Whole Dog Journal's Blog March 8, 2013

The Pavlov Dog Monitor Application

Posted at 03:45PM - Comments: (5)

I was dismayed to open the link to what sounded like an interesting new dog training product – the Pavlov Dog Monitor from the Apple App Store. The application is intended for pets at home barking and suffering with separation anxiety problems as a result of their owners being gone for long workdays.


My BS radar went on high alert when I saw this comment early in the text:

“Even shock collars have not produced the positive results we are looking for,” stated Phillip Angert, Owner/Inventor at Cheviot Hills, LLC.

Gee, what a surprise that shock collars haven’t produced positive results. Not! Because hey, getting shocked is the last thing a stressed dog needs to reduce his anxiety about being left alone.

The radar went to Code Red as I continued to read. The next-best last thing the stressed dog needs may be the very thing this product promises – a recording of his owner’s voice saying “Bad Dog!” when he barks. (It also says, “Good Dog!” when he’s quiet.)

Verbally reprimanding an anxious dog, if it has any effect at all, is likely to add stress, creating more anxiety, not less. And by the way, if saying “Bad Dog!” was all that was needed to stop a dog’s barking there would be a heckuva lot fewer barking dogs in this world…

The article also says, “As the pet begins to understand the philosophy behind the application, additional greetings are introduced to the program.” Wow. The world has just begun to accept that dogs have much greater cognitive abilities than we’ve given them credit for in the past. Now they understand philosophy? Holy cow, Batman!

They apparently beta tested the product on an “n” of 1 – a Border Terrier puppy who reportedly went from “a barking city dog with neighbors complaining all the time, to a calm puppy with a cured separation anxiety problem.” Pardon my (radar alert) skepticism.

Another bit of behavior reality: “Bad Dog!” has meaning because the owner is there, glaring at the dog, threatening (or delivering) some other negative consequence in association with the phrase. “Good Dog!” is reassuring and rewarding to dogs because it’s generally associated with some positive consequence – an owner’s smiling face, a scratch behind the ear, or even a cookie. When there is repeatedly no consequence for a conditioned punisher – or a conditioned reinforcer – both phrases will quickly become irrelevant to most dogs, and lose any effectiveness they might initially have because of their past association with good stuff or bad stuff. 

Some people, especially those engaged in the eternal quest for the quick fix, are going to buy this product. I predict great disappointment. Sorry, Apple, this one’s rotten to the core.

Pat Miller, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, CDBC, is WDJ’s Training Editor. She lives in Fairplay, Maryland, site of her Peaceable Paws training center, where she offers dog training classes and courses for trainers. Pat is also author of many books on positive training. See www.peaceablepaws.com. For more information.

Comments (5)

A lot of negativity here! Positivity works for people too.
While the training aspect of this app is pretty useless, one thing I think would be handy is the graph of dog barks.

From the comments, some people seem to believe separation anxiety is the result of being left alone too much. Often it's the opposite (especially with puppies). If you're never apart from your dog, your dog will get stressed when you leave.

I spent too much time with my puppy and he barked when I left him in his crate for even a little while (yes, crate trained etc.) I was able to help him feel more comfortable using standard positive training techniques.
BUT: How do I know he's happy? He doesn't bark when I leave. He isn't barking when I return. How about the time in between?

Yes, you could just record it (with any of a million apps or even tape(!).
But having a graph of barks would be infinitely easier and nicer.

How about some comments with ideas for good training apps?

Posted by: Max Rockbin | March 19, 2013 4:06 PM    Report this comment

although i am not familiar with this new gadget i would like to comment...the biggest problem here is that most people shouldn't have dogs...in the past, dogs were used for specific purposes such as protection, working or hunting..today it is chic to have certain breeds of dogs just because celebrities have them or because of a certain status people believe their dogs bring them..most dog owners i train start out with good intentions but after they realize that it actually takes a commitment to train and own dogs most people lose interest because there is no magic bullet and proper training takes time.....that's why gadgets like the one mentioned above sell....manufactures are interested in the bottom line and people are interested in a quick fix... unfortunately there is no quick fix and the dog is usually the one that looses...separation anxiety is a very difficult behavior to modify but with the proper procedures it can sometimes be rectified but it takes dedication, time and commitment on the part of the owner...something most dog owners don't want to commit to...it is far easier to buy a gadget ...the first comment said that if an owner cannot handle a dog then it should be rehomed..that is esier said than done...for the most part i am not in favor of rehoming...it is not the dogs fault if the owner isn't properly suited to own a dog and the dog is always the one that will suffer....the problem here is who would take a dog into their home that has issues...everybody wants a perfect dog...if the dog is rehomed and the new owners don't want to deal with the issues and most people don't, then they will rehome again...i have seen it before.. the dog will probably eventually end up in a shelter.. .the shelter has to disclose any problems with the animal to prospective adopters and let's face it...who would adopt a dog from a shelter that has behavior issues,,,if the dog is lucky enough to end up in a no kill shelter he might have a chance of being adopted...most dogs that are in shelters right now are there because of behavioral problems....the solutions are not easy but a potential dog owner should do his due diligence and prepare for bringing a dog into the house the same way an expecting couple prepare for a bringing home a newborn...

Posted by: imdogguy | March 19, 2013 3:37 PM    Report this comment

This might be a bad app but the REAL problem here is not the training method but the reason it's needed. If an owner has a dog that is "at home barking and suffering with separation anxiety problems as a result of their owners being gone for long workdays" then clearly that person shouldn't have the dog. If the dog cannot accomadate the owner's away from home work schedule then they have the wrong dog or it's possible that the owner's work schedule is not conducive to owning a dog at all!

As the director of a non profit rescue organization I see dogs all the time that are put in inappropriate situations and then expected to behave. If an owner is away from home to the extent that their dog cannot handle it then rehome the dog and get a pet that is able to be without human companionship for extended periods of time.

The solution the owner is looking for is to put their dog in a home where there is someone that has the time to spend with the dog and that can't be found in an app.

Posted by: Mleary | March 19, 2013 11:54 AM    Report this comment

Wow, this product does sound like a bad idea, or at least doomed to fail. When I'm upstairs and start talking on the phone or to one of my cats, my dog, who is downstairs, immediately STARTS barking when he hears my voice, not the other way around. This would actually make my dog more frustrated. When I come home and find a voice message on the answering machine from my husband, our dog gets all excited and worked up because he hears a familiar voice but then it quickly turns into whining and confusion when "daddy" isn't anywhere to be found. It wouldn't work for me. SW

Posted by: SueW | March 19, 2013 10:48 AM    Report this comment

I agree, this app is junk. As an iPad user I often look through apps and, if interested, I always look at the ratings and comments. In this case I hope you left your comments with a low rating. Your reputation will surely help reduce the number of people taken by this scam.

Posted by: Brittany 3 | March 19, 2013 10:43 AM    Report this comment

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