Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Creature feature: Podencos and Galgos

We love Spanish hounds, and we know you will too! Stray and abandoned Podencos and Galgos are beautiful dogs that are all too common a sight on the streets of Spain. Tania Coates, founder of SOS Animals UK, and author of H&H's Camper vans, ex-pats and Spanish hounds, is here to tell you why.

Spain has a long tradition of hunting with dogs, and two breeds – the Galgo and the Podenco – are generally used in the south.

The Galgo is similar to the Greyhound, but tougher and with more stamina, while the Podenco (which means hound in Spanish) varies more, although is similar in stature to the Pharaoh Hound, with his large chest and shallow belly. However, some – such as the Podenco Maneto – can be squat, or even medium-size, or large like the Podenco Ibicenco (Ibizan Hound). Both Galgos and Podencos are considered ancient breeds, and it is often claimed that the Podenco is a descendant of the hounds of the Pharaohs, and is believed to have arrived in Europe in around the eigth century.

Although some of these Spanish dogs are cared for adequately, many are treated very poorly, and at the end of the hunting season it is not uncommon for dogs to be shot or hung because they are considered no longer useful. The streets and countryside of Spain are full of strays, and abandoned dogs are left to breed unchecked. In addition, neutering and vaccination are very rare.

Spanish pounds and rescue shelters are over-populated with dogs looking for homes, and SOS Animals is one such shelter. Run by Spanish, British and Swedish volunteers, around sixty or seventy dogs are cared for at any one time, whilst also trying to find foster homes and forever homes for these abandoned animals.

SOS Animals UK was set up over four years ago to try and help with this dreadful situation. A
volunteer-run organisation, it is dedicated to helping the SOS shelter in Spain care for, foster, and find new homes for the dogs in the UK, and also helps several fosterers in Spain who are equally overwhelmed with Podencos and Podenco crossbreeds. The breed is very common in Spain, and often overlooked in many of the shelters.

Podencos and Galgos can make brilliant pets, and SOS Animals ensures it finds the right homes for
these wonderful dogs. They have a detailed rehoming process which begins with an assessment of an animal, who is then matched to a home where his or her needs will be fully met. Discussion about a would-be adopter's lifestyle, experience with dogs, and expectations of life with a Podenco  may ultimately lead to a home check and visit to meet the dog concerned at their foster home.

Once a home is found, the centre offers full back-up and support for the new owner to ensure the dog is properly settled.

Podencos are renowned escapologists, and it is not unusual for them to jump 6ft high fences in a single leap: a secure garden is therefore an absolute must. They are multi-sensory hounds who are far more robust than Greyhounds, Lurchers and other sighthounds (who hunt using sight and speed primarily). They can be mischievous and full of fun, yet also watchful and gentle.

Although these dogs are absolutely stunning in every way, they are not ideal companions for everyone. Specific breed needs can mean they must be rehomed in a family that already has a dog or dogs, and new owners must be aware that a Podenco may have to be on-lead when not in a securely fenced location: these agile hounds require a lot of exercise, and their recall can be selective at the best of times.

All of the dogs rescued by SOS Animals are micro-chipped, vaccinated, neutered, and blood-tested, and any medical needs taken care of. Since the establishment of SOS Animals, the organisation has found forever homes for thousands of dumped and stray dogs, the vast majority of which were Podencos.

Please visit our website and Facebook page to meet the many Podencos looking for  loving forever

You can read more about the fantastic work of SOS Animal UK, and more about some of the gorgeous hounds Tania has met in her book, Camper vans, ex-pats and Spanish hounds, which is available now from the Hubble & Hattie website.

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