So You Want to Adopt a Sighthound . . . Part I

specialSighthounds are special. Of course, all dogs are special and we all think our dogs are unique in some way . . . but as a group, Sighthounds are just a little outside the realm of normal. If you've never owned a Sighthound before, below are some useful pointers. If you have, then consider this an opportunity to commiserate and nod along -- or add your own pointers in the comments section!



Q. Can I ever let my Sighthound off-leash?


A. No. Nope. Never. Absolutely not. And did we mention, NO! No matter how much your dog loves you or how well trained they are, they have thousands of years of instinct that tells them to run after things they see moving. And they can see things moving very, very well. Your Sighthound can see movement up to a mile away. You can't even physically see the thing they just took off after . . . at 45 mph. Within a minute they'll be too far away to hear you call their name. And it will be several minutes before they realize you aren't right beside them. So, please, do NOT let your Sighthound off leash in an unfenced area. For more information, please read the article here.



Q. Can I take my Sighthound to a dog park?


A. If you don't have a fenced yard, you're probably bummed about the off-lead thing and are thinking about heading to the local dog park. Well, don't dive right in! Being in a fenced area is only part of the equation. Now you need to consider what's inside that fence. Always walk the dog park the first time and identify any hazards. Walk your dog around the perimeter and past dogparkany tables or benches so they know they're there. Also think about the people and other dogs in the park. We always recommend basket muzzles for Sighthounds when they run, especially in a group. (Here's an article with more information on the ever useful basket muzzle.) We also recommend finding a private dog park that screens the attendees or at least a park with a separate area for little dogs. Be alert when you're with strange dogs. Not only might your perfectly cat-safe Borzoi suddenly decide that little Shih Tzu looks an awful lot like a bunny when it starts to run, but that Rottweiler might decide your Greyhound looks an awful lot like a deer when it starts to run, too.



Q. Why can't I use a retractable leash with a Sighthound?


A. Remember that 45 mph? Well, they can reach speeds like that IN THREE STEPS. By the time your dog reaches the end of that retractable leash, they can be going close to 45 mph. No matter how good your grip is, you're going to lose that leash. Even if you didn't, most retractable leashes are very lightweight and would probably snap anyway. Another reason we think these things are a bad idea is the "rope burn" they can leave. If you've seen the damage a retractable leash can leave on a human, imagine on the super thin skin of a Greyhound!



Q. What kind of leash and collar SHOULD I use on my Sighthound?


A. Martingales! There are several different types of martingale collars. What they all have in common is that they are a "limited choke" collar. Don't be confused with a traditional choke collar. Those are still bad. The "choke" part just means that when you pull on the leash the collar gets tighter; the "limited" part means that it doesn't get so tight it strangles the dog. The martingale adjusts so it just gets a little tighter—enough for the collar to not slip over those pointy Sighthound heads but loses when it isn't being tugged on so it's comfortable. As for the leash, we recommend a ½ inch or 1 inch nylon leash four to six feet long.



Q. Can I use an Invisible Fence with a Sighthound?


A. Another big fat no, unfortunately. Here's how an invisible fence works: your dog runs up to the barrier and their special collar starts to buzz. The closer it gets the more it buzzes. As they cross the line, it zaps them. Now imagine this dog is a Sighthound . . . and all of that happened in less than a 10th of a second because—you guessed it!—they were running 45 mph! And the worst part is that after they felt the buzz and slowed down, they tried to get back home and couldn't! Now that they aren't chasing anything they're at regular speed and the collar is working the way it should to keep them from crossing the barrier—except your dog is on the outside! Not only do Sighthounds require a physical fence when off-lead, we recommend 6-foot board-on-board privacy fencing. (SHUG does not, however, require a fenced yard to adopt. We have plenty of adopters who leash walk their Sighthounds and they get along just fine.)



Check back for Part II soon!

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10 thoughts on “So You Want to Adopt a Sighthound . . . Part I
  1. We adopted our first greyhound many years ago from an out-of-state rescue. Lynx was our first child. We learned by trial and error. We had one of the dreaded retractable leashes until one day Lynx saw a bird and took off. We were lucky. The outer plastic casing fell apart in my hands, but I was able to hold onto the leash. It was very frightening when she reached the end of the leash and was jerked to a stop. She could have been injured as could I. it is unbelievable how fast she reached the end of the leash.

    We have also found that a properly fitted harness works well for walking. Our whippet, Poe, pulls very hard when walking, choking himself. I did not feel I had control of him. The harness just feels better for us.

  2. My comment was written in small letters. Why did it change to all Caps when it was posted? It makes it look like I’m yelling.

  3. That picture at the top of the post is so very typically sighthound! They are, as a group, the laziest dogs I’ve ever come across. This isn’t to say that I don’t LOVE my greyhound to death, and she will definitely go for a walk, or even a short jog (1-2 miles tops) on a fairly routine basis. Definitely agreeing on all the above points, especially the fence. I have 4 ft chain link (all my budget would support) and it’s enough to keep my girl safe. Both the directors of the rescue group where I got her also have 4 ft chain link, and to the best of my knowledge have had minimal in the way of escapes.

  4. Agree with most of the article – just want to say not to muzzle a grey when it’s in with other dogs that are not muzzled or they will be defenseless. And regarding the invisible fence – other loose dogs may come on the property and attack your dog as they do not have a collar on.

    Also flexi lead has been known to be wrapped around human’s legs by dog and human pulled along in the street – broken leg and lots of scrapes were the least of the problems. Could have killed the human.

    Just a thought – looking forward to part II

  5. Good thoughts – another thing to watch for at dog parks are unaltered males. Often times they are “packing and hunting for bear” or your beloved sighthound, whether it be to pick a fight or hump your little ole lady. Either way, the sighthound is not really equipped to defend themselves except to run and in a fenced-in dog park there is no place to run to.

  6. I live in a city that thankfully has a good city dog park, and I’ve had very few problems taking my greyhound there. I always keep a very close eye on who else is there and how everyone (dogs and people) are behaving. If anyone, be it my girl or someone else, starts looking stressed or whatever, we just head home. There are others with greyhounds from the same rescue group that also bring their hounds there, and with very few exceptions, we are lucky enough to have a good place to let our hounds off leash to play. I treat it like everything else in life, a good healthy dose of common sense and a little vigilance lets us have a great time.