GREYHOUNDS, BEYOND RACING
One of the side effects of greyhound racing is the mistaken image of greyhounds that it conveys, which is sometimes accepted at face value even by those who rescue them or even more surprisingly by those who rehabilitate them.
Greyhounds are extremely sensitive dogs, very attentive to what is being communicated by humans, but they are not docile: they will do what they see the sense of. However, they are also dogs with a marked ability for tolerance and dissimulation. Trainers generally have a relationship with them based on coercion – not necessarily on violence, but anyway based on the idea that ‘I am the boss here and what I say goes’. Greyhounds, who are very intelligent dogs, simply adapt – but they do it to survive and not out of any conviction. As a result, it may look like they are on the side of the human, but in reality they are just making the best of a bad situation.
Using a model of relating based on coercion, punishment or at any rate authoritarianism when they are in our families is the best way of taking a gamble on our relationship with them. They will do what we say but only out of convenience, and will actually shut themselves off within and become closed and inhibited, and often depressed too. We will only be food providers, not reference points in a deep relationship based on reciprocal knowledge, trust and empathy.
And if they get the chance they probably won’t hesitate to run away from us, and if they don’t it will only be out of an evaluation of the cost effectiveness of doing so.
We believe that with greyhounds – and even more so with ex racing greyhounds – an entirely different kind of approach is required, respectful of their nature and their history. An approach based on respect and on building a relationship based on trust and sharing positive experiences. Our experience shows us that in this case they are happy dogs, and have a solid and positive relationship with us.
If you meet people who repeat the trainers’ approach, move on: greyhounds deserve a lot more.
Greyhounds don’t need any ‘lessons in life’ – they have had plenty of those already, and most of them negative. What they need is to discover that life with humans can be fantastic.
By Massimo Greco
Translated by Isobel Deeley