Good vi­bra­tions?

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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

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