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Tag: behavior modification

Garmin takes heat for dog-zapping device

Garmin, a company that makes devices that tell us how to get from here to there, has unveiled its latest gadget aimed at “teaching” your dog good behavior — by shocking him when he misbehaves.

The Delta Smart is a small, smartphone-compatible gadget that fits over a dog’s collar, enabling an owner, through an app, to keep track of their dog’s activity levels, and how much barking they are doing while we’re away.

It’s not the first Garmin product for dogs, and not the first to include a shock feature — but it is the first to spark such widespread protest and an online petition asking the company to remove the feature.

The product promises to “reduce or eliminate unwanted behaviors” and make your dog a “more enjoyable member of the family.”

It gives dogs warnings by beeping, vibrating or by applying what the company likes to call “static” or “stimulation” — which is a nice way of saying a jolt of electricity.

deltasmartThere are 10 levels at which a dog can be zapped, either by an owner who is present, or remotely.

As the petition points out, it’s not the right way to train a dog:

“For example, a woman wants her dog Bowser to learn to not jump on the couch. Bowser trots into the family room, jumps up on the couch, and climbs into her daughter’s lap — at which point the electric shock hits him. She has now put her child in serious danger.

“Bowser will not associate the act of jumping up on the couch with the pain; he will associate her child with the pain and could very well become aggressive toward her.”

Like all the makers of shock collars, Garmin says the jolt does not hurt the dog.

“What is missing from this argument is the fact that aversive methods only work if they scare and/or hurt the dog. If the zap doesn’t bother the dog, then the dog will not learn. Electric shock collars do hurt and scare dogs. If they didn’t, no one would use them,” says the author of the petition, dog trainer and freelance writer Tracy Krulik.

barklimiter

Garmin’s Bark Limiter

We haven’t seen the CEO of the company try one out (but then again maybe he or she hasn’t misbehaved). To the company’s credit the new device has put some cushioning over the two metal probes that, in earlier versions, stuck into the dog’s neck.

The Delta Smart is basically a combination of a FitBit-like device and the company’s “Bark Limiter,” which has been on the market for a while.

In the ad above, various dogs are shown, each labeled for the kind of bad behavior they engaged in — barking too much at the mailman, shredding the blinds, stealing food off the kitchen counter, knocking over the trash can, chewing up the slippers.

The “dog activity trainer and remote monitor” can correct all those problems — even when you’re not home, the ad says.

It can monitor barking and activity levels while you’re away, and it comes with tags that can be placed on items and in areas you don’t want the dog near that activate warning tones when the dog approaches.

In other words, it is a control freak’s dream — and it’s only $150.

After the video was posted on Facebook, it had nearly 2,800 comments, most of them condemning the product as cruel, and the wrong way to train a dog, according to the Washington Post

On YouTube, the company has disabled public comments on the video — and if you try to leave one, you receive an electrical shock. (OK, we made that last part up.)

You’ve got to wonder, though, technology being what it is, if the day will come when we get shocked for making wrong turns or for not taking enough steps during the day, for failing to do our sit ups or eat our vegetables — and if someday, by a family vote, we can equip a bratty nephew or an annoying uncle with such a device.

For his own good, of course, and just to make him a “more enjoyable member of the family.”

Program pairs trainers with problem dogs

Behavior problems are the main reason dogs end up in shelters, the main reason they get returned, and the main reason that some of them never get out.

So it only makes sense that helping dogs and the families that adopt them resolve those issues would lead to far more happier endings and far fewer dogs being put down.

Realizing that, Best Friends Animal Society in Utah has developed a new program in conjunction with the Monmouth County SPCA that matches dog trainers with shelters and families whose dogs have behavioral issues.

Sam Wike, the first trainer accepted into the program, is shown in this video working with Rufus, one of the first dogs referred by Best Friends’ Community Training Partner program. Wike is the lead trainer at Purr’n Pooch, a pet boarding/training/grooming facility in New Jersey.

Rufus, who was in the Monmouth County SPCA, needed a “finishing school” environment in order to be ready to be adopted, Best Friends says. Now he’s completed the training and is ready for adoption.

The main goal of the program is to lower the number of dogs returned to shelters and to counsel people considering relinquishing their dogs because of behavior issues.

When a family comes into the shelter to turn in their dog, a staff counselor sits down with them, and talks through the reasons the family is considering giving up their pet. Owners then are offered the option of training and behavior modification for their dogs, which is funded through the Best Friends program.

“We started this January working with the staff and we’ve also initiated doggy play groups with the shelter dogs,” Wike said. “The play groups help the dogs to learn how to interact appropriately with other dogs. The dogs burn off excess energy romping with each other and it’s a great showcase for their personalities when potential adopters come by the shelter,” Wike said.