• Garmin shocks dog lovers with new line of collars

    January 16th, 2013Laura P (Editor)Articles

    Garmin, global leader in satellite navigation, disappointed dog lovers this week when they announced a new line of what they are calling “electronic dog training systems”.  The BarkLimiter bark reduction collars and Delta series of training collars do not appear to be available in the UK or Ireland yet, but went on sale in the US this week.

    They can call them “training aids” all they like: we all know they’re talking about shock collars.

    Shock collars: a family of training collars that deliver electrical shocks of varying intensity and duration to the neck of a dog via a radio controlled electronic device incorporated into a dog collar, or as a response to vibrations caused by barking

    Garmin claims that these devices are “designed to help dogs learn” and “feature proven and safe electronic correction technology”.  But most respected dog trainers question the effectiveness of these devices as a learning tool, no matter how ‘safe’ they may be. In fact, many believe that they can actually be counter-intuitive or even dangerous in the wrong hands.

    They are illegal in Wales for this exact reason, and the Kennel Club has an ongoing campaign to have them banned in the rest of the UK.

    We here at Dogs In The News believe that corporal punishment – even in the form of a slight electric shock – is never the answer, and are extremely disappointed to learn of Garmin’s decision to produce and promote these highly controversial devices.

    A quick skim of the product description for the BarkLimiter is enough to make anyone’s skin crawl!  Garmin never actually uses the words “electric shock”, preferring the less emotive phrase “stimulation”, but there is no disguising the uncomfortable truth about what these devices do. They wax lyrical about their “integrated stainless steel contact points” which can be adjusted to the “optimum intensity” and deliver “consistent and instantaneous correction”. They also offer “accessory collars” for “even more style”!  Disgusting.

    As for the Delta Series, which also comes with accessory collars: they claim this is a “virtual leash”, offering “a wide range of customizable correction settings… and 18 levels of momentary and continuous stimulation”. By which they mean “a way to zap your dog from 100 feet away, when shouting, whistling and profanity have all been ignored”. We’re sure the dog will come running back…

    To be honest, while not condoning their use in any way, we can see the appeal of shock collars, especially when they’re marketed in this way. They offer a quick and lazy solution to what Garmin term as “nuisance” behaviour. The product description makes it sound like, for just $100 (£63)  you can pop the collar out of the box, on to the dog and, voila  have a pet which misbehaves and barks no more. They even describe the collars as “set it and forget it” devices.

    Perhaps they do work, in terms of stopping unwanted behaviour – we know we wouldn’t do something very often if we got a “stimulation” in increasing degrees every time we did it!  But what they don’t do is address the underlying reason for the dog’s actions, or consider their emotional state.  In short, the dog may stop the misbehaviour, yes, but has he really ‘learned’ anything?

    We suggest that anyone considering trying one of these collars spends the $100 on training sessions with a qualified behaviourist instead; you’ll have a happier, quieter dog or a faster, more reliable recall without the need for shock therapy!

    We also urge all of our readers to make Garmin aware of their feelings on this matter via their website, or on Facebook or Twitter.

    Further reading:
    Victoria Stillwell – “Is punishment really a quick fix?
    PETA’s statement on the use of shock collars (and electric fences)
    British Small Animal Veterinary Association’s statement
    RSPCA review
    APBC statement

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