In recent years, public dog parks have increased significantly in popularity. The parks are popular because they provide a way for dogs to get exercise and spend time with other dogs. Nothing makes us happier when we see all of the dogs running around together and having a great time playing. However, we never think about the tragedies that can happen (and have happened) when we are not educated about pack mentality and dog behavior in general. There are very important issues that new greyhound adopters should think about before taking a greyhound to a dog park.
– Greyhounds are “sight” hounds, bred for thousands of years to hunt, chase, and capture prey. This is a deeply-rooted instinct that humans cannot change.
– Adopted retired racing greyhounds have been further trained to race at high speeds to chase down prey, or moving, prey-like objects.
– When racing, all greyhounds wear muzzles specifically to avoid injuries. (many greyhounds become competitive when running with other dogs.)
Why wouldn’t a greyhound think a dog park (or the like) was meant for this activity too? Taking a greyhound into a public environment (dog park, etc.) with other dog breeds is a huge risk for everyone involved. Humans cannot run faster than a greyhound in an attempt to prevent a dog “prey” capture, or to break up a dog fight – not to mention humans being harmed in the process.
For new adopters who aren’t aware:
– A single greyhound should not be muzzled when all other dogs are not muzzled.
Reason: If another dog attacks the greyhound, or if a dog pack fight begins, the muzzled greyhound cannot defend him/herself.
– It is wrong (and foolhardy) to surmise that your hound won’t get involved in a dog fight or attack another dog.
– If a muzzle is worn on any dog, all dogs should be muzzled.
Many greyhound owners avoid taking greyhounds to public dog parks/other mixed breed enclosures for all reasons above. Others may try going very early in morning and enter only if no other dogs are present, then leave as soon as another dog arrives.
It is very important to understand pack mentality. Once one dog is hurt and makes a sound, the others will attack it. This instinct is hardwired into dogs. The survival of the pack depends on all animals being healthy. Once perceived as being weak, that dog must be eliminated from the pack.
One example of pack mentality: There are about 15-20 large dogs in dog park. There are two gates into the dog park. A lady entered through furthermost gate with one small/medium sized dog that yelped when it was approached by an unfamiliar dog. It took roughly three seconds for every dog in the park to be in a horrific fighting pile on top of the new dog. The first yelp was all it took to alert every dog to join the pack. Please do not make the mistake of thinking that your dog would not join such a fight!
It behooves all of us to remember our own breed’s history and instinct. Regardless of dog size differences and their owners’ decisions, we can’t expect any other dog breed owner to know our dogs. They may assume greyhounds would not be off leash in a public enclosure if they were not safe around other dogs.
Your hound might be okay around smaller dogs (strangers) in a dog park environment (some are, many aren’t); however, some people have misperceived seemingly smaller dog friendship with potential small dog prey interest. Just because a hound didn’t make it to a professional race track doesn’t mean that hound was never race trained. There are many reasons a hound doesn’t make it to professional tracks (i.e.; may run too slowly, may try to bump/nip other dogs too much when racing, etc.). It doesn’t necessarily mean they have zero prey drive in their genetics with a100% guarantee to never become triggered. No dog breed is ever100% guaranteed.
Other considerations before taking greyhounds (or other dogs) to a dog park while other dogs are present:
– Are you financially able to accept full liability (and emotional/stress liability) IF your hound is unexpectedly triggered and harms or kills another dog?
– Exorbitant fees can run into many, many thousands of dollars, and can affect other areas when someone’s dog becomes labeled as a serious aggressor (even if the dog simply did what comes naturally): i.e., homeowner’s or renter’s insurance rates may increase, etc.
– The first thing many cities do is quarantine the aggressor dog in a shelter (for rabies check)… and, the aggressor may be euthanized depending on ordinances. If a pack dog fight takes place, this treatment could also include others involved in the pack fight.
– Best case scenario, (with much legal help) the dog may have to live his/her lifetime under strict home shelter rules; the dog might not be able to be taken out in public; or, if very lucky, the dog may be able to go out in public (like to vet’s office) only when muzzled.
– Consider the distress of the other dog’s family/children.
– In contrast, how would we feel if our (thin-skinned) greyhound is mauled by another dog in a dog park? If our hound survives, the hound (and owner, if injured) may endure long, intensive recovery; veterinary visits; time off work, etc.
Is it worth the risks? Some people are willing to take their chances, others aren’t. Those that do take their chances (especially around smaller dogs) coupled with a tragic experience can negatively affect greyhound adoption as a whole.
This is a reality check for adopters to consider before taking hounds into a crowded mixed breed dog park for a daily romp.
Some people may be surprised that there are adoption groups that require their adopted hounds never be allowed in public dog parks while other non-muzzled dogs are present. (muzzled-greyhound-only play dates are fine.). While we do not place these kinds of restrictions on the dogs we place (we have no way of enforcing this rule), we do hope that all new adopters understand the potential issues involved with taking greyhounds to a public dog park
A safer alternative for those living near other greyhound owners is to arrange “all-muzzled greyhounds only” play dates.