A fascinating new product currently in development came across the DOGthusiast desk recently, and it's called the Smart Collar. I don't normally review products I haven't used myself hands-on, but this one gained my interest due to how it incorporates technology (not long ago I was posting my desire for a dog FitBit), and how it could introduce a new twist on training cues with sound and an accelerometer built into the collar. The collar is currently in development, so a hands-on is not possible quite yet.
What are the plans for this collar?
The idea is that the Smart Collar is tied to your smartphone to measure your dog's activity, help with training, GPS tracking, geo-fencing, and the software offers other elements such as a social community to help with the training element of the dog collar. There are other products that do some of these things separately, but it looks like the Smart Collar combines them (and some new ideas) into a single uber-collar. Plus, it looks prettier.
In case you're worried about the "invisible fence" part of the collar - this does not involve any kind of shock, spray, or other averse element. The collar development includes ideas around sound cues and positive reinforcement. If you're a tech-geek, it's geofencing for your dog (and as an avid user of geofencing on my phone, such as "When I get into my car, turn on bluetooth and launch my audio player app" - could be pretty cool with your dog, too). This was the first question I had for the development team, and they confirmed they are on the same page regarding positive, rewards-based training.
The Smart Collar is being developed by Ridogulous Labs. Here is more info about what the Smart Collar folks are working on, and mock-ups:
See their website for all of the details. To help kickstart the project, <a href="check out their page on Indiegogo here.
Training your dog with sound, not aversive punishments
The product design includes some very interesting ideas around sound training your dog, improving accuracy and proofing your dogs response. You can track your dog's proximity with this dog collar, and based on that a cue can be emitted as sound from the collar that you can train your dogs to respond to in a particular way. It will still be up to the human to figure out what motivates your dog best - what kind of treats, toys, affection, or other reasons (or all of them combined!) your dog will need to come running back. But what this collar can offer is precise timing to help improve your accuracy and quality of training. Of course, it offers a lot more in being able to cue at certain distances or events that you might not be able to cue off at all. For example, one of my dogs always prefers to run behind me on a jog. If and when she is off leash on the trails, I wouldn't notice if she fell behind me. This collar would be able to cue both of us of this event.
But only a shock will work to contain your dog? Not necessarily. A family friend had an invisible fence many years ago, and would let her dog out unsupervised... but discovered he kept getting past the fence. She thought it was defective, but all tests returned that the fence was in working order. So she started watching her dog while out, and he would brace himself for the shock and run right past the barrier. The cat (or whatever it was) on the other side was worth the shock, apparently. That said, it is possible to train your dog for an "emergency" response in events such as these. For example, your dog will respond to do an "emergency down" despite engaging in a highly motivating event (such as chasing a cat). Help with the cue, say your dog is behind you and you don't see them starting to run off, could be a valuable tool at your disposal.
Long story short, training is between you and your dog. Motivation, relationship, and accurately telling your dog what you expect (timing and consistency) is the core of all training, and will set you up for success. Then practice and repetition will help you maintain success. It seems like this collar could be a neat tool to mix into this equation.
I'm interested in the possibilities of this dog collar as a positive, rewards based training tool that could potentially aid with accuracy. There could be some really interesting training possibilities with cuing on particular movements, speeds, and off of various sounds. Not to mention a whole bunch of geek toys in there I haven't even gotten to yet (I wear a FitBit - now the dogs could and I can tell how many steps Mort does at a flyball tournament! Sounds like a whole competition of its own!). What do you guys think?
I plan to do a follow-up post combining feedback, and with more in-depth thoughts about this collar and training in a few weeks. I'll also take a look at some of the other geek toys incorporated in the collar I haven't mentioned, such as those that help you measure your dogs activity.
Post your thoughts below!