Talking to the Trainer
Mar 10, 2023
We always talk about what life is like for our retired greyhounds once they come into our homes, but before they are roaching up a storm on our couches, they lived the elite athlete lifestyle. And who was right by their side through this part of their lives?
Their trainers of course! I was incredibly lucky to be able to chat with Shelley Trengove, who bred and trained my latest foster fail, Mr Pancake (racing name: Hulky Boy), about just what it is like to work with these amazing dogs.
Charlie: Who are you and what do you do? Tell Us Your Story!
Shelley: I have been involved with the greyhounds for around 8 years since being with Clint (husband). When we first met, he told me he raced Greyhounds as a hobby in Broken Hill and his passion was to be a full-time Greyhound Trainer in Adelaide. Being an animal lover and always a “dog woman” (as my nana calls me), I thought I would give it a shot with him. When I met the six hounds he had at the time, I was very intrigued by how placid and clever they were and so beautiful-natured.
Charlie: Greyhounds are so unique!
Shelley: They are all different-natured, like us, but have a royalty about them and are very loyal and trusting. I am around our dogs more than people mostly and love their company, and they love me too! I am a phlebotomist by trade and kept working to keep us afloat but gave that up last year to be full-time with our dogs. I love what I do even though we work 8 days a week!
Charlie: There are a lot of misconceptions about the industry, aren’t there?
Shelley: A lot of people have misconceptions about how greyhounds are treated but I can honestly say they have more time spent with them than some domestic dogs. We have at least 4 hours of training, feeding, and playing with our pups. We must bathe a lot of dogs and have special massage beds for them, and Clint does a lot of massaging the race dogs to get any soreness out. Then in the afternoons, it is teatime when they have all their powders and vitamins and the best quality meat and kibble because they are elite athletes and need to be fed, managed, and treated specially. We are always doing something with our dogs from exercising, trailing, grooming, socialising, and racing. It is a busy life, but we are all happy and the dogs enjoy what they do!
Charlie: Tell me about rehoming through the GAP program. What is it like for you?
Shelley: The worst part of what we do is rehoming. We want to keep every dog, and it is extremely hard giving them up but if you want to do this full time you have to be realistic and have the dog's best interest at heart. It is so hard dropping them off at the office and having your last cuddle. [You must] hold it together until you get in the car, and the waterworks follow me home. It is so hard to do, and I never get used to it. But the dogs are going to be happy and spoiled in their new homes, so ‘just be happy I tell myself.
Charlie: Do you hear from any of the adopted families?
Shelley: I love it when I hear feedback from the GAP office and see photos of them. A handful of people message me personally from time to time and we love it. We show our kids, and we all get teary and feel happy because we love all our dogs and to see them so happy is just the best, as we never forget about them.
Charlie: How do you know it is time for a dog to retire from racing and become a pet?
Shelley: When they retire, this is usually if the dog is uninterested in racing or if there is any chance, they could pull up with general soreness or any type of injury after chasing the lure. It is then we must talk seriously about retirement and what is best for our dogs. We want them to always be happy, and the dogs love the next phase of their lives and turn into lazy people. The exercise regimes, health care and grooming are fun times for them when they are with us, and it is a massive lifestyle change when they retire.
Charlie: It would be a substantial change for them it seems!
Shelley: They have so much to learn from house training and toilet training to being just chilled and learning the new ways of life from what they enjoyed previously with us. The GAP people do an amazing job with rehoming, and we are all so grateful because we are happy if our dogs are happy.
Charlie: Have you ever found it impossible to part with a hound?
Shelley: I have a few greys as pets with which I cannot part. I had one girl booked ages ago to be assessed and had to tell the GAP ‘Sorry I cannot do it and they were lovely and understood because it is a big decision to make.
Charlie: What is your advice to those adopting retired greyhounds?
Shelley: My advice would be to be patient with them. They have learnt a lot of clever things to do while living with us and know it is their new owners' turn to teach them something new. I would advise talking to them like you would a best friend and they will give you so much love and loyalty in return. Keep collars tightish so they cannot slip their little heads out, and leads looped around your hand and held tight for their safety. If you are cold and need a jacket on, so does your Greyhound! Lots and lots of toys, as from the whelping box we start playing with them with squeakers and fluffy toys and this continues until they retire. Big bones (always raw, never cooked) from the butchers keep them busy all day too, or they can get bored when you are not around. Slow and easy will win the race with their new owners and environment as everything was so fun and fast-paced before.
Charlie: Thank you so much for your time, Shelley! And thank you for letting me gush to you about Pancake. I am sure he remembers you fondly!
Author: Charlie Jayde
Greyhound Owner for 4 years / GAP Volunteer
Experienced Dog Trainer