Dogs as antidepressants.
May 10, 2010 12:05 PM   Subscribe

Should I get a dog? If so, should I get a rescued greyhound?

I don't have much experience with dogs, but I'm thinking about getting one anyway. I don't know a lot of people where I live, and since my boyfriend has a really long commute every day and I currently only work part time, I'm home alone a lot. I moved in with my boyfriend nine months ago, and for a lot of reasons (social anxiety, living in the middle of nowhere, first year out of college) I'm finding it hard to make friends around here, so there isn't really anyone I could go hang out with. I also suffer from occasional bouts of depression, and being alone all the time isn't helping. I feel... well, lonely.

This is where getting a dog comes in. I know that having a dog around doesn't replace human interaction, but at least I wouldn't be alone all the time. I'd also be getting daily exercise from having to walk the dog, and possibly meeting new people in the process. The more I think about it, the more the idea appeals to me, especially as I'll likely be home without work all summer (I'm a teaching assistant).

I have the time and energy and affection to give to a dog, but I worry that these are stupid reasons to get a dog, and I don't want to rush into anything. Can having a dog help to make a person feel less lonely? I am in therapy, but I guess I'm hoping that the dog could be one more thing that would help me stay out of another major depressive episode, and be a reason to get up in the morning even if I did.

Also, given that I'm looking for a dog primarily to keep me company, would a rescued greyhound be a good choice? They appeal to me because I've read they are affectionate, quiet, and don't need three hours of exercise every day, but I understand that they can sometimes be a little aloof. I already have cats that I love dearly, but they aren't as interactive as I think a dog could be, and since I'm planning on keeping any dog I get for the rest of his or her life, I want to be sure to get the right kind of dog for me. I'm committed to taking the dog on walks every day, but realistically, my limit would probably be about an hour of exercise a day, maybe an hour and a half, with longer walks and play on weekends or during the summer when I'm home all day. I am not at all set on having a purebred, but like the idea of making a home for an ex racing dog.

In short: I'm depressed, anxious, and lonely. Can getting a dog help, and if so, would a rescued greyhound be a good choice?
posted by rosethorn to Pets & Animals (39 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I have the time and energy and affection to give to a dog, but I worry that these are stupid reasons to get a dog

to me, these are the best reasons to get a dog. providing a loving, happy home for a dog is not a small thing.
posted by gursky at 12:17 PM on May 10, 2010

oops, hit post too soon!

i would go to your local shelter and meet a few dogs to see what kind of dog you really want. a retired racing dog would be good (especially if you don't want a dog with tons and tons of energy), but you might meet a goofy, affectionate mutt who steals your heart. if the thought of your dog being aloof or not really a pet that likes to a cuddle, perhaps another shelter dog will suit your needs.

in any case, the staff at the shelter should be able to match you up with the best dog for you.

good luck!
posted by gursky at 12:19 PM on May 10, 2010

Even though you've said you plan to keep the dog for the rest of his/her life, I ask you please to really think about this. Don't get a dog because you are lonely right now, this could change in a few months or years. Get a dog because you want to make that dog a big part of your life, to the point where you would decline meeting friends for a drink because you want to go walk/run/play with your dog.

Afa greyhounds go, they are less expressive perhaps, but they can be very loving.
posted by allelopath at 12:20 PM on May 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I recently adopted a greyhound. One of the best & most rewarding decisions of my life, but there are caveats:
- Greyhounds, like lots of other breeds are a ton of work. I honestly don't think I could handle being a dog owner without my girlfriend, who is amazing. If your boyfriend has a long commute, he may not be able to really help out a lot with stuff (walks, feeding, etc). We walk our dog 4 times a day. 3 of those walks are 15 -20 min and 1 is usually 30 -an hour. That's every day.

- Make sure your greyhound is really truly cat-friendly since you already have one. I've known people who've tried to get cat-tolerant greyhounds and still ended up having a really hard time combining the two

- Our greyhound suffered from a really mild case of separation anxiety when we adopted him. As mild as it was it was still one of the worst experiences ever. Literally, weeks of sleepless nights.

- The fact greyhounds are aloof, but you want affection too. My dog is really not that affectionate. If you're looking for a dog that'll wag its tail and jump all over you everytime you get home, then a greyhound might not be the right dog. Some greys do, but a lot don't.

I am not trying to discourage you from getting a greyhound at all. Just some things to note. Again adopting an ex racing dog was easily one of the best decision I ever made. Feel free to msg me if you have questions.
posted by cuando at 12:23 PM on May 10, 2010

A friend of mine had a greyhound retired from the racing track. He was a bit goofy, not the smartest dog in the world and very, very fast. Once when I was visiting her, someone accidentally left the gate open and he got out. My girlfriend was in tears because it meant getting in the car and trying to hunt him down. This had happened a few times and she was worried that one day she would not be able to find him.

As far as curing your loneliness and depression, I can attest that this does work. I lost my first child and was deeply depressed. My family bought me a Maltese puppy and they said later that it was the first time I had smiled in months. That dog was wonderful therapy.

My one concern is that after you return to work there might be times when you are too tired to walk the dog. Greyhounds definitely do better with plenty of exercise.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 12:23 PM on May 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Dogs are an incredible mood lifter. For one thing, they love you. For another, it can really lift you out of a bad place to walk, talk to, and train a dog. I swear that my dog Jake saved me and my mental health when my Dad died.

As for rescue greyhounds, I've always wanted one. Whenever I meet one, even females, I'm struck by what gentlemen they are. By which I mean they are courteous dogs, not in your face or jumpy or aggressive. The rescue greyhounds are very comfortable with people. Also, everyone I know that deals with them says they do not need tons and tons of running -- reportedly they are actually, in their gracious way, sorta couch potatoes.
Here's a decent site about them.

I think you should go for it.
posted by bearwife at 12:24 PM on May 10, 2010

Get one--you seem to have all the things you need--the ability to maker a commitment to a pet (cats), willingness to exercise, time to be there, a desire for companionship, self examination and motivation. And I do believe that a dog can be an excellent companion through times of depression and anxiety--it will not prevent or cure these episodes but a pet, particularly a dog, can make them a bit more manageable. I can not speak to the issue of a greyhound--I would encourage you to sort out what you are willing to give, and receive from the dog ( shedding/non-shedding, adult/puppy, amount of exercise, size, do you wnat to travel with it, etc.) I wish you and your new companion well. BTW, I assume your partner is supportive?
posted by rmhsinc at 12:25 PM on May 10, 2010

You could go to a local pet shelter to find a dog who is known to be OK with cats, whereas people who rescue greyhounds may not know how they feel about cats.

Also, how much space do you have? Do you have a yard of any sort? Is it fenced in?

Getting a young to mid-aged dog who is settled but still energetic could help you get out and run around, with the excuse that it's for the dog's good, though the exercise could lift your mood, too.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:27 PM on May 10, 2010

Consider fostering. Generally if you want to keep the animal you are fostering, you have the first choice, and if you find that the dog doesn't get along with your cats, or you cannot deal with the neediness, or you just don't want a dog longterm, you will not have endless guilt about returning a dog. And don't forget that the dog will need the same amount of attention in the fall, when you will be teaching again.

A good shelter or rescue will be able to discuss this with you and work out finding the right dog for you.

(At least here, the dogs that need fostering usually have kennel cough but would otherwise be adoptable -- they're not dogs that need experienced homes to socialise and train them.)
posted by jeather at 12:29 PM on May 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I am coming at this from waaaay out in left field, but please bear with me.

A dog can help a person feel less lonely, yes. However, I also worry -- particularly because you're in an isolated area where a dog will be a close companion -- that you might a) use the dog as a substitute for human companionship and b) use the dog as an excuse not to get out.

My partner lived with a roommate for several years. Said roommate (J) had taken in a stray dog who had then delivered puppies a few days later; he kept the mom and two of the pups. Eventually J, who had inherited money, followed my partner out to Iowa because my partner and his then-wife were J's closest friends, and J could get a lot of house/yard for way less than he could in California. So: J and his three dogs ended up in a giant house with a giant yard, and everything was properly fenced and doggie-doored. J didn't have to work, so he sat around all day playing on the computer and watching CNN with the blinds down. Because they can get exercise in the back, he never takes them for walks. And now that my partner has been living with me for a year, there's rarely another human in the house.

We can NEVER get J to go out. It's always, "Oh, the dogs freak out at thunderstorms, so I can't come to your birthday party." Or "The dogs can't be alone for more than a day, so I can't stay overnight." (They have plenty of food and the ability to go out at any time, not to mention nearby friends to check on them -- not that he would ask).

It's true that the dogs freak out, including one dog who is so scared that she had a pacemaker put in. She has to be fed on her own; getting any of them to go to the vet is a task and half. But they're so timid that you'd think they'd been abused. They feed off of J's considerable anxiety. And then one dog will bark and he says, "Shush!" right away, as if that's not what dogs do, particularly dogs who have been trained to "protect the homestead."

So if you do decide to go this route, please use the dog as a tool to go meet new people at the dog park, or get involved in doggie advocacy, or things like that. Don't be like J. We love him, but he transfers his nerves to those poor dogs.

(Side note: he is FINALLY getting out for a trip to the UK next month, so we'll be going down for a few days to check on the dogs. I'm interested to see what happens when J isn't around.)
posted by Madamina at 12:34 PM on May 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Just a note, greyhounds and small animals like cats don't always make the best housemates. Even my dad's lazy old rescue greyhounds were able to catch and kill more than one squirrel or rabbit that managed to get into the well-fenced back yard.

But a dog for companionship, if you're in a good position to care one for it's entire life, isn't a bad idea in general.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 12:41 PM on May 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've posted about our greyhound experience before, and most everyone else here has hit the high points. Something worth considering about greyhounds is that they have very seldom had much one-on-one contact, and almost certainly have never actually been inside a house before. This meant for a little in the way of adjusting - we had to show ours how to use the stairs. Also, she was pretty covered in ticks and fleas when we got her.

Afterwards, though? She was the sweetest dog ever. Never bothered the new puppy we added later. Never bothered the bird when it got away during cage cleaning and landed on her. Never so much as growled at the kids when they came along. Even tempered and mellow, she lived very well in every apartment and duplex we had, up until we finally bought a house. We had the yard fenced for the dogs and she seemed to go out, nose around, crap and then trot back to the house to come back in and go back to sleep.

Random notes: make sure your vet has some familiarity with sighthounds - they don't do well with some anesthetics, and they can bleed like stuck pigs - take care when trimming nails and invest in a little container of styptic powder in case you nick the quick. Thin fur and little-to-no body fat means they are definitely indoor dogs. The adoption folks will definitely set you on the right path.
posted by jquinby at 12:49 PM on May 10, 2010

I adopted a dog last October. I love her to death, but she is a lot of work. It was a far bigger change to my life than I expected. It's completely worth it, but "going out with my coworkers after work" is now "go home, find parking, walk dog, feed dog, play with dog for a bit, get back in car, go find coworkers" -- nothing can really be spontaneous. My random weekends to go visit friends in other cities or states now require a week of planning to find a dogsitter and arrange keyswaps and all this stuff.

But she has gotten me out of the house like crazy. I live alone and I'm an introvert, and though I love living in the city (I'm in downtown Boston) and wandering, I am susceptible to lethargy. Having to actually go out and walk the dog every day gets me out of the house a full hour a day more than I had before, has helped me lose weight without even trying, has helped me get to know the other dog owners in my neighborhood (and the other dogs, of course), having people come up to talk to me in the park, etc.

But a key part of that is that I live in a city and I *have* to walk the dog through densely populated areas every day. My family had a dog growing up that had a big fenced in backyard, and we never took him for walks, so that dog was not a social experience. If your setup is such that it'd be easy to fall into that habit, the dog won't provide the conversation starter you hope it will, and you'll just end up staying in the house all the time.

Also, take into account what happens if and when you get a full-time job. If you worked 8-5 with whatever your standard commute is in your area, how many hours a day would the dog be home alone? Could you afford a dog walker to come in at lunchtime each day? Would the dog be created, or left to run around the house?

As far as a greyhound or not, that's totally up to the personality of the dog you find. I looked at greyhounds, but ended up with a lab/golden mix. I looked at lots of other mutts too. Shop around Petfinder and see who sticks out to you.
posted by olinerd at 12:50 PM on May 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I can't comment on GHs in particular, but no matter how bad my day has been it is really tough not to smile when my Golden meets me at the door. I think you have excellent reasons for getting a dog.
posted by Silvertree at 12:52 PM on May 10, 2010

Just my two cents:

I adopted my greyhound in September of last year. Here are several points I'd like to make about greyhounds in particular:

-When you are on walks, you WILL meet people. Everyone sees little Malteses and Shih-tzus and Pomeranians around, but a GREYHOUND is something exciting, and everyone will want to talk to you about him. I'm normally a shy person, but if you get me started about my dog, I can chat up a storm. Also, the greyhound community is generally pretty warm and welcoming.

-Don't believe people who say "greyhounds can't live in a house with a cat". If you find a good rescue group, they will KNOW if a dog is cat-safe. I would recommend going with a group that fosters greyhounds, instead of sending them home straight off the track. Then you can adopt a dog that's already lived with cats!

-Some greyhounds are aloof. Some are affectionate. Mine likes me a lot; he'll follow me from room to room. But he LOOOOOOVES my fiance. When Fiance gets home from class/work, the dog goes CRAZY.

-Greyhounds (in general) are not like Real Dogs. Mine doesn't chew things, doesn't bark, and when he sits, his butt doesn't touch the ground. He'll do tricks, but only if I've got something that looks really delicious.

-An hour a day is plenty of exercise for my hound. If you work on it from the start, separation anxiety is solvable (or even preventable). Find a good group, and don't be afraid to ask stupid questions ("Do boy dogs have nipples?" Yes.)

All in all, you sound like you're in a very similar situation to me (introverted, hard to make friends in a new place, etc), and I would absolutely recommend a greyhound for you. If you want to ask me any questions, or need recommendations for good websites (or a group if you're in the VA/MD/DC area), feel free to MeMail me.
posted by specialagentwebb at 1:03 PM on May 10, 2010 [5 favorites]

Yes, a dog will almost certainly help with depression, and yes, getting some regular exercise will definitely help with depression. Any reason you want a rescue greyhound other than the low energy? You might be just as well off heading to the SPCA and seeing what your options are. Depending on the breed, a small/medium sized mutt might meet your needs just as well. Keep in mind what you'll be able to bring to the table, then work within that to decide if this is a workable proposition. A meet-up with other pets might also be in order, just to make sure everybody's cool with eachother.
posted by Gilbert at 1:05 PM on May 10, 2010

Best answer: I've considered getting a retired greyhound myself, but I'm still on the fence (and I currently have three dogs in my house, so I don't need another at the moment).

Two things that make me think you should get a generic shelter mutt instead of a greyhound.

1. I think you need a more affectionate and engaging dog. Yes, I know some greys are affectionate and goofy, but you might not find that out until you get the dog home and it settles in. An aloof dog will give you a reason to get up in the morning and go out for a walk, an affectionate dog will make you WANT to get up in the morning and go out for a walk. My lab mix knows when I'm sad and sits on my feet and lays her head in my lap and runs around in circles. It's impossible to be sad with an engaging dog like that.

2. Kind of touching on what specialagentwebb said - you might meet too many people with a dog like a greyhound. And it can be overwhelming. When I'm out with my lab people tend to talk to her instead of me, and it's usually a simple "Oh aren't you a good dog!" sort of thing and then they go on their way. When I'm out with my grandma's 5lb toy poodle, people talk to her, they talk to me, they ask questions... and I can't stand it. But then I'm a misanthrope and don't like to talk to people unless I initiate it. A mutt would be a good icebreaker, but you wouldn't necessarily be forced into a conversation like you would with an "interesting" dog.
posted by elsietheeel at 1:15 PM on May 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: A few points for clarification:

I would under no circumstances adopt a dog unless I sure I wanted to have that dog be a part of my family for the rest of his or her life, or if my boyfriend was not supportive. I am also not worried about having time for the dog when I return to work in the fall, or if I get a full time job. I'm committed to making time, regardless.

We live in a house with a decent sized yard, but it is not fenced in.

I forgot to add that one of the reasons I'm interested in greyhounds is that my boyfriend has dog allergies, and I know that some people react less to greyhounds than they do other types of dogs, and they shed less. We'd have to test this, obviously, before we decided to adopt one, but it just seemed like one more thing that might make a greyhound the right kind of dog for us.

Thanks, everyone! These answers are exactly what I was looking for, including the 'why having a dog might be hard for you' parts! Keep 'em coming. :)
posted by rosethorn at 1:17 PM on May 10, 2010

Response by poster: Also - I have thought about fostering, but I wasn't sure that a shelter would let me foster when I have no dog experience. Does anyone know if this is the case?
posted by rosethorn at 1:22 PM on May 10, 2010

Greys are shorthair, but do shed some. Probably not as much as other dogs, though. You might want to consider a fence. Our dog was fairly undemanding in the way of attention - she transitioned from Main Pet during our DINK days to a family dog very easily.

She and the shih tzu, who we got as a wee pup, were best buds until the end. Re: fostering, my mom is part of a Westie rescue/fostering group and they're pretty particular. Very protective of the breed, and they want folks who know terriers in general and westies in particular. YMMV with other groups (say, those associated with a shelter), so just take that as data point.
posted by jquinby at 1:30 PM on May 10, 2010

My grey sheds a ton when the weather changes. Like huge drifting piles of dog hair. He also barks sometimes. Some greyhound myths aren't true 100% of the time.
posted by cuando at 1:44 PM on May 10, 2010

We walk our dog 4 times a day. 3 of those walks are 15 -20 min and 1 is usually 30 -an hour. That's every day.
Every grey is different. Ours didn't like long walks; he got all excited whenever I brought his leash out, but he only ever walked as far as around the block, or to the second corner from our house, two blocks away. He'd stop frequently along the way and sniff everything, especially flowers. But he seemed to be less interested in the actual exercise and more intrigued by the scenery and smells. We had a fenced-in yard, and that's where he got his true exercise; whenever the mood struck him (usually right after a good healthy dump) he'd run a few speedy laps around the yard. He was cat-friendly and very affectionate. He was very "spooky" when we first got him - afraid of almost everything, but with patience and love he bonded with us. He regularly came over and slid his head under my typing hand for petting while I was working at the computer.
posted by Oriole Adams at 1:44 PM on May 10, 2010

Dogs are excellent companions. They're also a lot of work (depends on the breed and the dog, of course). I like the suggestion above about fostering dogs from a shelter to get a sense for the daily commitment required, as well as the compatibility between you, your dog, and your home.

I also recommend that you and your dog sign up for at least once a week training classes. I found my first time in one of these that the classes are as much to train the humans in how to act as they are to train the dog.
posted by zippy at 2:03 PM on May 10, 2010

If your boyfriend has allergies then may I suggest . . . a poodle!

I never thought of myself as a "dog person" until my fiancee's 8 year old standard poodle moved in and now I'm completely sold. Everything people have said about the work required is true, but I've found it incredibly rewarding and super healthy--I now walk miles each day.

Regarding the breed . . . I just can't say enough good things about standard poodles . . . super smart, affectionate, well behaved (a function of thorough and early training), and hypoallergenic! Oh, and if you get a poodle, you don't have to give it a stupid haircut--we don't and she looks like a classic cartoon puppy that makes children smile and giggle whenever they see her.
posted by donovan at 2:19 PM on May 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

My best friend has a greyhound and here are my observations (some past tense below because they just moved away waaah!!):

1. She is an amazingly affectionate dog. She loves pets and to be cuddled. Her best friend is my lab and she is totally attached to my husband even though we only saw her about once a week so our experience has been different than some of those above.

2. She sheds like a mofo twice a year. Oh my god with the shedding. She gets furminated multiple times a week and still with the shedding. The rest of the year it was fine, but spring and fall are awful.

3. She had/has stomach issues. Racers are fed raw meat diets so transitioning them to regular dog food can be tricky. She has had to take her to the vet a few times to help work out issues so you may need to ask questions before you adopt about possible stomach issues for that particular dog.

4. She's not really one of those dogs that you can train. I mean, she knows what she's supposed to do, but she's not always interested in doing it. She's picky about where she poops so sometimes the walks get pretty long. (In fact my friend gave up at one point and would just let her run it out at the dog park in the mornings and some evenings.)

5. If you get your greyhound from a good rescue, the dogs are fostered first and learn how to negotiate stairs and be indoors. They will also evaluate for interest in cats -- we bring her over to my house and I have a herd of cats. She was labeled "highly interested" in cats so we knew there would probably be issues and there were. She would whine and shake when she saw one and charged one at one point and got a big scratch down her nose as a reward. The more she was around them though, the calmer she got about it. There were still some minor skirmishes, but nothing too major because she learned they were "family" and got used to them.
posted by Kimberly at 2:22 PM on May 10, 2010

Oh yeah, my friend is allergic to most dogs, but has no problems with her greyhound despite all the shedding.
posted by Kimberly at 2:22 PM on May 10, 2010

I cannot second what Madamina said enough.
posted by emkelley at 2:42 PM on May 10, 2010

I can definitely commiserate with feeling a bit lonely, depressed, and anxious. However, having a dog for 4 years has helped me immensely:
-She gets me out of the house every single day - there is no sitting around in my pajamas all day on a Saturday.
-Having her around makes me far less anxious/stressed. In fact, I'm very scared of planes, but flying with her (she's a mini schnauzer, and rides in a crate under the seat in front of me) totally calms me down.
-No matter how sad I am, as someone said before, it's hard to be unhappy/angry when I arrive home and she's just so desperately happy to see me.
-My dog has been directly responsible for me making several friends. When she was little, people would stop us constantly to talk about her. There were lots of other dog owners I saw more frequently, who I'm now good friends with. We also go to the dog park, where there are other dog owners to chat with. That's great for getting me out of my shell as well!

I can't speak about greyhounds directly, but there are many breeds out there who are known to be less allergy-inducing. (Miniature schnauzers are on that list - my dog doesn't shed at all, which helps a lot.) Greyhounds might be amazing, or there may be other great dogs on that list.
posted by violetish at 2:44 PM on May 10, 2010

I'm going to go ahead and second all the people who suggest that a dog is a wonderful thing to have around and can brighten your mood, get you out of the house, and make you laugh. They can also poop on the floor, chew up your 1st edition books, and rudely insert themselves into kisses. The attention a dog requires can be an anchor, both in the good way (always someone happy to see you when you come home, is generally happy to do anything with you) and the bad way (no more jetting off somewhere without arranging a sitter first, worrying about potential pee-stains if you can't get home in time). It's a commitment to ensuring the well-being of another living creature.

That being said, fostering would be a great idea, and while you're right that shelters may not want a canine-inexperienced person fostering a dog, it never hurts to ask. You should also check around with any animal rescue operations in your area. The group I adopted my dog from is basically a loose knit group of like-minded people with some extra house space, time, and love.

As for greyhounds, I have never owned one (my current pooch is a rescued pitbull, which has it's own complications), but my girlfriend had a rescued greyhound for several years. While not unfriendly, it was aloof and more than a little neurotic. It also failed to recognize other dogs (except for other greyhounds) as objects worthy of attention. Have you ever read Bartleby the Scrivener by Melville, wherein Bartleby responds to any request with a polite "I would prefer not to."? That was this dog in a nutshell. My advice would be to avoid anything purebred and simple find the most affectionate mutt you can, and keep in mind that smaller dogs are easier to handle and shed less.
posted by Panjandrum at 4:15 PM on May 10, 2010

I own a greyhound and it sounds like you'd give one a lovely home. Talk to your local adoption group.
posted by nev at 4:45 PM on May 10, 2010

Two retired racing greyhounds and two cats here. If greys are the right breed for you (as they are for me), you may quickly be convinced that you will always have at least one (as I am). They do come in all sorts of personalities, temperments, sizes and colors. Mine are peaceful, loving, silly, smart pups and are the very best companions and I dare say antidepressants. Every day I go to work, I cannot wait to get home to my hounds.

They are different from other breeds in many ways, so please research and meet as many as you can. Is there an adoption group in your area that does meet and greets or needs kennel visitors/volunteers?

A couple quick resources : Retired Racing Greyhounds for Dummies; Greytalk forums; non-grey specific The Other End of the Leash.

A few notes to other responses:

You will meet many more people walking your dog, but if you want, the focus will be on your beautiful dog and its heritage. I've found it's much easier for me (painfully shy) to talk with strangers when they are so fascinated by my dogs.

Greys are generally hypoallergenic. They tend to blow their coat in spring and sometimes again in fall. In between, there's not a lot of shedding if the dog is in good health.

Greys vary in their prey drive, but mine live peacefully with two indoor cats. Almost all groups do cat testing on their adoptables. I supervised these two closely and made corrections in the beginning. Outside, small animals like birds, rabbits and squirrels and with some greys, cats and small dogs, are as they say a whole different game. But, we always walk leashed, and I constantly watch my pups for reactions.

They are hounds, bred to be hunters and indepent thinkers. Positive training methods do work, and consistency can be key.

Neither of my greys were fostered before coming here and made the adjustment to home life quite easily. I did prepare for the fact that there were many things here that they'd never encountered before, and made sure to take it slow.

The dog who comes home with you will be a different, more confident and happier dog once they find their feet and feel settled, whether is takes a month or six.

I think you would be a wonderful home for a greyhound from what you've written. Please feel free to MeMail me anytime if I can answer any questions for you.

I have to say, I am blessed to have Simba and Stella as part of my family.
posted by vers at 7:22 PM on May 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

One more random thing. Greys are very sensitive, and if you are generally anxious now, the discipline of making yourself calm so you're not transmitting anxiousness to your hound may also be helpful. It has been for me.
posted by vers at 7:32 PM on May 10, 2010

Many people who posted up thread posted when I asked about adopting a greyhound. We've had our dog for six months, and he's great. Before I ramble on about him, though...

How allergic is your boyfriend? Poodles and other terrier types with hair are the least allergenic. I personally am not big on them, and we did have an allergic upstairs neighbor and a condo, so we went with a greyhound.

Start with visiting shelters and meeting short-haired dogs of all kinds. Take the boy. Do some searches looking for greyhound rescues in your area. Go and meet the dogs (most meetups will also have people bringing their own dogs.) Talk to the owners.

Stick with ones that foster their dogs first, especially for your first dog - ours had been re-homed and he was really well socialized (we were lucky!). A number of the rescue groups (of all kinds) offer great post-adoption support. Look for this. It was key in our choice of which rescue we went to.

I grew up with lab and lab mixes, but our small condo and schedule (and allergic neighbor) foreclosed that opportunity. The crazy dogs with the playplayplay mentality I grew up with wouldn't be happy where we are now.

Our 7-yo grey was very quiet and reserved for the first few months; the people above aren't kidding that they seem very un-dog-like in some ways. It took time - months - and routine for him to relax and warm up. Initially he'd go bananas for walks, but then just lie around at home, looking mournful. When we'd meet other dogs, he'd freeze (and small dogs made him nervous, because a small dog bit him in his last home.) I posted a post a while ago about wanting to find more ways to play with him because I wanted to draw him out, but couldn't seem to really find anything that grabbed his attention. If you want that instant dog-hit of being the center of their world, a grey may not be for you.

Now? He's responding well to clicker training (and we plan to take him to obedience class), he's much less freezy around other dogs (now he wants to greet them all, which is great except when he refuses to budge until he's sniffed the other dog :), he loves the dog park (mostly he just walks around by himself, greets every entering dog, and every now and then he'll suddenly burst into flight and stop the whole park in their tracks. He's even - very recently -- started to play bow at other dogs and play chase with the medium-sized dogs. They really do recognize their own kind first and foremost, and he loves meeting the other greys in our neighborhood.

He will got get his toys from his bin and chase and de-squeak them for twenty minutes at a time (up from when he'd squeak one once or twice and then lose interest) before he gets bored or too tired. They really are the world's biggest couch potatoes.

He's grown quite attached to us; he'll wander over and stand by us until we pet him, or if he's in the mood for a walk, he'll nuzzle our legs and look hopeful - and if he's impatient he might go zooming around the house waiting for one of us to get our act together. Whenever we've had him stay at another greyhound owner's house, he wags his tail like a helicopter when we return for him. He sleeps on a dog bed in our room and will often come to collect us when it's time for bed, or curl up in whatever room we're in to keep an eye on us. He loves being stroked while stretched out drowsing, and has perfected the art of falling asleep with his ears up and eyes open (zombie dog!). It is ridiculous how much we dote on our dignified pup.

It is ridiculous how many comments we get on him. Little old ladies on the sidewalk. "He's getting chubby now that he's retired!"

Little boys. "How fast is he?"

Random tweens. "I support no racing!"

Old men, "Did he race?"

We've had random people in their cars slow down to tell us how pretty he is and thank us for rescuing him. (This may be because our state recently banned greyhound racing.)

That being said, greys do tend to suffer from things like corns (like a wart on their paw that can make them limp) - ours does, and we're treating it. We have to use a slow-down ball for ours (otherwise he tends to eat too fast and throw up) and he has to wear a coat when it is cold. (and what they said about a vet familiar with a greyhound.) And boy let me tell you, you haven't seen crazy til you've seen the coats you can put on your greyhound. :)

So I'd say don't set your heart on any one breed just yet. Go out and meet and interact with a bunch of different dogs. See what sort of temperament works for you and your boy.
If after you've met some greys, you like them, you've got plenty of advice. You can also memail me if you want.

(oh, and vers totally helped me kit out my dog)
posted by canine epigram at 8:37 PM on May 10, 2010

A friend of mine had a rescued whippet - they're like greyhounds but smaller, and also are raced. It was a fantastic pet - very affectionate, ran like crazy outdoors, calm and cuddly indoors - it might be a breed to consider.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 9:30 PM on May 10, 2010

One thing about greyhounds if you live un a rural area us that you might find it. hard to find a large fenced area to let them run. Some are ok off leash but many are not and unless you live really far from a road it can be a problem.
posted by fshgrl at 9:55 PM on May 10, 2010

If you want to have your grey off-leash, fence your yard. Taking it off-leash is a potential risk for real heartbreak. They are sight hounds and able to go from 0 to 40 in a few steps -- if they start running, they could be miles away by the time they stop.
posted by canine epigram at 10:09 PM on May 10, 2010

I don't know about greyhounds in particular, but I recently adopted dogs and they've completely changed my life for the better.

If you're new to dog owning, try to make sure the one you get has a good disposition. This is about 100 times more important than its looks. A sweet doggy who is affectionate, non-aggressive, playful, (already housebroken is a big plus!), and not so barky will be good for a new owner, who can just concentrate on exercise and training, instead of any advanced behavior issues. An older dog will also be a bit easier on you than a puppy.

Be prepared for a rewarding, amazing relationship with your four legged critter. It's hard to describe but dog ownership is one of the very best things I have ever done.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 1:54 AM on May 11, 2010

This may be a bit tangential, but to help with your first question (should I get a dog?), here's a book about dog ownership and depression you might be interested in: Puppy Chow is Better Than Prozac. The author, Bruce Goldstein, writes about his bipolar depression and how having a dog helped him. While I found his stream-of-consciousness writing style a bit annoying at times, his book does an amazing job of both (a) giving a feel for what it's like to become a dog owner for the first time and (b) describing how having a dog can help with depression and social isolation.
posted by medusa at 2:28 PM on May 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses, everyone! Just in case anyone is still reading, I wanted to update and say that my boyfriend and I went to a shelter last weekend to look at a greyhound mix. Of course, while we were there, we ended up falling in love with a 30 pound beagle mix, instead. She was lovely - calm, sweet, affectionate, and after knowing me for less than ten minutes was perfectly happy to get next to me on the couch, put her paws in my lap, and lick my face. As a bonus (especially for a beagle), she did not bark once while I was there, and the shelter staff said they haven't noticed her barking, either.

We're hoping with regular grooming, my boyfriend's allergies will survive, and I am feeling better already with all the excitement of picking her up next week. Now if I can just figure out all this other stuff, like clipping toenails and cleaning ears and how much exercise does she need and how do you crate train!!
posted by rosethorn at 5:35 PM on May 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

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