’s claws clicking while walking on hard surfaces, that is a good indication that it’s time to get the clippers out.

You will also need to brush your dog’s teeth. Aim to brush at least three times a week. Daily brushing is preferred, not only because it helps prevent plaque and tartar buildup but also because it enables you to get into a routine and ensures you don’t forget to brush.

greyhound lying on the couch
Image Credit: Chen Te, Shutterstock

Health and Conditions ❤️

Greyhounds are a generally healthy breed but there are some conditions and illnesses that they are more prone to. For example, hip and elbow dysplasia are more common in these sighthounds. These conditions occur when the bones around the hip or elbow joints, respectively, do not align properly. It can lead to arthritis and may cause ongoing pain and discomfort. If you get your Greyhound from a breeder, the parents should have been screened for these conditions. A clear screening result doesn’t guarantee that your pup will be dysplasia-free but it does improve the odds.

Another condition that is common in Greyhounds is gastric torsion. More commonly referred to as bloat, this condition occurs when there is a sudden influx of air and gas. Initially painful, like indigestion, it can cause the stomach to twist and may be fatal if not treated.

Minor Conditions
  • Anesthesia Sensitivity
  • Hypothyroidism
Serious Conditions
  • Elbow Dysplasia
  • Gastric Torsion
  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Osteosarcoma

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Male vs Female

Male Greyhounds are larger and tend to be more muscular than females. They also tend to be slightly faster than females, although the females still have an incredible speed. Males can be more affectionate but may also be more prone to fits of excited, energetic behavior. Females are generally calmer but they can be prone to moodiness.

Italian Greyhound standing
Image Credit: Natallia Yaumenenka, Shutterstock

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3 Little-Known Facts About the Greyhound

1. They Are Known as the World’s Fastest Couch Potatoes

Greyhounds are sighthounds, which means they hunt prey by sight. They would have traditionally hunted animals including rabbits and squirrels, and their incredible speed and sight led to them being used for coursing events and races. Greyhounds can run at speeds over 40 miles per hour!

They run so fast that when at full speed, they spend three-quarters of their time in the air. Although very fast, when they are not sprinting, Greyhounds love to lounge. They especially enjoy stretching those long legs out on the sofa, earning them the nickname of the “world’s fastest couch potato.”


2. Greyhounds Can Be Independent

Sighthounds are left to look for and hunt prey by themselves, which means they need to be able to operate without instruction. This independence has carried over to the modern Greyhound. So, while they are low maintenance, and they don’t require as much exercise as people believe and tend to have a sweet nature, their independence and very high prey instinct means that they are not usually recommended for first-time or novice owners.

They can be challenging to train because they will make up their mind about what is and what is not a good idea.


3. They Are the Only Breed Mentioned in the Bible

Dogs are mentioned throughout the Bible, but the Greyhound is the only breed that is mentioned specifically. In Proverbs 30:29-31, three breeds of dog are named as being “stately of stride.” While the other two breeds are not named, the Greyhound is.

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Final Thoughts

The Greyhound is a popular pet breed of dog because it is low maintenance—they don’t follow you around looking for attention, their coat benefits from regular brushing but is very easy to care for, and they don’t actually need excessive amounts of exercise. Rarely aggressive, the Greyhound will get along with strangers as well as family, although early socialization does help ensure this is the case.

Despite these benefits and the fact that it is intelligent, the breed is not recommended for first-time owners. Sighthounds are independent and once they have their eyes on potential prey, it is challenging to drag their attention back to you.

While you can buy Greyhounds from breeders, there are plenty of them up for adoption at specialist rescues and shelters, largely thanks to their history as racing dogs.


Featured Image Credit: Alexandra Morrison Photo, Shutterstock

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