Working In A Kennel

The following is a series of postings pulled from the archives of the Greyhound-L list. These were originally posted in August of 1997 by Linda La Foone of Greyhounds Only, Inc in which she shares her experiences of what it is like to work in a kennel.

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Date: Tue, 5 Aug 1997 22:16:51 -0400
From: Linda La Foone

Subject: Working In A Kennel And Greyhound Adoption & Rescue

For two years now I have been working part time in a racing kennel and am also cofounder of Greyhounds Only, Inc. Adoption And Rescue. I am very proud of the kennel I work for and the care these dogs receive. Those dogs are my babies and I love them. NONE of the dogs from this kennel are put down when they are retired. The kennel owners would never even consider that to be an option. They All go to adoption groups. I have heard so many negative things about the racing industry and the people in it and want to shed some positive light on the subject. Who has a greyhound that doesn't like to run? I bet not many. After the morning routine at the kennel of doing morning "turnout", which means letting the dogs out to go potty. It is then time to clean their crates, which consist of taking the old bedding out of the crates and then sweeping and mopping the crates with disinfectant and then put new bedding in their crates. Then its time to school,which means practice racing. Every dog in that kennel also knows what time it is and you should hear them. Only new pups or dogs coming back from injury get this opportunity They love it. They walk out of the kennel on two legs while being held by the collar because they know they get to run. Don't think that there are a bunch of depressed and under fed dogs in this kennel either because there aren't. They are always happy to see you and will let you know by giving lots of hugs and kisses. These dogs eat better than some americans do. Many of these dogs are whirlpooled the day before a race and the day after and they are walked too. My favorite grey is a red male named Dante. He is almost four years old and acts like he's ninety years old. He's quite healthy and happy. He likes to take his time in everything he does except running. I have known him for two years and when his racing career is over I will have the opportunity to find the home that he will spend the rest of his life in. He is loved now and Greyhounds Only, Inc. Adoption & Rescue will make sure he will always be loved after his racing days are over. I have met some wonderful people in this business who give their heart and souls to these dogs. Sometimes it makes me angry to hear only negative stories about the people in this industry. Most of them are not monsters, yes there are bad apples as there is in everything and they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I am one of those people that cares for racing greyhounds on and off the track and I wouldn't want to do anything else. Greyhounds Only Inc. is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to finding permanent and loving homes for retired racing greyhounds. I have two males; Garen and Blaze, one female; Linda, four cats and at the current time two foster dogs; Stickers and Lips.

Date: Thu, 7 Aug 1997 19:06:11 -0400
From: Linda La Foone

Subject: Special-Working In A Kennel; More Info

To Those Who Are Interested,

I will never forget the first day I worked at the kennel. We had completed most of the morning work and did the second turnout of the day, which is some where around 11:00 a.m.; the dogs were still in the turnout area and the kennel owner suggested that I spend some time getting to know the dogs.

Females and males are separated into two different turnout areas, which are beside each other. Some kennels combine males and females. Anyway, this is the part I was really looking forward to. They had a full kennel at that time, about 65 dogs. As I entered the turnout pen they all surrounded me and a few were giving me hugs at the same time, which was a bit over whelming.

Everybody wants a scratch. It seemed there was just about every color and size greyhound present and all those eyes were looking at me. Of course I gave everybody a scratch or two or three......, I was in there a while. The typical race day begins at 6:30 a.m. When you first enter the kennel in the morning everybody is barking and it gets loud, so if you have some special instructions, it needs to be said before you walk in the door. Morning turnout is first. The males are usually turned out first and they are mostly in the bottom crates. The crates are stacked two high. Males normally won't jump and females will. When you let these dogs out of their crates be ready cause they move fast and you have to get their muzzle on before they come out of their crate. The females are next. This gets a little tricky due to the fact that the crate door has to be opened a certain way so the flying greyhound won't get hurt. Then it's time to scoop alllllll that poop. Crates are cleaned next. All the paper beds are removed from the crates and they are all swept and mopped with a combination of PineSol and Nillium, which is a deodorizer. Then we replace the old beds and turn the dogs back in.

Schooling is next on the agenda. Schooling is done on the track; there are certain days of the week and specific times that you can school. There are seventeen to twenty active kennels and on some days it seems like every one of them are at the track to school dogs. Four kennels can school dogs at a time; each of the four taking turns; when one is done than the next kennel in line hops in the rotation. There are two ways to school dogs: from the box, like you see when you go to the races and handslip them. When you handslip them you are holding the collar with one hand, with your elbow locked and the other arm is wrapped underneath the dog back by it's hips, which enables you to hike their back end up a little so they can get a good start. Handslipping is done at different points on the track, such as at the finish line or at the escape, which is where the dogs end each race. This is when you find out just how much they love to run, cause when they hear that lure and see it go by them they go nuts, which can makes it a little difficult to hold on until the lure passes them and you let go. People who lure course their dogs know this all too well.

Thats enough for now. Hope it's not to much at one time.

GO Inc

Date: Tue, 12 Aug 1997 19:54:47 -0400
From: Linda La Foone

Subject: Working In A Kennel: More Info (part 3)

To Those Who Are Interested,

Someone asked if our adoption group takes all the dogs from the kennel I work in.

We take most from the kennel I work in, but the kennel owners have 3 kennels at different tracks. There are three adoption groups in all that take their dogs.

We left off with schooling. Once schooling is over we take the dogs back to the kennel and put them in a turnout pen so they can cool down and get a drink of water. After they have cooled down they are returned to their crates. Then it is time to sprint new pups, dogs who haven't raced for awhile because they needed rest and dogs coming back from injuries who aren't ready to school on the track. I wish I could have this sprint pen. It is about the length of a football field, about forty to forty five feet wide, with a cyclone fence down the middle and around the outside, has heating coils underneath the sand so it won't freeze in the winter, is covered on the top and sides and has gates on both ends and in the middle. It is pretty neat. The dogs like it too. It varies how many dogs we put in at one time. Generally, two go on each side. On the first trip they go all the way to the end and back and then they usually run about half way down and back. How long they can run depends on why they are in the sprint pen. If it's a dog coming back from an injury then it's one trip down to the end and back. Don't want them to injure themselves again. The fun part comes when it's time to catch them. Ever stood in front of a greyhound in full stride and tried to stop them? Me neither! We start calling their names and hopefully they will slow down so you can grab their collar, but that doesn't always work. Sometimes it takes awhile to catch them. It's back to the kennel so these dogs can cool down.

Whirlpooling comes next. The track provides a whirlpool room. There are three whirlpools, turnout pen and laundry room. The whirlpools look like bath tubs and touch just below my waist when I stand in front of it. I am five feet 6 ½ inches. Most dogs don't mind it. Some are frightned and become all legs. We talk a lot of baby talk and comfort them and they usually settle down. They spend up to three minutes in the whirlpool. When we take them out their muscles are very relaxed and sometimes have to help them stand up. They are dried off and put in the turn out pen to go potty. It's back to the kennel. The dogs that are whirlpooled are then rubbed down with liniment and put back in their crates

More at another time

Date: Mon, 18 Aug 1997 06:03:00 -0400
From: Linda La Foone

Subject: Working In A Kennel (Part 4)

To Those Who Are Interested,

After we rub down the dogs who have been whirlpooled we then walk dogs. They love to go for walks. I like to walk them outside the kennel compound for a change of scenery. I only take two at a time, because walking them outside the compound has a lot of distractions. For instance, I was walking my favorite dog Dante with another male and someone in a car passing by dropped a cup of pop on the road. Dante almost had me on the ground. He was off for the chase, even though the object wasn't moving. We finished our walk without further incidents.

It's time to weigh dogs racing that day and dogs racing the next day. All racers have a set weight. The weight can be changed, but the racing officials at the track have to be notified in advance. I am not sure how many days in advance the notice has to be given; two or three I think. When a dog is weighed at the track before a race they are allowed 1 ½ pounds above or below their set weight. If they are below or above their set weight the kennel is fined. Let's start with weighing the dogs that will be in the next days race. They are weighed the day before so that if needed, the amount of food they are given that day can be adjusted. If a trainer knows their dogs well there won't be much of an adjustment. Dogs are like people in the sense that some gain weight very easy and some don't. It's all about knowing the dogs. The racers for that days race are weighed also, but they are not given the same feed as everyone else. They are given a snack, which for each kennel differs. It may contain rice or pasta, honey, brown sugar, bananas, peanut butter, and other things. After each dog is weighed they get a big marshmallow.

The dogs in the next days race are also "benched" or "gone over." This means that the dogs muscles and skeletal structure are gone over by stretching, caressing, bending and touching. Your focus is on the dog while doing this. They will let you know if anything is bothering them; well most of the time they do. Benching is an art form in itself I think. You have to know the dogs anatomy and you have to know the dog. Some are big babies and some are not. I think benching is a must in a racing kennel. It prevents injuries and finds injuries.

Now it's time to mix the feed. What is in the feed varies from kennel to kennel and for some this is a secret. There is of course raw meat, rice or pasta, vegetables, vitamins, dry kibble and the list goes on. I know of kennels that make stews to add to the feed. It is all mixed in a big tub. In some kennels only the trainer mixes the feed. Who does what varies greatly from kennel to kennel. Then it's time to feed. Each pan of food is weighed before giving it to the dog; how much varies from dog to dog. Generally, females get less. Muzzles are put on the dogs after they are done eating. Second turn out is next.

Thats it for now. I am working in the kennel this morning and it's time to feed my dogs and my fosters before I go.

The following was Linda's reply to a reader:

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Date: Wed, 20 Aug 1997 05:38:15 -0400
From: Linda La Foone

Subject: Special-Working In A Kennel-Job Titles


You asked what the hierarchy in a kennel is. There are kennel owners who lease the kennel from the track for the duration of a racing season. This can be several months or on a yearly basis. The racing season at the track I work at is year round. In the kennel I work in, one of the kennel owners is the trainer. This varies from kennel to kennel. The kennel owner is the top dog; he or she is responsible for what goes on in the kennel. In many kennels, the kennel owner hires a trainer to run the kennel. The trainer is responsible for the well being of the dogs and the day to day responsibilities associated with the kennel. As to who else works in a kennel depends on what the kennel owner can afford to pay their help. The other two titles of people who work in a kennel are assistant trainer and kennel helper. Only trainers and assistant trainers are allowed to weigh in dogs at the track. To become an assistant trainer or trainer you have to take a test. The testing is done by the state, which has offices at the track. In the kennel I work in, there is one other full time worker besides the trainer. Her title is assistant trainer. I work part time and am a kennel helper. I have the knowledge to take the test for assistant trainer, but don't have the time to do the work, because of my work with the adoption group I cofounded. Each kennel has at least two full time workers, but I have known of kennels where the trainer is the only worker and that is usually for the shortest time possible. Working in a kennel full time is HARD work. I will get more into the number of hours full time kennel workers have to spend in the kennel later.

Hope that answers your question.


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