A company known for its GPS devices and smart gadgets has dog owners up in arms over its latest product.
Last week, Garmin released its Delta Smart, a device that connects to a dog’s collar and has an activity tracking, along with other features.
At first glance, it looks pretty comparable to the standard “smart collars” already on the market. The Delta Smart lets you keep tabs on your dog’s sleeping cycle, rest time and activity levels.
But it is one of the other features that have dog owners seeing red. One of its biggest differentiators, and selling points, is the device’s ability to “reduce or eliminate unwanted behaviors,” like barking, with its training capabilities.
In its announcement Garmin goes into length on just how owners can accomplish this. They either can choose to send a beep, vibration or “static” to the dog’s collar.The static option can be delivered at one of 10 levels and many are saying it is the equivalent to a shock collar, a training technique criticized by a lot of dog lovers and professionals.
“Great idea, Garmin! Let’s electrocute the kids while we’re at it, too! Save some money on a babysitter and raising them ourselves, ain’t nobody got time for that, amirite?? Get the hell outta here with this disgusting thing,” Jill Botti commented on Garmin’s Facebook video post announcing the product.
Tanya Weiss added, “Not impressed at all and will no longer purchase any Garmin product. We are way past shocking a dog into submission. It is outdated and barbaric training methods,” she writes. “True trainers have moved to positive reward based training with greater and more positive results. These collars create confusion and fear, which can lead to aggression and reactivity.”
Professional Ella Richardson also chimed in about the static feature. “As a veterinarian, I would NEVER recommend a product like this. It is aversive, and these sorts of training techniques have long ago been scientifically proven to be far less effective than reward-based training, and far more damaging to your dog’s general well-being,” she writes. “Shame on you Garmin for trying to make outdated training seem modern and innovative.” The comment has received more than 2,400 likes.
Veterinary groups agree. The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, the Pet Professional Guild, and The UK Kennel Club have all spoken out about negative reinforcement, like shock collars.
Also countries have banned shock collars, including Canada and Scotland. An online petition was started last Friday, asking Garmin to remove the “electric shock” feature. So, far more than 5,000 people have signed it.
Some professionals have come out in support of the feature, including James Hamm, the dog trainer featured in the video.
This isn’t the first “static” collar Garmin has released, but it is the first time there has been such a major backlash.
“It did come as a bit of a surprise, because we’ve been selling these products for quite some time,” Ted Gartner, a Garmin spokesperson, told The Washington Post.
Perhaps it is a sign of the times and Garmin may need to get with it.