A NATIONAL dog charity has launched it ‘Honest To Dog’ New Year campaign to educate the public and encourage them to stop sharing misleading information about sighthounds.

Finding Furever Homes (FFH) has launched its #HonestToDog campaign as they are concerned there is so much inaccurate information shared about sighthound dogs. They want the public to educate themselves about the truth behind these breeds and the sort of homes and owners they require to restore their reputation and encourage people to consider adopting one.

Sighthounds, also called gazehounds, primarily hunt by sight and speed, rather than by scent and endurance. The most common breeds found in the UK are greyhounds, whippets, salukis and their mix – lurchers.

Like many dog rescues, FFH frequently find more than 50 per cent of the dogs in its care can be described as sighthounds or crossbreeds of those types. And whilst there are a whole variety of reasons why these animals end up in rescue there is often just a handful of inaccurate ones which stop members of the public from considering taking them on as pets.

Now FFH trustee and founder Andrea Newton is hoping by sharing five common falsehoods about the breed and five true facts it will encourage would-be adopters to give greyhounds and lurchers the proper consideration they deserve when it comes to adopting a rescue dog.

Andrea said: “As a person who is proudly owned by a lurcher myself I am totally in love with them, but it never fails to amaze me the sort of nonsense I hear people talking and sharing about greyhounds and lurchers. The problem is, these mistaken beliefs have been around for so long people honestly consider them fact.

“When people are looking for a rescue dog to join their family and you suggest a greyhound or lurcher to them, you tend to hear the same objections over and over. The potential adopters honestly believe what they are saying, so it is time we put that right and encouraged the public to learn their greyhound/lurcher lessons.”

Five Myths which you have probably heard about sighthounds and the truth of the matter:

  1. They need a huge amount of exercise.  –  Actually, sighthounds are built for sprinting so they don’t need hours of walking.  Most are generally happy with two walks of 20 to 40 minutes a day – the rest of the day will probably be spent sound asleep on the sofa (if they are allowed). This makes them ideal pets for a huge variety of families and less work than many working breeds. Sighthound owners often refer to their pets as 40 mile-per-hour couch potatoes.
  2. They are aggressive – Ironically the main reason for this misconception is due to responsible dog ownership and the use of muzzles.  These breeds are generally extremely placid dogs, and whilst all dogs are individuals, sighthounds often have a very strong chase instinct due to their genetic heritage, which means they can have a prey drive. During the transition into a new home many experts agree it can be both wise and responsible to muzzle as a precaution until your hound is settled and you are aware of their traits.
  3. They don’t make good pets as they have typically been in kennel or outbuilding environments –  People associate these breeds with kennels as they are thinking about racing greyhounds or working lurchers which often have a poor quality of life as they are only seen as a commodity to earn money. With hardly any body fat and a very fine coat, greyhounds and short coated lurchers can be particularly susceptible to the cold and most adopt well to an indoor opportunity!
  4. They can’t live with other animals – All rescue dogs have specific needs and backgrounds, and it’s true that some dogs may prefer to be the only animal or the only dog in the house. This is largely to do with the dog’s past and only in a very small part to do with their breed.  Due to the diverse nature of sighthound breeding there are a huge number of rescue dogs that live happily with both other dogs and a variety of other animals, including cats, rabbits, guinea pigs and other small furries.
  5. They take up too much room and aren’t cuddly – their narrow frames and lack of body fat may cause people to think this as they don’t have the obvious instant cuddle appeal of say a Labrador or a spaniel but they are very affectionate, sensitive souls and you’ll see them fold up into small spaces, generally on a sofa, and lean in for a cuddle.

Five ‘honest to dog’ lessons you probably didn’t know about sighthounds but should.

  1. Greyhounds and lurchers have significantly more red cells than other dog breeds so they are very desirable as blood donors and each unit of blood they donate can save the lives of up to four other dogs, so owners of these breeds are encouraged to add their furever friends blood to the UK pet blood registry as these dogs are true life savers.
  2. As well as being loving, lurchers and greyhounds genuinely do have big hearts.  Their hearts are physically larger than other dog breeds of a comparable size.  They also have a very low percentage of body fat and a high percentage of muscle mass.
  3. Lurchers were the people’s champion for hundreds of years. It is thought lurchers evolved from time when it was illegal for commoners to possess a hunting dog – essentially a greyhound.  By breeding greyhounds with more agrarian breeds such as sheepdogs and terriers, the commoner was able to legitimately and legally own a hunting dog to help keep his family fed.  Not bad considering the penalty for a commoner caught in ownership of a pure-breed hound was death!
  4. There is no such thing as a typical sighthound owner. While many greyhounds may be the unwanted victims of the dog racing industry and a tiny amount of lurchers may be used in poaching this in no way reflects who has these dogs. Celebrity owners include Uri Geller, Jaye Griffiths, J K Rowling, Jilly Cooper and Twiggy – even the Simpsons!
  5. Rescue centres across England, Scotland and Wales are full of greyhounds and lurchers in desperate need of loving homes. They can make excellent pets for families who are rescue ready and dedicated to taking on a rescue animal.

Andrea also believes many of the things people choose to view as negative about these dogs can also be seen as a positive, such as they fact many of them can lack confidence in using the stairs.

She said: “Rescued sighthounds are often unfamiliar with things we take for granted in a home environment, and flights of stairs are often one of the aspects of home life they find difficult to begin with. But actually, this can either be used to an adopter’s advantage if you would prefer your dog not to use your bed, or easily overcome with gentle familiarisation and patience. All the dogs that leave our care have 24/7 back up and advice from our behaviourist so as long as the owner is committed, professional help is always on hand”

Now as part of the campaign, throughout January FHH is urging people to share pictures of their sighthounds on social media using #HonestToDog with something true about what they are like to have as pets. The charity will also be sharing details or animals needing homes.

The charity is also urging anyone considering taking on a rescue dog in the new year to find out more about sighthounds and considering giving one a chance.

FFH is currently looking for homes for several sighthounds including greyhounds Stacey and Smithy, who were found abandoned in a van on an allotment with another dog. Stacey is thought to be about five years old and loves nothing more than a quick zoom around the field followed by a good sleep. She and Smithy are currently being cared for in kennels used by FFH in Condover, Shropshire, but she could be rehomed anywhere in England, Wales or Scotland subject to a suitable home check.

Also looking for a home is lurcher Gill who was taken in by FFH in a poor state with sores, hair loss and flat feet, having likely been a working dog. He is friendly and is looking for a home where he can get the care and attention he has lacked so far in his young life.

Finding Furever Homes is a volunteer-run charity which helps to rescue and rehome dogs throughout England and Wales. As a charitable trust, they provide funding to sponsor kennels and foster homes, and often part or fully subsidise veterinary care and specialist diets for dogs in a poor condition.

For more information on Finding Furever Homes and fostering or adopting a dog please visit www.findingfureverhomes.org.uk.