Greyhound racing is an exciting sport that can yield lots of fun for its owners, trainers and breeders. It is a unique hobby as it provides opportunities to have fun and earn a return but there are many elements of luck at play.
Please Note: The information contained in this article is a summary of basic information regarding the sport of Greyhound Racing. It does not offer recommendations or suggest courses of action nor is it a substitute for professional advice. Further, it is not an exhaustive description or commentary on the topic of Greyhound Ownership, Breeding or Racing.
People wanting to get involved often ask about the costs involved in owning a race greyhound and the different processes involved. Below is a simple guide & discussion on the different phases of the greyhound’s life. From a cost point of view, a realistic and safe estimate of overall costs is "Pup cost" + $6000. This estimate should get your greyhound to the race track. Sharing the cost by setting up a syndicate is a great idea, as long as everyone pays their share on time!
Typically pups are purchased at around 12 - 14 weeks old and can cost anywhere from $1000 to $10,000+. The most important thing to be done before buying a pup is research. Look at industry websites & newspapers for current results, successful trainers & bloodlines. Ask questions of the successful people in the industry. It is hard to find out who the successful breeders are and even harder again to find out who the better rearing farms are as this information is usually just “known” to existing industry participants.
Find out which blood lines are producing quality race dogs consistently. Research the pup’s mother. Did she race? How did she perform? Has she already had pups and how have they performed? Does she have litter sisters/brothers that are well performed on the track or have produced good pups that have raced?
It is important to know that you must be registered as an owner with your state greyhound authority before any pup can be transferred into your name and if in a syndicate, all syndicate members must be registered as owners as well as the syndicate.
Once a pup has been selected and the purchase finalised, make sure you complete & sign the New Owner section on the Certificate of Greyhound Ownership and Identification so that the transfer of ownership can be finalised. This Certificate details the greyhound’s identifiers (microchip & earbrand), breeding, colour, sex, whelp date, litter number and the current owner’s name & address. Obtain the vaccination card for your pup which will have details of the vaccinations the pup has received. The current minimum requirement is C3 (parvovirus, distemper & hepatitis “core”) at 6-8 weeks of age and C5 (bacterial kennel cough, parainfluenza + “core”) vaccinations.
Pups are reared to between 11 - 14 months old, typically in long yards or paddocks whilst they grow and usually with at least one other pup of a similar age. Expect to pay between around $70 per week, which should include feed as well as monthly flea & worm treatment. It is a good idea to visit a few rearing farms so that you can compare facilities and conditions because they do vary.
It is a great idea to visit your pup regularly during the rearing phase if possible. Make sure that the rearing farm allows you to visit and walk/play with your pup. Early play with stuffed or rope toys teaches them there is a fun reward for chasing down and getting the toy. Teaching your pup to walk on a lead while young is far easier than when it is 12 months old and fully grown. The socialisation that comes from hands on contact & play is vitally important for helping the pup to cope with the transition from the rearing farm to the education process (“Breaking in”) with confidence.
Of course it is not possible for every owner to be able to take care of this socialisation process themselves. If this applies to you, look for a rearing farm that will take care of this vital activity for you and your pup.
At 11 - 14 months old the pups are sent to the "breakers" for early education. This involves teaching the pups to exit the boxes and chase the lure on their own and against another dog. The age the pups are sent can depend on owner preference, breaker bookings and physical size/maturity of the pup. Breaking in typically lasts for 4 - 6 weeks depending on the pup's attention, progress and ability. It can be quite a daunting experience for even the most outgoing and social pup to leave the security of the rearing farm so have patience.
Expect to pay around $80 - $120 per week during this phase. For some pups this is where their race "career" ends. There are some greyhounds who simply are not interested. These pups can make great pets so now is the time to complete their transition to retirement.
Most pups show enough at this time to continue on with. Some people like to give the pup a rest to allow them to mentally grow up a bit, recover from the stress of the breaking process or recover from any niggly injuries they may have. You can keep the pup at home for this period or place them with a rearing farm that offers short term yard spells or kennel stays.
Some pups go straight from breaking in to pre-training. This is when pups are taught racing life. They gradually achieve race fitness by regularly trialling on their own (solo) or against other pups at race tracks, learning the tracks and track environments as they go. Pre-training can either be done by the Trainer or on the Trainer's behalf by another person who specialises in pre-training.
The pup's performances through this stage begin to answer those important questions:
Expect to pay $85 - $120 per week whilst the pup is “in work”, $50 -$80 per week during short spells. This stage can last 2 - 4 months. If the pup is showing enough on the trial track, some Trainers/Pre-Trainers will stop charging fees early or not charge at all as long as they have first option to race the pup. Sometimes the pup is better suited to another state where the competition is easier. Listen to the Trainer if this is a recommendation as it is in your interest to place the pup where it is suited. If it is not your home state, don't worry, you can always watch their races on Sky!
Your Trainer will hopefully tell you that your greyhound will race and so you need to get he or she officially named. Make sure you have your naming form filled out and signed promptly when the Trainer asks you to as some state bodies can take 6 weeks or more to process the form and send racing card/papers back. The last thing you want to do is delay the start of your greyhound's career because of a paperwork problem. Most trainers don't charge any fees once your greyhound starts racing but prize money is split between owner & trainer (the typical agreement is a 50/50 split). There can be variations to this regarding vet bills, extended injury spells and a minimum prize money amount before a split but that is different with each Trainer. Ask questions as required as it is vital that you understand what you are expected to pay for and what prize money split you will receive.
The race career of a greyhound is very short when you consider their lifespan – usually no more than two or three years. There are careers that are cut short through injury and there are careers that are deliberately cut short for a variety of reasons. Some greyhounds simply decide they have had enough and won't "compete" any more. No matter why they have retired, you, as the owner, must decide what happens next. Do you breed with your race bitch? Do you keep your greyhound as a family pet? Do you work with GAP or a rehoming group to find your greyhound a home as a pet? Always remember, your greyhound is your responsibility!
Greyhounds do make fantastic pets, however some aren't very good at unlearning what they have been taught. Whilst they are easy to look after, an appreciation for their breed and the previous structure of their racing life certainly will help their and your transition to domestic life if you choose to keep him or her. Most state authorities run an Adoption program for ex-race dogs that you can apply to send your greyhound to, and they will find a suitable home. Alternatively there are private adoption groups you can make enquiries with that may be able to assist with finding a home for your ex-racer.
All in all owning a successful Greyhound will give you the ride of your life but like in all things, there are no guarantees of success. In greyhound racing, sometimes having a quick dog is not enough for success alone, a fair degree of good luck is also required. Before you decide to participate, carefully consider all of the possible outcomes, the responsibilities and the costs involved. You will be well rewarded with your decision.