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Life on a Racing Track

A racing greyhound puppy stays with their mother for eight weeks and then usually remains with its littermates on a greyhound farm chasing and running to develop muscle. They play with plastic bottles, towels and toys and dig. At about 5 months they are grouped into pairs; their life becomes very unique. They spend the next 7 months becoming leash trained, introduced to a muzzle, learning verbal commands and introduced to a squawker tied on a pole: serious training begins.

At 12 months old a greyhound is moved to a training facility near a race track where they exercise and run against more advanced competition. They are introduced to the racing environment and have a disciplined schedule. By 14 months of age they are taken to the tracks twice a week where they are trained to be racers.

When a greyhound reaches between 15 to 18 months it will live at the race track and trained to race. They are first entered into a non-betting preliminary race and then moved on to a maiden race if it does well; if not, it will be retired. If it does well on their maiden race then their career begins; otherwise it will be retired.

Dogs normally race twice a week; the rest of the time they rest in their cage. The cage is filled with shredded paper. Many of the dogs must wear their muzzles while caged. Some say it is for their protection so they do not chew on their kennels; activists say it is abuse. These groups object to the fact that the dogs are confined for 21 hours a day. Trainers say that the greyhounds do not object because of their low activity level; hence the term "40 mph couch potato".

The majority of breeders and trainers take care of and treat their dogs with respect in this incredibly competitive sport. However, self-regulation has lead to some abusive situations. The reality is that greyhound racing has inherent problems. It is not a sport about fast dogs, but a form of gaming where profit dictates sometimes the level of care and expendability at each stage of the dog’s development. When greyhounds do not run profitably, they are of little use to the business.

Retirement... What's Next?

Presently there are not enough homes for all the “retired” greyhounds. A dog’s racing career is usually over at 3 to 4 years of age. It is estimated that the sport of greyhound racing has claimed the lives of more than 1,350,000 dogs in its 90-year history.

It was not until the 1980's, when adoption organizations began, that the greyhound’s chance of survival became less bleak.

A typical racetrack diet consists of raw meat, pasta, rice and vegetables with vitamins and supplements. Each dog has a set amount of food; they must maintain a set weight and never vary more than a couple of pounds. Some people feel that some owners use sub standard raw meats obtained from sick, dead or dying cattle (4-D meat).

On the day a dog is racing he is weighted and checked. Most of them know where they are going and are excited. A few hours before post time the dog is taken to the “paddock” and given a tag indicating the race and their racing number. A track veterinarian is on hand to observe any issues. Following the race the dogs are cleaned and cooled down before fed.

During a greyhound’s racing career it may stay at one track or be moved from track to track. It’s all about competition. Professional haulers transport large number of dogs from track to track. Some animal activists feel the dogs are transported in cramped conditions and can go cross country in poorly ventilated trailers.

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