ABOUT THE PODENCO & GALGO BREEDS
Personality: The podenco personality tends to be intelligent, loyal, cuddly, silly, loving, and sensitive. Many are relaxed, and some can be mischievous and tunnel-visioned, especially outdoors. Most are good with other dogs and many are friendly with cats. Podencos train very well if with a calm, skilled, truly R+ trainer. The galgo tends to be smart, affectionate, and non-destructive indoors (unless enrichment needs are neglected), and playful in the yard, for short stints in most cases. Galgos also learn quickly and do very well with positive reinforcement training. Never attempt to train or handle a galgo or a podenco with “corrections,” “commands,” punishment, force, intimidation, coercion, fear, pain or any other aversive measure; to do so can easily turn a confident, happy dog, no matter the breed, into a timid or reactive dog. Yelling, leash yanking, tightening and/or e-collars, squirting, stare-downs, forcing into feared or uncomfortable situations are just some examples of aversive handling methods that can damage your hound, not only immediately, but long-term.
Heritage: It is believed that the original cave paintings depicted an early form of the podenco; the greyhound is said to be the only dog in the bible. Today in Spain the podenco and galgo are bred and used as hunting tools, then tortured, killed, or abandoned. Unfortunately we are now seeing galgo racing become increasingly popular in Spain as well, increasing the degree of Loss with a capital L. All roads end at the same place for galgos and podencos whether they were used for racing or hunting.
Traits: Having been categorized as sighthounds by laypeople and generally considered sighthounds now, in fact podencos do also use scent as well as sight, but then again, so do other dogs. After all, dogs’ olfactory systems are exponentially more powerful than ours. Both podencos and galgos are athletic and agile and have the physical ability to leap 5 or more feet high–some even from a standstill–and scale a wall of that height or higher in some cases, especially if there are horizontal members to assist. There are a few recorded cases of hounds having jumped 6 and 7 foot high barriers. It should be noted as well that, contrary to common belief, the tiny podencos can also jump quite high. A very short, 20ish pound podenca adopted in California eventually was rewarded for her jumping skills with a 6 foot fence around her yard.
Behavior: Being loyal breeds, many are alarm barkers. Most love to run, play, and cuddle–with their humans and some even with other animals. A popular but mistaken belief is that podencos are “busy” dogs that should only go to agility, coursing, or similar homes. The reality is that you need simply to provide whatever aerobic exercise and mental stimulation each individual dog prefers. If that happens to be running around in your huge fenced yard, that is fine. You will need to take them out on leisurely (leashed) walks off-site too, though, so that they have opportunities for ‘sniff missions.’ Podencos often will bond with one another in a home environment as if close friends or siblings; they will then be favorite playmates, sleep near one another, be symbolic (and occasionally literal) sentinels, etc. (Don’t worry; they will still bond with you first–if you are good to them!) Galgos will play together for the sheer thrill of it. With all dogs, you will want to check for and train good play manners to protect against accidents. Podencos enjoy play together too, but they can be more easily distracted (for hours) by the nearest bug on a blade of grass. If there are wild creatures in your yard, they will be hunted.
Needs: High quality food, fresh water refilled several times a day, daily exercise, exploration, play, social opportunities, affection, R+ training, respect and gentleness. Without these last two things, they may break their bond with, and certainly their trust in, you.
Appearance: Podencos: Small, medium, and large size; white, red, tan, brown, or combinations of these colors. (Once in a while they also appear in black, chocolate, or variations/tricolors in Spain, called Podenco Orito.) Usually huge, erect ears, long limbs, bodies, tails, and snouts. Pinkish-tan colored noses (called “red” by breeders). Coat types are smooth, rough, long (a Spanish peculiarity), and wire, or a combination of these. Galgos: About the size range of whippets and greyhounds and in the same color ranges plus, but galgos also have rough and wire/long coated varieties. They tend to have longer tails, muzzles/snouts, and ears than greyhounds and other subtle physical differences such as a narrower skull and a higher back end, and they have somewhat more endurance and agility than their sprint-bred counterparts.
Plight: Without rescue, podencos and galgos face extreme torture, abandonment, & cruel forms of slaughter after hunting season.
A NOTE ABOUT WEIGHT
Often we hear “feed that dog!” or “that dog is too skinny!” While it is true that many Spanish dogs are too skinny when rescued, it is also important for the public to understand that many sighthound breeds are supposed to be thin. If a greyhound, galgo, Ibizan hound, podenco, or Saluki, for example, shows absolutely no rib, there’s a good chance that hound is overweight, which would be unhealthy if not dangerous for that dog. We in the USA are accustomed to dogs looking a little, shall we say, well-fed? Nowhere is this more painfully apparent that among comments by non-sighthound people about sighthounds. Unfortunately, because many sighthound breeds are relatively rare, vets and others also may be unfamiliar with the differences and may misperceive your sighthound as underweight, due to judging by non-sighthound criteria. Making matters even worse, the standard “Body Condition Scoring” and “Is Your Dog Fat” charts would incorrectly paint all sighthounds as dangerously underweight! It is crucial to seek out the advice of sighthound experts for sighthound health and sighthound safety.