Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Pet Corrector

The Pet Corrector is a product from the Company of Animals. It is advertised as a device that emits compressed gas with a loud hiss. The noise is intended to interrupt unwanted behavior. The company suggests using it to stop your dog from barking, jumping up, stealing food, chasing, and going places you don't want them to go. Not just for dogs, Company of Animals also recommends the Pet Corrector for stopping unwanted behaviors in cats, horses, and any other animal.
compressed air scary noise
At face value, this seems like a handy product. After all, it's just a harmless sound, right? When I first saw this product, it reminded me of the squirt bottles I use to make my cats be less obnoxious. They stand on my head and yowl at 5am, I squirt wildly around the bedroom in a semi-conscious frenzy, the cats decide that waking me up for breakfast isn't such a great idea after all.

The Pet Corrector differs from a squirt bottle in two very important ways. First, it is not intended to be sprayed at the animal at all. Second, it is much louder than a squirt bottle. It's pretty damned loud.

The Company of Animals has training information describing exactly how the Pet Corrector is to be used, but I have yet to see anyone in public demonstrate a thorough understanding of this information. This device is used for the purpose of positive punishment, that is, adding something unwanted in response to a behavior. Positive punishment can be effective, but is not without risks. When positive reinforcement is done wrong, nothing really terrible happens. When positive punishment is done wrong, it can have unintended consequences.

One of our classmates at our first session of agility class had a miniature poodle. Olly the poodle apparently had some issues doing on-leash greetings with other dogs. Like many dogs, he felt nervous and the tension would build until he barked and snapped at the other dog as a way to get more personal space. This is actually normal, leashed greetings are unnatural and very few dogs are 100% comfortable with them so most knowledgeable dog people avoid them entirely. However, Olly's handler felt he just wasn't being polite, and that his unwanted behavior needed to be corrected.

Enter the Pet Corrector. At class one day, a person walking their dog wandered over to ask about agility. She was walking a little shih tzu that she allowed to wander up to Olly as she spoke to his handler. Seeing the opportunity to correct an unwanted behavior, Olly's owner pulled the Pet Corrector from her pocket. When Olly couldn't figure out how to disengage from the social interaction and instead snapped at the other dog, his handler sprayed him with the canister.

In her attempt to correct her own dog's unwanted behavior, Olly's mom also punished the shih tzu that Olly had been greeting. That dog bolted to the end of her leash and stood there trembling, she may be much more nervous the next time she greets a strange dog. Olly's mom also succeeded in punishing Sisci from 30' away, this was our first class and Sisci was extremely nervous about all the new sights and sounds. A sudden loud, scary sound definitely did not help her feel like the park was a safe place.

Can the Pet Corrector be used responsibly? Sure. However, the information provided by Company of Animals fails to mention the potential for collateral damage.

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