The following information is required reading for all potential adopters before they adopt one of our available greyhounds. We give everyone a chance to think seriously about the commitment required and we want to make sure that everyone understands our expectations. This information is not meant to be sophmoric or condescending; we only want people to be sure that they are going to be willing to give a greyhound the time and patience needed to adjust to its new home and make sure that this commitment lasts a life time. Fortunately, we have a very low return rate and it’s because we ask people to think of the realities. It’s what each and every greyhound deserves!
All of us at Fast Friends Greyhound Rescue, Inc. work very hard to make sure that all of the greyhounds we bring into our program go into “forever” homes. It is our goal to reduce the number of greyhounds coming off the tracks that have nowhere to go. Many of these dogs sit in adoption kennels for long periods of time waiting for a group to take them. Many never make it into adoption.
When we screen potential applicants, we try hard to make sure that all adopters understand the process they have to go through to adopt a greyhound, but we also try to make sure that all adopters understand and are willing to make the real commitment it takes to love and care for that dog for the rest of its life, no matter what happens.
In spite of our best efforts, we find that a few people will bring back their dogs. When we have to rehome a greyhound, it takes a chance away for another greyhound waiting at the track. After looking at the reasons for the returns, we recognize patterns that reveal that many adopters go into adopting a greyhound with the wrong expectations and do not always think about the REALITIES of having a dog in the household for long term.
Greyhounds are exceptional dogs. They are the oldest pure bred dog in the world. Racing greyhounds are carefully bred; their pedigrees can be traced back for generations. They are bred for racing which means that aggression and many other negative behaviors are bred out of them. They have few health problems.
It is very expensive to breed, rear and train a racing greyhound. Thousands of dollars are invested into a single greyhound going to the race tracks. They are raised from puppies to know routine. They are highly socialized to each other because they are raised with their littermates for a whole year. They then go off to learn how to race where they are handled by trainers. They learn how to get along with humans. They are taught how to walk on the leash, how to race and return to their trainers after the race and they are trained not to soil their crates. Their lives are highly regimented – their comfort and security is in routine. They can be rejected from racing at any point along the line; those who make it to the tracks are highly trained dogs that respond to commands.
Racing greyhounds know what to do (and do it) because they are trained. These wonderful dogs come in to our adoption program as adults and have all the benefits of a well trained pure bred dog but without many of the problems that some other breeds have when they go into homes as puppies and are trained by lay people to live in a home.
If a greyhound can be trained to race, it is surprising to us when adopters have problems. We know why.
Problems – Behavior Issues
The problems we encounter with adopters seem to always fall along similar lines. There is always a “honeymoon” period when the adopter falls in love with their wonderful dog. That is because the adopter is seeing the benefit of a well trained, fostered and profiled dog. Then as time goes by or even immediately, we might start hearing complaints like “Fluffy won’t go into her crate.” Or “Sam soils the house when we go away.” Or “Brutus is marking!” Or “Cassie is chasing the cat!” Or “I can’t believe Bijou bit my child!” Or “Hank growled at me!”
We know when we hear these types of complaints that something has gone wrong in the home. While some adopters are quick to blame the dog, they must take responsibility for some of the problems. Many people do not take the time to study and understand dog behavior. While we try hard to warn people about not giving all the power to their dog, people will not always listen. Like rearing children, if we do not teach them correctly and allow them to behave badly, the result will be an unruly dog.
The biggest problem we hear is that the dog growls at the kids or growls at the family members or snaps. This may be because people become too complacent too quickly. In spite of all of our admonitions about not touching a sleeping greyhound, we still get calls and emails about this problem. These dogs WILL growl and snap if they are awakened by touch. This is why many groups do not adopt to people with children as it is a problem that seems to come up more than any. The adopter is responsible for training the dog and it starts when the dog comes in to the house.
Imagine going to visit a relative and when you arrive that relative follows you everywhere asking you if you want something to drink, something to eat, etc. For hours this relative constantly follows you around, even waking you up to make sure you are comfortable. How would you feel? Adopters fail to see how constant attention and bothering the dog while it’s resting can cause problems. Children need to be taught this and monitored all the time with a new dog. They should NEVER be alone at any time with a new dog.
Our rule is to make adopters answer the question, “Are you willing to live with that behavior for the rest of your dog’s life?” If not, then you MUST take responsibility for training your dog to live in your home under your rules. We cannot take responsibility for bad behavior from a dog (that originates in the adoptive home) any more than we can take responsibility for your lack of understanding of your dog and your inability to train your dog.
We profile all of our dogs via fostering. We know which dogs go best into which homes. When things fall apart, it’s up to the adopter to do some soul searching and do what is necessary to get their greyhound back on track. We offer help. But we cannot help if we do not know that there is a problem. Often, adopters will contact us AFTER they have decided to return to dog for a particular behavior. A call to our representatives may have saved a dog from being returned. In spite of all of the resources we offer, like our News Blog, volunteer help, many adopters do not make use of these tools. At the very least, an adopter may have to contact a dog trainer and/or behaviorist. But all bad behaviors CAN be solved with the proper understanding of dog behavior and commitment to follow through on the necessary training.
Problem – Lack of Planning
Some people return a dog after it’s been in a home because of life altering problems. We sometimes see returns because of job losses (economy), divorce, illness, moves, personal family issues, etc. In addition, many senior greyhounds are returned to groups because of the veterinary expenses associated with an elderly dog.
Life throws everyone curves. There are few people who escape having to deal with major problems in their lives. It is absolutely necessary for adopters to expect these types of problems and to make plans for their greyhound if problems occur. All too often we hear statements like “Now is a good time in our lives and we can have a dog.” That is great, but what happens to your greyhound if life heads in the wrong direction?
We see the impact on the dogs that are returned because adopters did not take into consideration what would happen to their dog if they had major life issues to deal with (especially on senior dogs).
While we have no control over personal adopter issues, we need to be assured that some kind of contingency plan is in place in the event that you have problems. Your greyhound has no control over your problems and should not have to suffer the consequences because of them. Please take into consideration all future problems and make sure that you have the means to keep your dog in your life. We need to know that our adopters will make this type of commitment to their dogs.
Problem – Benign Neglect
It is amazing to the people (like us) who work in greyhound adoption to hear opinions from adopters relating to all the horror stories they hear that befall racing greyhounds. And yet we see greyhounds coming back into our group with severe neglect issues. Most are behind in vaccinations and most have terrible teeth. Many are under weight or grossly over weight. Most have the same collar on that they were in when adopted and or the collars are filthy and frayed; they come back with long toe nails and filthy ears. We can say for sure that we rarely get back a totally healthy greyhound when one is returned to our group.
This means to us that people do not have the respect and regard enough for their greyhound to give it basic care. This goes against the adopter’s promise to us in the adoption contract that they will provide proper care for their dogs.
We can no longer place dogs in homes where we think for one minute that someone does not know or understand that a dog needs to have its nails clipped regularly, to be fed properly, to have good dental care, to be kept up to date on vaccinations. Most municipalities require a dog license and proof that a dog is up to date on vaccinations. This is also what we require and expect nothing less.
Problem – Blame the Victim
Many (if not most) adopters returning a greyhound try to blame the wrong parties. Yes, there are a few acceptable reasons for returning a greyhound (severe illness, death, etc.). But most people returning a greyhound start off by being very defensive and then try to blame members of our group or the dog for the reason for the return.
This is counter productive. While it might make the adopter feel better to blame someone else so they don’t have to accept any blame themselves, it makes it hard on the dog to be rehomed if the adopter uses a lot of excuses for the return. It is much better for us to deal with the return of a dog if the adopter is honest with us. It is unfair to label a dog as we then must be honest with the next adopter about the reasons for the dog being returned to our group (even if we learn that the reason is not legitimate).
We do everything we can to prevent dogs from being returned to our group (e.g., finding the right adopters). But we state from the beginning that we are here for the dog first and foremost. We are here to look out for the dogs. When you return your dog, unless there is a good reason for it, please do not expect us to be sympathetic and reassuring if we feel that you are not being honest with us.
If you have been approved to adopt a greyhound from our group, we look forward to working with you to avoid any and all pitfalls that might cause a problem. We hope that you understand our policies and are willing to adhere to them.
You have the right up until adoption to opt out of finalizing the adoption if you feel that we are requiring more than you are willing to give. Please be assured that other greyhound adoption groups work like we do. We want you to know ahead of time so that you know what to expect from us and what we expect from you.
We hope that your greyhound will bring you many years of joy and that your greyhound will receive the right training, good care and love from you until its life is over. It’s what they deserve!