No one is discounting the important work and success of pairing wounded vets with service dogs, but it doesn't have to be done in a negative way. The anti-negative training comments are to get trainers and groups putting dogs in training, in this case, Operation Wolfhound and AGR to look at the methods they are using. Introducing more negativity into a situation where there is already a lot of negativity, helps how? Positive training methods can only work to create a win-win for everyone. I doubt many of us would like to be poked or jabbed each time we didn't behave the way someone else wanted. We who have spent years and given our hearts and souls to the betterment of retired racing greyhound lives are only asking is that the way we want greyhounds to be treated or trained?
While I certainly support the use of service dogs for those with physical or psychiatric disabilities and find sexual assault in the military to be a horrible problem, which the military in still too lax in dealing with, I have to question the use of a pinch collar( a negative training method) on a greyhound.
Anyone who has worked a great deal with greyhounds know these dogs are very sensitive to negative reinforcement. Why are Operation Wolfhound and Arizona Greyhound Rescue supportive of this negative training tool? Is it perhaps a shortcut to positive training? All hounds can be strong-willed (often a reason for using a pinch collar). If the dog is that strong-willed to need this type of negative reinforcement perhaps it is not the right dog for the training. I lived with a trained service greyhound, one of only 2 in Tucson at the time when he was certified in 2008. He was trained only with positive techniques and performed his job very willingly and without any pain.
My personal belief is that greyhounds and other sighthounds are not the ideal dog for service training, while many do extremely well as therapy dogs and make fantastic companion animals. They typically do not have the long stamina of other breeds and have very thin skin that seems could be harmed by a pinch collar. It would seem the use of the traditional Martingale collar and lead or a humane harness might be better. Could it be that prong collars are a substitute for good training?
PitBulls.org mentions these things: Pressure applied with any collar can lead to neck, back, trachea, and esophagus problems. And as this study shows, a dog's eyes are particularly susceptible. The risk is increased with prong and choke collars. Parts of a dog's optical nerves travel down the neck, and so constant pressure applied there can directly damage nerves, potentially leading to blindness.
But that's not all. There are unintended behavior consequences with using prong collars as well. Increased aggression and anxiety has been observed. Whatever a dog is looking at or going after when they are "popped", its possible the dog will make a negative association with that object.
Another site states that "The pinch collar can be a useful tool for a handler who is working with a large, dominant breed of dog". Greyhounds certainly don't fit this profile.
The Humane Society of the United States says "More humane collars and good obedience training should make it unnecessary to resort to this aversive collar".
There are many other ways to deal with separation anxiety in dogs than putting them in a program that uses prong collars for negative reinforcement. I find it sad that Arizona Greyhound Rescue chose to put Mac in a program with negative training tools. I hope he didn't have to experience other negative training methods as well.
Past President, Arizona Greyhound Rescue
And long-time greyhound adopter
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