The Greyhound's life begins on a breeding farm, where a great deal of planning has first gone into the pedigree of a litter. Racing Greyhounds in the U.S. are not AKC dogs; they are registered by the National Greyhound Association (NGA). Show Greyhounds are registered by the AKC, but they are relatively rare.
Puppies are kept with their mother until they are weaned at about 8 to 9 weeks of age. At that time their ears will be tattooed with their permanent identifying numbers and, usually with the litter remaining intact, they are moved to pens with outdoor runs where they are allowed to exercise as much as they want. They are given empty plastic bottles and toys to encourage the chasing instinct. They are fed a mixture of dry food and cooked meat three times a day.
At four months of age the pups are sent to a rearing facility where they are placed in smaller groups in a paddock where they can romp with their littermates to build strength and coordination. Their diet changes to one of dry food and raw meat once or twice a day, plus they are introduced to a collar and a leash and become familiar with a lot of handling.
Serious schooling begins at about 10 to 12 months of age when the youngsters are moved to a training facility. Here they must learn to accept the more formal living environment of a kennel where wire crates (perhaps 40 to 60) are stacked two high per room, generally with females on the upper row. And life now becomes one of strict routine. They are “turned out” four times a day -- 6 to 6:30 am, 10 am, 4 pm, and 9pm -- during which time they can relieve themselves and play with other kennel mates while the trainers and their helpers carry out any necessary clean-up of the cages (Greyhounds rarely mess in their crates). While in the turnout pen, the dogs are muzzled so as to prevent any confrontations. About once or twice a week they are taken to the track where they are exercised, introduced to the wire lure and the gate, and trained to run on a circular track. At approximately 18 months of age they are permanently moved to the track and begin preparing for professional races.
Greyhounds have been clocked at speeds of up to 45 mph, second only to the Cheetah as the world's fastest animal. Although most races last no longer than 30 seconds, the toll on the Greyhound's body is immense. Thus, the dogs are only raced once or twice a week. Races are mixed, with males and females running together. Females are kept on testosterone to keep them from coming into heat. Races are divided into various classifications, and the dogs move up and down through these levels throughout their career based on their performance. The difference between the speed of a Class A Greyhound and a Class D one can be as little as 1/4th of a second. The dogs may also be moved from track to track each racing season.
Throughout this entire time period, each Greyhound may have changed ownership several times. Most owners prefer to have little or no contact with the dogs, viewing them merely as investments while paying for their upkeep and seeing that they receive proper care and training. It is the trainers with whom the dogs have their relationships, and it is generally the trainer who determines (and advises the owner) when a dog's career is over, whether it be due to a lack of interest in racing, an injury, or just poor performance. And that can happen as early as age 2.
If a Greyhound has had an extremely successful career on the track, he/she may be used for breeding. However, that represents a very small percentage. For the vast majority of retired racers, the future is uncertain. Prior to 1980 almost all Greyhounds (est. 60,000) were destroyed at the end of their racing life. Fortunately, in the early 1980's the plight of the Greyhound became more publicized, and hard-working Greyhound rescue groups began to spring up. Currently, there are over 200 such dedicated organizations located throughout the country. That, along with the cooperation of the racing industry to reduce the number of puppies bred and the fact that more tracks (including the ones where MNGR gets its dogs) are taking on the responsibility of rehoming their Greys, has made a major impact on the fate of the ex-racer. In 1994, for the first time more Greyhounds were adopted (14,000) than were euthanized (13,000). Presently, about 18,000 Greyhounds are adopted each year, but that still leaves thousands that are not.