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Saturday, January 10, 2015

Product Review: Don Sullivan's "Perfect Dog" Command Collar

The Don Sullivan "Perfect Dog" Command Collar is basically a plastic prong collar. It includes a DVD and a whole lot of hype. Apparently there's even an infomercial, which I would probably know if I watched TV. The Command Collar comes in two sizes and is adjustable for necks as small as 5" and as large as 24". It is available via TV and also the website as part of a training package, it can also be purchased on Amazon for cheap.
Photo by Erin Koski

When I first found this collar in the thrift store, I mistook it for a Good Dog Collar. The Good Dog Collar is another plastic pinch collar, it is currently being sold by Starmark as the Pro Training Collar. The Command Collar has the advantage of being easier to put on the dog because it has an actual clasp, while the Starmark Pro Training Collar has to have the link forcibly separated each time.

Having correctly identified my plastic prong as a Command Collar, I felt the need to investigate the "Perfect Dog" training method that goes along with it. The first thing I saw was a lot of hype, along with the statement that this system works for every dog, handler, and situation on the planet. This broad statement allows the seller to brush off any complaints or lack of success as a failure on the part of the handler. "This system works, if you aren't getting results you must be doing it wrong, or not trying hard enough." The Perfect Dog website is absolutely littered with incredible claims that it will start working in seconds, and solve any behavior problem while ensuring total off-leash reliability in 4-8 weeks.

Like the Dog Whisperer, the Dogfather is just repackaging decades-old training methods and polishing them up for a generation who hasn't seen them yet. There's a reason the high-level dog training world largely abandoned correction-based training for so many sports, and it wasn't out of compassion for our precious puppies. Competitive trainers began adopting reward-based training methods twenty or more years ago purely for the advantage they provided. The old-school choke chain push-pull training fell out of favor simply because positively-trained dogs started winning in the obedience ring.

Despite all the many claims on the website and presumably the infomercial, the Perfect Dog system will likely not facilitate better dog-owner communication. What it will do is use the phenomenon of learned helplessness to teach that dog that certain behaviors make bad things happen. A side-effect of learned helplessness is avoidance of new behaviors because they might cause bad things to happen. My dogs may not be Perfect Dogs, but they aren't afraid to offer new behaviors and express their emotional states because they know that I am a safe person to be around.

Pros: Not as severe as a prong collar, in my opinion. I tried this collar, a medium prong collar with bare prongs, and a medium prong with rubber tip covers, on my arm. I also tried them on my husband's arm because he puts up with stuff like that. In his opinion, the Command Collar was the least severe of the three, but barely discernible from the rubber-tipped prong. Easy to put on, and not as obvious a training collar as some. Way easier to use than the Starmark Pro Training Collar.

Cons: It's made out of plastic. Seriously. I have absolutely no doubt that the links on this collar will wear out or break over time, and the cord section is also kind of suspicious. The Dogfather website says this is ok though, because nobody is supposed to need to use this collar long-term after their dog is "fully trained", It is also more harsh on the skin than either of the metal prongs, I am currently covered in the most amazing hives and found the Command Collar quite painful on the itchiest spots on my arms. For that reason I would avoid using this collar on dogs with sensitive skin. It also appears to be less effective on thick-coated dogs like huskies, so there's actually sort of a narrow range of dogs on which this collar could be used both comfortably and effectively.

Bottom Line: The magical "Perfect Dog" training system sounds too good to be true because it is. The Command Collar itself is sort of an ok training device for people who use prong collars. I personally won't be using this collar on anyone, but if I did I would definitely use a martingale collar as a backup because I am absolutely certain the Command Collar will fail at the worst possible time.

1 comment:

  1. I, like you, rarely ever watch TV. However, a few weeks ago I was on a road trip and saw the infomercial for the Perfect Dog collar and training method. My first thought was "Oh, a dog station. I wanna see this!" I started watching and was horrified. Okay, not as horrified as when I watched The Dog Whisperer, but the marketing hype was pretty ridiculous. It went on for a long time, and finally I had to turn it off because I was wincing so much. Thanks for the review!

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