Many ex-racers have or had injuries consisting of anything from a bone break to a dislocated toe. This could make long walks and running on concrete or other hard surfaces painful. Your dog may not tell you he hurts, but he will pay for it later.
Consider your greyhound does not have shoes! They walk and run on the pads of their feet, which can easily be damaged, especially by hot or rough surfaces. Before taking your dog out, consider the temperature and condition of the pavement sidewalk. On hot days, walk only on the grass with shade available. Avoid broken asphalt, rough stones or jagged surfaces or you could end up by carrying your dog home.
Always consider your dog’s physical condition. Just because it was an athlete doesn’t mean it still is. Even a young dog may be out of condition, whether it actually raced or never made it to the track. Greyhounds on the track were bred and conditioned for sprints, not distance work. Once retired, even a sprint may tire them out, especially if they spend the majority of the time on the couch. If you want your greyhound to walk with you, make sure you work up pace and distance gradually. Every time you go out, give your dog a chance to warm up first and cool down afterwards. Be careful what you ask your dog to do. It will try to follow your lead to please you, even to exhaustion that may result in death.
It is essential to remember that retired racing Greyhounds may bring some souvenirs of their past with them. These may include (but are not limited to) old stress fractures, microfractures, partially torn or avulsed tendons and ligaments, osteoarthritis, and degenerative joint disease. As such, these retirees are prone to further injury if allowed or encouraged to exercise at full speed without proper training and conditioning. To this end, I would propose that we consider these elements before turning them loose:
- Current weight versus racing weight
If more than 5 pounds difference, the dog must have a weight control program and conditioning before being allowed to exercise without restraint.
- Pre-existing conditions
If dog was retired due to injury, guardians should have current x-rays and a vet slip before undertaking any strenuous exercise program.
- State of physical fitness
All Greyhounds should have a conditioning period of a minimum of 6 to 8 weeks of both speed and distance work (combined training) before any attempt should be made to allow these dogs to run unrestrained. History has proven that exercise without preparation can result in severe, crippling injuries or death.
In conclusion, I suggest that we get our couch potatoes off the couch long before we allow them to run without restraint. To do otherwise is to invite disaster.