Ownership MUST be about fun

30th September 2021

Caption: Trainer Steve Withers and greyhound Tommy Shelby. Photo: BlueStream Pictures

By STEVE WITHERS

(2020-21 Trainer of the Year)

I HAVE been in greyhound racing for 15 years after becoming involved through a mate who trained a dog for a syndicate I was a member of.

I started going out to help my mate with his dogs and became more and more involved hands-on in the industry. This is how I got the bug to start training.

Whenever I am asked by someone wanting to get into greyhound racing, this is the scenario I relate to newcomers.

I believe they should first pick the trainer before picking a dog … and trainers should do the same with owners.

Owners and trainers need to be on the same page. We are all in it for fun, a good time, but owners must realise the cold hard facts that we will lose more than we win.

In fact, for a trainer to achieve a win average of 40 per cent is unbelievable, but that still means the same trainer loses 60 per cent of the time. Anyone coming into this industry should be aware of those facts.

When I am approached by someone wanting to become an owner in greyhound racing, I suggest they get a tried dog or a youngster just off education. Yes, I know buying a pup is the only way to get an out-and-out champion.

But most wanting to start out in this industry want to be involved almost immediately.

Of course things can change along the way. Buying a youngster just off education means we will be aware it chases, runs time and the rearing has all been done.

This dog will cost $15,000 to $20,000.

The syndicate’s hope is for a dog like this to break even and then the syndicate can go again. We should not aim to become millionaires. The trainer will take half prizemoney and a break-even result is a good one.

Anything more than that is a bonus.

I see owners come and go quickly in this industry. It means they are not quite clicking as a team with other owners and/or the trainer. It’s the same for the dogs. Not every dog pays for itself.

But the initial idea of getting into greyhound racing should be for the fun of the journey, the thrill of racing and winning.

If someone comes to me wanting to start out as a trainer, my advice is they must crawl before they can walk. And, always remember good dogs make good trainers.

Training is more about the dog. Listen to your dog; it will tell you everything it needs. Many  trainers think of themselves first before thinking of the dog.

A lot of trainers get stuck in their head what they want to happen without thinking of the dog’s needs first.

When I decided years ago to take up training, we bought six acres and established a greyhound training complex. It includes a straight track, competition runs, space to take the dogs for a walk and a swim.

My training routine encompasses all those aspects.

Feeding is a little different here. I split-feed my dogs, halving the overall feed between morning and late afternoon, but also giving the dogs a snack when they are let out late at night.

Dieticians will always tell humans to eat multiple times a day but in small doses. So why wouldn’t this be ideal for greyhounds as well. It is much better for metabolism.

In the perfect world I would like to put in an indoor swim pool for my dogs. Horse trainers use swimming to great advantage.

If you want to buy pups as an initial entry into greyhounds, do your research on the breeders, whelpers, rearers. Give yourself the best possible chance.

Our operation has had some wonderful success in recent times with Tommy Shelby. But it involves my wife Kira and our three children, Jordan, 15, Summer, 11, and Mackenzie, 7, all of whom help out. They all love the dogs and are an integral part of our success.