Updated: Jun 22
Recently, I have seen a resurgence of advocacy for the use of “management tools” such as dangle sticks, yokes, prong collars, etc.; the comments I saw were made by three current MSCA Code of Ethics breeders. I find this so sad and discouraging. I am sharing my own thoughts about this subject through this blog so that there is a counter consideration offered.
Keeping an LGD home is not the end of the story, nor is keeping him from chasing livestock.
We expect these dogs to be kind, to nurture our livestock, to be in service to us.
A dog wearing a dangle stick is a confused animal, and then an angry animal; this animal cannot be kind. His frustration will go somewhere. A dog that takes out his frustration, anxiety, and desperation on the livestock is likely to be deemed a failure and destroyed; he failed at staying home, and now he has failed at this.
A dog wearing a dangle stick will become a target to other dogs; this is part of natural selection and the survival of the fittest. Nature isn’t kind. Dogs target weaknesses in each other.
A dog wearing a dangle stick becomes a target for prey; prey knows what a weak animal looks like. They know that animal cannot defend himself in the way the other dogs can. He is the weak link; the target.
Think about how that dog’s body feels as the dangle stick hits his body with every-single-step. Try that, hang something off of your neck for day.
A dog wearing a dangle stick can become ensnared in a fence, or a bush, or or. An owner who makes the decision to place so little value on an animal that he would employ a dangle stick cannot also be counted on to be vigilant in protecting and monitoring that animal.
A dog wearing a dangle stick does not “learn to stay home” or “learn not to chase livestock”; he learns fear and frustration.
I believe that dogs are sovereign – a dog owes me nothing. If I provide a dog with the resources he needs he will die trying to defend them, if necessary. We are partners on the land, and if anyone owes anyone anything, I owe the dog, not the other way around. People put animals in such untenable circumstances, and then struggle to control them rather than to understand them.
In this country, roughly 30% of LGDs are euthanized because they “failed”. Who failed, really?
Some owners fail their dogs because they make mistakes, honest mistakes, while others fail their dogs because they are cruel. Are there truly evil people in this world? I wonder. I don’t have that answer, but I search my soul about it as I come upon some of the atrocities visited on animals. I know Maremmas well, so I particularly understand how the use of dangle sticks, or yoke collars, or prong collars, or shock collars, must confuse and terrify them.
Humans have free will; we are stewards of our animals. We brought them into our lives by choice; they had no vote in their situation.
Historically, these devices were used, in part, because how animals think and learn was not well understood. It was still cruel, in my opinion, but the owners who made the decision to use devices such as these may not have known that, maybe. But not now. There is no excuse now.
Further, when I did a Google search for a photo to use for this blog, I came across this website. The writers of this article go through the use of all these aversive “training tools”, one by one, and then end with a clicker. If they understand how a clicker works (which isn’t clear) they know how an aversive works and the dangers of training through the use of one, never mind the ethical considerations. Wow.