PARANOIA OR TRUST? WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO REDUCE THE CHANCES OF OUR DOGS RUNNING OFF?
Every time a sighthound runs off all the usual old arguments get sparked off on FB again, usually a mix of the common place alongside paranoid attitudes and ideas about dogs which border on the ridiculous.
Some people launch into rants about the need to pile on a number of leads, collars and maybe even the odd harness thrown in as well. If they could, they would make the dog live in an enclosed space just to be on the safe side, maybe even without windows. Others (usually the same) blame the owners for not being able to predict – just to give an example – that a dog could possibly eat his way through a wire fence, or dig a tunnel in the ground, or make his way out through bars so close together as to require the help of the likes of Houdini to escape from.
Obviously you then also get the oft repeated idea that a greyhound is not a normal dog, but a kind of machine that can never be let loose because at the earliest opportunity – as soon as anything moves on the horizon – he’ll be off in a flash and won’t come back.
The result of this paranoid obsession is to make many people build a relationship with their dog which is based exclusively on control, a relationship in which the owner transmits insecurity, frustration and anxiety to the dog. These are ingredients which, instead of helping him establish a bond with his owner, just increase his desire to escape.
Dogs do run off, and they do it for a variety of reasons. Some out of fear, some because they feel alienated, others just to taste a bit of freedom, others out of curiosity, or others again simply because they would rather be in a wood than in a house. These are all situations which are more or less present when a dog first arrives in his new home.
Because of this in the first few months much prudence is required, and it is vital to be very careful. But above all it is necessary to work on building a bond with one’s dog based not on paranoia or anxiety, but on trust. A dog that trusts us and sees us as a reference point is less likely to run off, and if he wanders away from us temporarily for some reason, will usually come back.
A dog who experiences us as anxious, and who understands that we don’t trust him, will have no interest in being with us. He will stay because he is forced to, and as long as he is forced to.
You build trust by being a reference point, by doing fun and interesting things together, by letting your greyhound friend see you as someone capable of seeing things from his viewpoint. Which implies, when possible and in a controlled manner, also educating a dog to be free. A dog that doesn’t know how to be free is a dog who is a danger to himself.
All living beings need freedom, but it is our specific responsibility to manage this freedom with our dogs in accordance with the dangers that are present in our cities. Whoever thinks that they can simply unleash a dog there is irresponsible. But equally, we can’t casually let a newly arrived dog off lead in a wood either: he will simply wander off, because a wood is an exciting place for him. It takes time, work, and the effort to get to know each other.
It takes an approach aimed at building a relationship in which responsibility is not disguised as the mortification of a dog’s needs.
To do these things one must stop repeating clichés and start asking oneself questions, get informed, observe carefully, and try to see things from the dog’s point of view.
And on the other hand if a dog wants to run off sooner or later he will, with or without a harness, collar or lead, maybe from the window rather than in any situation we may not have predicted, simply because you can’t foresee everything.By Massimo Greco Translated by Isobel Deeley