Being a race dog involves launching yourself out of the starting boxes and chasing a mechanical lure around a racetrack. This doesn’t come naturally to all greyhounds, and in most cases will take some training.
Getting the greyhound used to chasing the mechanical lure usually starts at around 14 months of age and is called breaking in. It can take a greyhound anywhere between 2-6 weeks to master this skill, or in other words, to be broken in. They also need to learn how to enter and come out of the starting boxes, another skill that can take some time.
Breaking-in can occur from as early as 12 months of age, although leading breakers advise that around 14-15 months of age is more suitable as the greyhounds are physically and mentally better equipped to cope with this intense form of training. They will also tell you that for some blood lines and individual greyhounds, breaking in should be delayed even further.
The breaking in process is complete when:
1. Your greyhound can competently exit the starting boxes at speed, and
2. Can chase the lure all the way around the track with the 100 per cent commitment.
A lot of experienced greyhound trainers are capable of breaking in greyhounds and will do this gradually over time with their young dogs. There are also a number of professional breakers, most of which have their own training tracks, who specialise in this field – taking in young dogs for an intense couple of weeks of training.
Greyhounds that have had experience living in a racing kennel, walking on a lead and that have had plenty of human interaction are likely to be significantly easier to break in. In order to be physically prepared for breaking-in, greyhounds would ideally gallop regularly (at least every second day) in a long run or paddock in the weeks leading up to breaking in to ensure they are fit. Before going to the breakers, it is important to be sure that your greyhound does not have any minor injuries or soreness, as this will seriously impact on his responses to the training, and his ability to do the tasks required.
Breaking in is usually the first time your greyhound is timed, giving you an indication of how fast he or she is at this point in time, however times at this stage are largely irrelevant in the bigger scheme of things. Breaking in generally occurs over about 300m (a short course), so it may not be a reliable indicator of your greyhound’s ability to run over longer distances.
Many greyhounds go on to show great improvement on their initial break in times, particularly if they are given a spell after they return from the breakers. This spelling time gives them time to recover, allows them to mature a little more, and lets their body recover from the stresses of increased exercise. If your greyhound does not run the best times at their first trip to the breakers, it does not mean that they will never race, it may mean they just need a little more time and maturity.