©Scott Sheaffer, CDBC, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, USA Dog Behavior, LLC
“Am I the only dog lover who is in awe at the site of a Greyhound…at gallop speed?”
Greyhound dogs, a breed that can be polarizing. Almost all of the Greyhounds that you see as pets came from the racetrack. They ended up at a Greyhound rescue organization because they either retired from racing at four to six years of age or because they never made the cut and therefore can be very young.
As with every breed, there are good points and some things that can be challenging. This is why they are so polarizing. For more information on the breed please see this great article on the 10 reasons you don’t want the breed and 10 reasons you do. I wish there were more articles like this for every breed because all dog breeds have pluses and minuses.
One of the biggest controversies about Greyhounds revolves around rescuing them. One school of thought says these dogs need to be rescued and placed in forever homes or else the racers will euthanize them. Sadly, these dogs are usually euthanized when they are not rescued.
Another mindset says that racing Greyhounds is unnatural and inhumane. Further, the environment they are required to live in while of racing age can be abusive. Rescuing the retired racers and those that didn’t make the cut only makes it easier for those racing these dogs to readily dump their dogs when they are done with them, recruit yet more young dogs and give the Greyhound racing community an air of legitimacy.
I fully understand both camps. One could make a compelling argument either way.
Back to the original question of this article - Why do Greyhounds wear muzzles when they race? Let me be clear about something before I answer that. Greyhounds normally only wear muzzles when they race; as a family pet this is rarely necessary. Greyhounds are normally just big sweethearts that are very happy to snuggle with you on the sofa for hours on end. They are also pretty good runners too if you haven’t noticed. They are visually stimulated by prey (they officially are a sighthound) and therefore must always be kept on a leash as pets because they will go from 0 to 45 miles per hour in about two seconds to chase a paper bag blowing down your street.
Speaking of running. Am I the only dog lover who is in awe at the site of a Greyhound, or any dog for that matter, at gallop speed? God knew what he was doing when he gave canines this ability - beautiful!
The two primary reasons Greyhounds wear muzzles when racing are:
When Greyhounds race they get extremely stimulated and aroused. When they are excited like this their bodies are flooded with epinephrine (i.e., adrenalin). Humans have this same reaction to high levels of stimulation and arousal. When they are flooded with epinephrine they can sometimes bite the dog racing next to them. This is called redirected biting and all dog breeds can do it. It’s nothing personal; they just don’t know what to do with their excitement. Think of the football team that just made the winning touchdown and the players are hitting and pushing each other around - and they are on the same team!
The other reason Greyhounds wear muzzles when racing may surprise you. It is not uncommon for there to be photo finishes in these races. If there are a number of dogs with their pointy noses crossing the finish line at the same time it can be difficult to see who won. Muzzles make it much easier to determine the actual winner.
Greyhounds are sweet, gentle and athletic dogs. It is common to see Greyhound owners who would have no other breed because they love them so much and have owned a number of them. Greyhound rescue groups can be some of the most enthusiastic and dedicated organizations in the dog world.