Rocky has spent the first four years of his life on the farm, in training, and at the Jacksonville track racing kennels. Rocky arrived “rough as a cob and full of piss and vinegar.” He was a big fellow willing to test limits. And the only useful companion skill he had was good lead and door manners. So Rocky was starting from a pretty low training baseline but with sound temperament, intelligence, and desire to fit in. He had so much to learn, where to begin. You sort of figure that out as you go along. The adopter’s guides present things in an order pleasing to book editors. Your hound may have other ideas about what should be learned first. This article recounts how Rocky adjusted his eating habits to Camp Dismal norms.
A typical track day
A typical track day begins around 0630 with the arrival of the kennel hands. The first activity is to turn out the hounds to use the loo, exercise, and socialize with their kennel mates.
At around 0700, the kennel hands begin cooking the carbohydrate portion of their ration, usually rice or pasta depending on trainer’s preference. Those hounds to be exercised go off site to the training track for sprint work or a training race.
At around 0800 I go out for a half hour or so while kennel hands clean my kennel. Around 0830 I come back in.
At around 0845, I’m weighed, my ration is prepared, and I return to my kennel to await breakfast.
Between 0900 and 1000, I’m fed either a snack if I’m going racing or a full ration if it is a rest day for me. Trainers have found that we’re more relaxed at the track if we’ve had a light breakfast.
At around 1600, the hounds rotate through the turnout pens and eat dinner. Those that raced are fed a full ration when they return from the track. Some trainers feed once per day, others twice. If there is a second serving, it is in the 1600 to 2000 window so the hounds can have an after-meal loo break.
At around 2000, the hounds rotate through the turnout pens for loo, socializing, and exercise.
At around 2300, the trainers clean up the kennel and leave for the night.
A typical day
Shortly after Rocky arrived, our day looked like this. Rocky was ambushing The Moocher for a meal when Moocher rambled to the loo in the middle of the night. This was not working very well but we put up with it in the beginning until a routine could be established and Rocky’s weight could be checked.
- 2230 Moocher puts all to bed.
- 0000 Moocher gets up to take more sinus medications.
- 0200 Moocher needs a wee.
- 0400 or so Moocher needs to take a poo.
- 0400 or so Rocky activates and started yodeling
- 0415 Moocher relents and feeds Rocky and Missy
- 0430 Rocky and Missy return from the loo
- 0430 Back to bed
- 0600 or so all rise on light activation (sun rising).
- 0700 Moocher shaves, showers, and dresses.
- 0730 Moocher fixes Moocher’s breakfast and eats
- 0800 Moocher offers lick-outs consistent with morning fixins
- 0800 Moocher provides garden visits as desired while doing mail and chores.
- 1200 Kibble filled Wobbly KONG
- 1600 Hounds evening meal
- 1615 Loo visit to garden
- 1600 Moocher cooks if cooking that day
- 1700 Moocher eats supper
- 1730 Lick-outs if evening meal provides lickings
- 1800 Teeth cleaning and teeth cleaning bribe
Rocky thinks things should work like this
Rocky really wants to eat at 0430 and 1630. If not fed, he gets vocal and frustrated. A frustrated Rocky nits himself and has broken the skin. The first time I found this, I thought Missy had told him off and nipped him. On investigation, it didn’t look like a bite, no tearing or loose skin. I washed him up and applied some topical dressing. The next night, I woke and caught him nitting the spot. I coated him to keep him off of that patch of skin.
From my reading, they are accustomed to being turned out at 0600, 0800, 1600, and 2000. Rocky also wants to go out around 1200. They are fed at around 1000 and 1800 and eat about a pound of meat plus pasta, rice, greens, etc depending on trainer’s experience and preference. Ration meat and pasta are weighed to the ounce and wait recorded. Any change in weight greater than a pound is investigated and corrected.
So why the odd meal times? Probably because he slipped off schedule on the haul. He fasted on haul day and was fed after coming off the bus. This may have gotten him off schedule. His fast metabolism cannot help. He’s currently eating a ration that would maintain a 100 pound active adult. To be fair, Rocky is pretty active. He’s discovered bicycle blighters and dog blighters so is constantly up to the door and when out is chasing anything that moves by our fence that is not an auto. So, even with a stout ration, he’s a good companion weight. Maybe up a bit but not a lot.
He’ll grow up, one of these days!
Greyhounds mature anywhere between year 3 and year 5. Those by Oswald Cobblepot and his son, Kiowa Sweet Trey are reputed to have a long adolescence. Rocky appears to be one of those. He’s very curious, very eager to please, and a big, strong, gangly teenager at heart. He can be rough and he is high prey and thinks small animals are on the menu.
And he’s long enough that he’ll figure out how to scale that pool fence you see in the featured image. He can hook his forelegs over the rail. And the rear leg rotators on that guy! I’m pretty sure he’ll get over if allowed to keep trying. No spring/fall open door days or unchaperoned garden time for Rocky until he mellows.
Can I Reset His Clock
If he were your typical quiet, go along to get along greyhound, I could move his clock around to align better with a 7 AM meal time. But he is not. Rocky gets shouty. He’s very vocal. He missed the part in Adopting the Retired Racing Greyhound about greyhounds seldom barking. In fact, Rocky is down right shouty and will mouth off when he is not satisfied with staff performance. He also gets bored. If he were a retriever, we could play fetch until he was puffed. We can play with a stuffy for a bit but he has a short attention span and looses interest quickly.
And when he’s frustrated, he nits himself (grooming behavior to catch fleas). If he dwells on a spot, he can break the skin. So I can’t allow him to stay frustrated. He has to be redirected.
Well, Rocky needed time to feel comfortable in his new surroundings. Over weeks 5 and 6, he began to feel at home. Mischief went up. Rocky is a terrible counter raider. Clinginess went down. Rocky was the primordial velcro dog in the beginning. As he felt more at home he started letting his social distance slip up. By week six, he would start the night in his kennel with the door open then move into my bedroom later. He didn’t have to be at my side every moment.
Also in week six, I decided I would see if he would settle back to sleep in the middle of the night; 0430 feedings are a real drag. I was taking a nap every day to catch up on sleep. So one night, I said, “Bedtime, Rocky” and didn’t feed him. He followed me back to bed, settled in the Kuranda cot over the air-con and, with some grumbling, finally settled and dosed off. So I tried it again. And again. Rocky would sleep until about 0600, that’s when morning twilight is at the moment. We’d get up, give Rocky and Missy their rations, and send them out.
He’s food motivated
Fortunately, he’s ripped and burns hot and is food motivated. He needs a lot of chow. So I can setup a KONG Wobbler, its official name. Or as we call it, a Wobbly KONG. Rocky will go at it until he knocks it into some unaccessible spot or it is “winchester” (out of treats). This is usually sufficient distraction that he’ll forget what it was that was the source of his frustration.
He’s still a little too food crazy to work for food. Deferred gratification is not currently part of his repertoire so we are working on waiting to be served, taking treats gently, etc. He’s slowly figuring it out. Again, in week six, the table raiding has stopped but he does get a lick-out or a toast corner for waiting quietly through the meal. He’s also learning to wait for release to eat his meals. I don’t know that we’ll ever get all the way there but near at hand gratification is ok with him now. He’s also waiting for Missy to finish her meal, then they swap bowls to verify the lick-out and come to me to be let out.