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A Greyhoud or Lurcher in the Family

Greyhounds and Lurchers

Both greyhounds and lurchers make excellent family pets as they are gentle, calm, sensitive and good-natured.

Greyhounds and lurchers have been developed primarily for racing and hunting. Some greyhounds are bred as show dogs and tend to be slightly larger in build. Although greyhounds and lurchers can be lively, they are normally very loving and affectionate with people and it is this quality that makes them very suitable as family pets.

Like all dogs, they need to be cared for by taking account of their special needs. Greyhounds and lurchers have been primarily bred to chase rabbits and hares. However, they will often transfer this drive to other small animals (such as small dogs and cats). In addition to this, they have been selectively bred to be fast runners, making it possible for them to catch up with most prey animals.

In some dogs, these traits have been encouraged and developed, as in the case of racing greyhounds or lurchers used for hunting. Once inherited traits have been developed, and the dog has learnt to enjoy the chase, little can be done to help the dog ‘unlearn’ this behaviour.

Every dog is different

Some greyhounds and lurchers can go through life without showing any interest in chasing small animals. Others, however, do have a strong desire to be predatory.

If your greyhound or lurcher is from the Blue Cross, then your dog will have been assessed by one of our trained staff. You will have been advised about the strength of your dog’s desire to chase and any necessary precautions to be taken.

Exercise, leads and muzzles

Greyhounds and lurchers can be surprisingly lazy at home and are usually content to lie around resting. However, they do require 2 or 3 good walks every day. Once outside, they like to use up their energy in short bursts of very fast speed when off lead. Being sight hounds, they enjoy chasing things that move, so care must be taken to ensure they cannot get into trouble by chasing animals, people or traffic. They should be kept on a lead until you are absolutely certain that there is nothing to chase and only allowed free exercise if you are certain they will come back to you when you call. Greyhounds and lurchers are usually good to walk on a lead and rarely pull.

Many greyhounds and lurchers need to be muzzled when let off the lead. This is not surprising when you consider that they have been bred to chase and catch small animals. Muzzling minimises the risk of a bite occurring at the end of an accidental chase as well as giving you, the owner, peace of mind. Use an open basket-type muzzle that allows for plenty of cooling air to circulate rather than a tube-shaped muzzle. Basket-type muzzles also allow for drinking, particularly important in hot weather.

Some greyhounds and lurchers are not safe to let off the lead even when muzzled. This is because small animals can suffer serious injuries when a large, fast, muscular dog like a greyhound or lurcher crashes into them, even though they cannot bite. You will require a strong collar and lead that will not break if your dog attempts to chase something fast moving.

If your greyhound or lurcher is from The Blue Cross, you will have received advice about the appropriate use of a muzzle. It is important that you always follow this advice. Do not become complacent, as the desire to chase never goes away, even if you have had many ‘incident’ free years with your dog. If you do not know the character of your dog, it is advisable to keep it muzzled whenever there is any risk of it coming into contact with small animals, unless you have your dog assessed by an animal behaviourist.

Ex-racing greyhounds sometimes have no knowledge of life outside the kennels and track. They may run into things at first until they become experienced and will need plenty of room to stop once they start running. They may also be unafraid of things that may injure them such as traffic or running fast over uneven ground. You will need to think ahead to protect them until they have learned about their new environment. Greyhounds and lurchers may also be unused to living in a house and may be afraid of normal household noises and experiences. Care will be needed until they have got used to life with humans.

Cats, greyhounds and lurchers

Some greyhounds and lurchers can learn to live quite happily with a pet cat in the family.

Advice should be sought from the rescue centre before this is attempted.

Even if your dog does not chase your own cat, it does not mean that other cats outside the household will be safe. Cats that are not part of the dog’s pack will often be seen as ‘fair game’ and some dogs will give chase if given the chance.

Useful guidelines

  • Make sure your dog is microchipped and has an identity disc attached to its collar.

  • Use a special wide collar purpose-made for greyhounds and lurchers.

  • A strong lead with a secure clip is essential.

  • If required, use a basket-type muzzle that is suitable, secure and comfortable for your dog.

  • Greyhounds and lurchers are very thin coated and will need to wear a dog coat in cold or wet weather.

Veterinary insurance is always a good idea for any pet. Regular health check-ups are essential. Do pay special attention to your dog’s nails as they do tend to grow quickly and long nails can tear easily when running at speed.

Please also see Gwen Bailey's article on
Predatory Aggression in Lurchers and Greyhounds

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