The subject of shock collars is one that gets a lot of gundog handlers, well, hot under the collar, but despite its identical appearance, the latest model from PACDOG is not a shock collar; it is a vibration-only one.
Before I stir up a hornet’s nest, I should just point out that I’m fully aware of the view that working a dog in cover when it is wearing a collar is a real no-no. There is clearly the potential for that dog to get caught up in brambles or wire, with serious consequences. Obviously, in an ideal world, nobody would work their dog with any kind of collar on, or even a coat for that matter. But in the real world sometimes people choose to, or have to. And as these products exist and are in use, it is only fair to give this new design a review.
The PAC Buzz collar looks identical to and works with the same control unit as the electric collar – the key difference being that when you press the button, all that happens is that the collar vibrates. This ranges from a barely noticeable vibration to a stronger one, depending on the setting, with the option for single or continuous vibration.
The idea behind using a collar like this is for it to be used where ‘normal’ training methods have failed. As anyone who has read any of Howard’s training articles will know, the key in correcting a bad behaviour is in the timing of the reprimand. Using a collar – in this case a vibration – allows the trainer to correct the dog at the precise point at which a command is ignored, not minutes or seconds afterwards, or when the dog has come back to you and can no longer make the link between the ‘punishment’ and the ‘crime’.
With the collar, the moment the dog ignores your command, the vibration is a reminder, or a ‘tap on the shoulder’ that you’ve asked him or her to do something; at which point, you repeat the command. I’ll admit I was dubious about this. Would a simple vibration be enough to stop a hard-hunting spaniel in full flow? Well, yes and no, as it turns out.
I tried the collar in training sessions first, to ensure I got the timing right, and then on several shoot days with my cocker spaniel, Monty – a seriously ‘hot’ but good-natured little dog who has been a bit unsteady this season. I found the collar really does act as a ‘tap on the shoulder’ when his blood is up and I feel he is getting away from me, or ignoring a command. I found that one reasonable vibration was enough to break his focus from the ‘bad behaviour’ and return it – and him – to me. I know the purists will say that if he isn’t steady enough then I shouldn’t be working him – but how many of us simply wouldn’t ever work our dogs if we were waiting for that magic moment when the dog is ‘perfectly steady 100% of the time’?
Would the vibration be enough to stop a seriously unsteady dog from giving chase, or return him to you if he’s reached the flush point? I think it would very much depend on the nature of the dog. Monty took off after a skylark on the plains recently and he ignored both the stop whistle and the vibration. Had he been within range when he spotted the bird it might have been a different story – collar or no collar. So as with any training aid, it is very much down to timing, the ability of the handler and the nature of the dog. Remember, if the timing isn’t right, the message to the dog will be all wrong, so use with great care. I would strongly advise enlisting the help of a professional to ensure you get it right.
I think this product could be a good halfway house for someone who is considering using a collar for their dog (for whatever reason, and let’s not be judgemental) but would prefer not to go for the electric collar if they didn’t need to.
I do think the Buzz collar should visually differentiate itself from an e-collar (and I have passed this comment on to the manufacturer). I found myself constantly explaining to other people on the shoot, “No, it’s not an electric collar, it just vibrates.” For someone who is uncomfortable with the concept of a shock collar, this might be off-putting.
Is it effective? Yes. I have seen it make a difference to Monty every time he’s worn it – but that doesn’t mean it will work for all dogs or in all scenarios. I don’t believe a collar of any kind should be used in place of proper training, but when things go seriously wrong or as a last resort, for some people they do have a place and this vibrating option could be a solution that sits easier with some than an e-collar.
PAC BUZZ COLLAR RRP: £204; extra collars (using the same handset) £107 each www.pacdog.com
Up to three Buzz collars can be run from one handset
The PAC Buzz did have an effect on Monty’s behaviour