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.