Appearance & temperament

A Greyhounds appearance attracts our attention. They are light-footed and graceful. There is also the fascinating ambivalence between the relaxed dog lying on your couch and the powerful athlete when breaking into a full run.

The Galgo Español by breed standard is 60-70 cm tall and weighs 20-30 kg. His body is elongated, the head is very narrow. The stop is only slightly pronounced. The ear is a folded rose ear. The underline shows a long, evenly deep chest, but it does not reach the elbows. The tail is set low and almost reaches the ground with a slight curve at the end. Coat varieties are smooth and coarse-haired without undercoat. All colours are acceptable.

In Spain, the original Galgo Español is usually mixed with other greyhounds. Primarily the hunters add in the English Greyhound to achieve more muscular dogs with enhanced endurance. Sometimes classic hunting dogs like a Pointer are used to optimize the Galgo. Instead of a dog hunting on sight only like the initial Galgo, your so called sighthound then also finds its prey everywhere.

The Galgo is a sensitive dog with cat-like behavior. He has 3 functional modes. At home it is quiet and hardly noticeable. He likes to lie on soft surfaces and loves body contact. Galgos are very affectionate and usually wrap the owner around their little finger, sharing their heart, sofa and bedroom. Outside on a leash, he is alert but manageable. When off leash his power switch is on and he shows what he has been bred to do. At the same time he is often playful and interested to interact with us, which should be used for training.

Behaviour & prey drive

Every dog, big or small hunts. The entire sequence of a hunt consists of:

Observe – Stalk – Chase – Grab – Kill – Dissect

The key difference is that most breeds only execute the first stages. This is easier to manage and with training also easier to interrupt or redirect. The Galgo shows its ability especially in the chase sequence. With a speed of 60km/h he races over field and meadow. As a sight hunter he follows everything that moves. In Spain these are hares or rabbits, which are hunted in championships with prize money. If no rabbits are present, the Galgo chases cats, squirrels, deer or fluttering bags. Unlike most other dogs, it is also fast enough to catch up with its prey.

If the dog was used for hunting in Spain, it also knows the final sequences of the hunt, the grab and kill. Which, of course, is completely undesirable when kept as a pet.

The incredible speed of a Galgo is a challenge. Within seconds they reach the next street, within minutes the next train track or highway. Even if he runs only for fun, his tunnel vision while he is speeding easily puts him in danger.

The Galgo makes his decisions independently. Unlike other hunting dogs, he has not been bred with “a will to please”. But this does not mean that the Galgo will never again run outside the wide open spaces of Spain. On the contrary, the Galgo owner needs to offer his athlete opportunites to run safely. Otherwise his soul withers. In the beginning, a high fenced-in run is necessary. Later, many Galgos can be off leash for a running sequence. This requires a positive bond with the owner, a positively trained recall and management on the part of the owner.

Only clear terrain without game or cat population can be considered. The owner must always be one step ahead of the dog. Smallest changes in body language announce the hunting mode. With experience and training this can be redirected or at the very least, the dog can be recalled and put back on the leash, as soon as the interest in his surroundings gets too hard to manage.

You could get lucky and get the Galgo that really wasn’t suited for hunting. But any new Galgo owner should be prepared to have an experienced professional hunter at his side.

The Galgo as a rescue

Once a Galgo is rescued, he is still a working dog, not a pet.

Galgos are given away for a variety of reasons. Only those whose talent for hunting is outstanding will continue to be used by the Galguero (hunter in Spanish). Dogs that already have several hunting seasons behind them are also discarded. They predict the behaviour of the hare and sometimes take a shortcut to catch it rather than following in the hare’s tracks thus making the chase less spectacular to the judges and audience.

There are females coming to the shelter that have produced offspring for years and males that until recently served for breeding. Their hormonal balance was undisturbed and they can mark, show territorial behaviour and a lot of self-confidence. Some of the dogs in the shelter were simply abandoned by their hunters and haved lived on the streets for a while.

Galgos are kept in Spain in kennels, huts or cellars without family connection. In most cases they were used for hunting for a certain period of time.

For some time now, disused Galgos have been increasingly handed over by hunters to private rescue centres or perreras (state owned centers). In the past, after poor performance, they were hung as punishment, thrown into wells or abandoned with broken legs. Thanks to the tireless work of animal rights activists, the mindset of hunters has been changed to the point where this happens much less nowadays. However, this also means more animals have to be picked up in animal welfare.

Training & enrichment

A Galgo enters a house in his foster home or in case of direct adoption at your home for the first time in his life. He will learn to relieve himself outside only. Likewise, he will learn that he does not have to steal his food. Or you learn to clean up your kitchen better. He may be skittish of everyday noises or afraid of certain objects like brooms or cords. In the beginning, he may regularly freeze when he sees something new outside. Let him observe and don’t push him. Galgos have not been taken on walks for fun before. Carry him over unfamiliar surfaces or stairs if he refuses to walk them.  They may be skeptical of other dogs or want to chase small dogs. There are also fearful or reactive dogs among Galgos. Some might not walk “light as a feather” beside you. They all need your presence and support in their new lives. Patience is key.

The Galgo needs a lot of rest. Like a cat, he sleeps 18 hours a day. If the Galgo is allowed to run twice a week, he only needs one walk a day, where he is allowed to explore extensively and to be taken out to relieve himself 2-3 additional times. Being able to stretch his legs in a full run, even if only for a few minutes, is a basic need for this dog. Access to a garden is nice-to-have but not a substitute for off-leash running.

Most Galgos need to learn how to play. Toys can then be used as reinforcement or a substitute for chasing. They can learn puzzles and tricks. Some Galgos are found in agility, mantrailing, dummy searching, obedience, or as therapy dogs in schools and nursing homes. Some racetracks allow rescued Galgos to train as a hobby. Physically demanding activities must be monitored by a veterinarian to detect over-exertion.

You cannot force a Galgo to obey. If you train him in a domineering way, he will withdraw and stop cooperating. If you respect his nature and give him positive feedback, he will try hard to make us happy. In general, the Galgo learns most of the rules of living together through observation and not education. He adapts very well to our needs thanks to his sensitivity.

Health & care

Galgos are remarkably healthy dogs as they have been bred for performance not aesthetics however as with all dog breeds, they can have certain health problems. They can live to be 12 – 14 years old. Rescued Galgos sometimes come into adoption with injuries. Heart defects can sometimes be an issue with Galgos because they have been bred without genetic supervision by their hunters. Mediterranean diseases need to be kept in mind. Blood tests in the first 1-2 years are recommended. Galgos can easily injure themselves when they run at full speed. If they get caught on branches, their skin can tear quickly. Their claws need to be kept short to prevent tearing when running and arthritis. In play with other Greyhounds, Galgos like to grab the dog that is “playing the hare”. A racing muzzle prevents this. Below 10 degrees, the Galgo needs a coat because of the lack of undercoat. The same goes for rain.

About the galgo
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