Racing dogs don't have it easy. At the track, most maintain a highly regimented existence, with designated times for eating, sleeping and going to the bathroom. Their lives are "very different from that of housepets," says Gary Guccione, executive director of the National Greyhound Association. Unfortunately, once they become too old to race, many have no place to go. That's why organizations around the country (including several tracks) are dedicated to finding the retirees good homes. This Columbus Day weekend, the Adopt a Greyhound Project (www.adopt-a-greyhound.org) hosts the 10th annual "Greyhounds Reach the Beach," a meet-and-greet in Dewey, Del., that attracts up to 3,000 fans. Its popularity hinges on a little-known fact: Rescued greyhounds make wonderful pets. "They adapt really easily," Guccione says. Tempted to adopt a fleet-footed friend of your own? Here are four things to keep in mind:

1They're not used to living in houses

Most greyhounds begin racing at 16 to 18 months old, and they

retire between the ages of 2 and 5, so they're fully grown when adopted. However, since they've spent so much of their lives at the track, they've never seen little things like stairs or sliding-glass doors -- both of which can confuse them. Rory Goree, president of Greyhound Pets of America, the largest greyhound adoption agency in the country (for their Northern Virginia chapter, visit www.gpa-nova.org), recommends putting stickers or tape on doors at the dog's eye level so he won't run into anything. As for the stairs -- well, once Rover sees you bounding up and down them, it's only a matter of time before he'll do the same. "Greyhounds love to be a part of the family," Goree says. "Wherever you go, he'll follow."

2They're really

that fast

Greyhounds are sight hounds, which means that if they see something move, they'll chase it. Since they can run at speeds of up to 45 mph, chances are that you won't be able to catch them. For this reason, when they're outdoors, they must always be kept in a fenced-in area. If you're taking them on a walk, use a leash, says Joan Belle Isle, president of the Adopt a Greyhound Project. "Just don't chain them up," she cautions. "They'll try and break free," and because they move so quickly, they can easily injure themselves.

3They may

be lonely at first

Greyhounds are pack animals; those used

for racing are accustomed to being around lots of other dogs just like them.

When they're adopted into a

family, they may hang back at first. "A lot of people think they're being unresponsive, but they're just trying to figure out where they are," Belle Isle says. While the best medicine for separation anxiety is to adopt two greyhounds at once, if that's not feasible, give your dog a few weeks to adjust to being an only child. To help soothe him, Goree recommends giving the dog his own space, whether that be a spare room or a corner, where

he can go when he wants to be alone. Have no fear: Your pup's Garbo act won't last long. "Once [dogs] figure out they can have all the attention, they love it," Belle Isle says. "That's when they become a diva."

4They play well with others -- usually

Like most pets, greyhounds become irritated if pestered. Instead of biting the offender, though, they'll usually just walk away, says Goree, because they're docile animals by nature. If you have other pets -- especially cats -- make sure you introduce them carefully. Keep your hound on a leash and watch his demeanor. "If the dog is staring the cat down, that's probably not a good sign," Goree says. Fortunately, most greyhound adoption agencies have prospective owners fill out extensive application forms that ask about the home environment in detail, so if you have other pets, they can make sure to match you with a greyhound who will tolerate them.

Michelle Hainer

Need some pet information? Drop a line to pets@washpost.com. Please include your name, city and daytime phone number.

"Man, those little lap dogs were really onto something. Who knew?"