Joel Garnett, former Quay County Sheriff, raises greyhounds on his 23-acre greyhound farm east of Tucumcari. Garnett trains the sleek dogs for racing on greyhound tracks throughout the U.S.
Garnett said greyhound breeding and racing can be a profitable venture. “You can make a lot of money from racing and selling the dogs,” said Garnett. “I take in a percentage of all the winnings of my dogs, but raising these dogs is hard work. My son and I are up at 6 a.m. and we train and take care of the dogs until 9 p.m. seven days a week.”
Currently, Garnett has around 150 greyhounds from puppies up to dogs that are about 18 months old, ready for their first race on a professional track.
“We start training them on the oval track here on the farm when they are one year old,” he said. “At 18 months they are ready for their first race. On their first day of training we let them run for thirty seconds around the track, that’s all. Then on the second day we turn them out into a sprint field where they run and play for about ten minutes. On the third day we rest them and then on the fourth day they run for thirty seconds on the track again. That training schedule lasts for about six months.”
The typical greyhound track is 5/16 mile and races are about thirty seconds long. Garnett said there is very little difference in speed from one greyhound to another, so training is necessary to give dogs that slight edge that will make them winners. “Dogs, like horses, naturally run by moving their right leg forward first. We have to train them to move their left leg forward first as they head into the first turn on the oval track,” he said. “That’s really what training is all about, getting them to lead with the left into the turn.”
Garnett’s dogs eat well in order to be fit and trim for racing.
“By the time we are finished training them they have very little fat, but they are not weak. They are all muscle,” he said. “We feed them cooked meat and meal in the morning, milk in the afternoon and raw meat and meal in the evenings.”
Garnett has owned greyhounds ever since childhood and does not hide his admiration for the noble breed noted for its rabbit hunting skill. “I think they are the prettiest animals in the world,” said Garnett. “Nothing is more exciting than to see these dogs running.”
Greyhounds run about 40-45 miles per hour around the race track. The National Greyhound Association ensures that all dogs that race are tattooed and registered. Each dog is only allowed to race twice per week throughout the year.
Garnett has raised dogs that have gone on to be champions. He enjoys competition, but he seems to simply love the dogs. His care and concern for the welfare of his dogs is evident. “Greyhounds are very well-behaved dogs,” said Garnett. “All these dogs here know my voice and they respond well to my voice. A greyhound wants more than anything to please its master.”
Garnett has become known for his skill at training greyhounds. Carolyn Gray of Graham, Texas said Garnett has trained about 150 of her greyhounds. “He puts the dogs on a good program,” said Gray. “He is able to judge their skill and tell the owner which tracks the dogs should be racing. Many of my dogs that he trained have done well in races. One of the dogs he trained for me placed third in a $100,000 stakes race.”
The career for a racing greyhound ends after about five years. Dogs that can’t be sold for breeding purposes must be put up for adoption. Garnett recommends that anyone wishing to adopt a former racing dog, contact A Place For Us greyhound adoption service at 505-873-1729.