Thursday, October 31, 2013

#PetSafe & The Bloggers Summit & A Special Contest

Stratosphere above the skyline in Knoxville



When the invitation came from PetSafe (Radio Systems) to join their Bloggers’ Summit this year I thought there had to be a mistake. I’m quite outspoken against electronic collars and fences. I don’t believe in aversive training. It hurts the dog and breaks down the human-animal bond. And there’s no need for it when we live in a kinder, gentler world, especially when we can use operant conditioning or lure and reward. It’s no secret that I’m fully supportive of The No Shock Collar Coalition (http://www.noshockcollars.com)
On the other hand, Radio Systems had purchased both Drinkwell and Premier. I was pretty sure the fountains were safe but I am one of those who has been very concerned about their purchase of Premier which specialized in products for positive training for dogs and cats.
            I was up-front about wanting to see whatever was positive and, to their credit, they did not rescind their invitation. If I was destined to be the thorn in their paw, so be it. Truthfully, they could not have been nicer and made a point of telling me that they have had veterinary behaviorists visit. They want to hear from those of us who don’t agree with them. Are they hoping to change our minds? Maybe. Will they? No. There is too much information to back-up what so many of us believe about electronic collars and fences.  Sadly, I got to witness it first-hand.  The toughest part of the trip was a demo by their “trainer.” He had his own dog, a German Shepherd there who he said hadn’t had one of their collars on in a long time, as well as a lovely Pit Bull in for training. When he started to put the collar on his dog, the dog tried to get away, and rightly so.  When he finally got the collar on and the dog’s head went down, there was no question that the dog’s entire body language changed. His head and tail went down, he drooped, he looked defeated. I could have cried. Then the “trainer” said he was using “positive” training while he used the collar and threw treats at the dog! This is NOT positive training. He really has no understanding of the basics. It was gut-wrenching to watch.
            That said, it’s not all bad news and I hope you will stick with me through this post because I have much to say.
            The people who work at PetSafe are lovely and the positive products deserve our attention.  Why?  Because they are doing the right thing with the Premier line and we need to encourage the good. If the company sees that we find the positive in their positive line, they will give it more attention – that’s just good business sense.  And they do have some wonderful things for our companions.  The familiar Premier clicker is still there. They have created something called Lickety Sticks, a very low calorie treat that you can use for rewarding your pet. YOU hold it and allow the dog to lick it. It comes in several flavors. 

I suggested they make one with a long, or telescoping stick for tall people with small dogs. You do NOT allow the dog to have the entire stick or hold it because the dog could swallow it. The treat is strictly controlled by the owner. There’s a clicker leash with the clicker attaching right onto the leash itself. PetSafe has expanded out the bait bag to now hold more, including a special spot for Lickety Sticks.
There is a line of clothing that goes over the dog’s four paws and velcros down the back – easy on and easy off and nice and warm for your little companion. 
There’s a remote treat dispenser for your dog or cat that you control.  They even have new housetraining systems that will have your pup rewarded for going on the right place.  This I see as good for apartment dwellers and elderly people who may not be training their pets to go outside.  And they have so much more.

            Premier’s safe cat harness with the great bungee leash is still there, they have an assortment of positive cat and dog toys.  They have oral care biscuits and treats.
            The company’s president and founder, Randy Boyd, sees much good in putting back into the community, along with the communities in other countries where his company has an office. They create dog parks with rules for safety, they contribute to The University of Tennessee’s Veterinary School where we toured the hospitals. The University has the ultimate training program for people who want to learn physical therapy for pets, among other wonderful programs. Some of the company’s products are in a new house on the Home and Garden Network based at Scripps, which we also toured. That’s also the home of DIY Network and The Food Network, among others.

            The company gives money to animal welfare and youth organization education. Returned products that aren’t defective are given to local shelters in a 7 county radius. They donate to the Smoky Mountain Animal Care Foundation, support local dog and cat shelters in Shenzhen, China and they support Tennessee Achieves wherein mentors support kids through college admissions and staying in school and they pay for kids to go through community college.  They also have a contest to put a dog park into a community in the. U.S.  They are helping to increase the number of dog parks in the U.S.
            I’ll be revisiting PetSafe periodically with reviews of positive products, some tested by my Aimee, others tested by pets who can give these items the challenge that they need. 

            While we got to visit Knoxville’s highlights, our last night was spent at the home of singer/composer, Jay Clark who also has a Ph.D. in Wildlife and Fisheries Science. His wife, also a Ph.D. works for the forestry service. Both were laid-back and charming. We were treated to a concert beside a bonfire, which followed a wonderful catered barbecue with real down-home food. The stars were many in the clear sky.  It was a nice way to end our few days in Knoxville.  
Jay Clark and his Group
            Now, for those of you who have stuck with me through this entire post, and most of you should know by now that my blog is content-rich, I have a contest for you.  PetSafe has agreed to put together a PetSafe Positive Package for my readers! You will receive one of their nice new Bait Bags, Lickety Sticks, a Clicker and a species-appropriate toy, so whether you have a cat or a dog you are eligible to win!  Just comment on this post and tell me why you want to win!  The contest ends on November 7th.   That gives you plenty of time to enter!
            And let’s all remember to reward the positive!

NOTE:  PetSafe paid for my airfare, hotel and meals. The opinions expressed are, however, entirely my own.

28 comments:

Carma Poodale Allen said...

I do not want to enter the contest but I do want to comment. Thank you for standing up against shock collars.

Layla Morgan Wilde ( Cat Wisdom 101) said...

I'm not sure what to think. I've done giveaways for both Drinkwell fountains and Lickety Sticks but I'm opposed to shock collars.

Awesome Dogs said...

As always Darlene, I appreciate your view. Appreciate that you presented what you saw.
Personally, I will support positive. To me, that means that I will spend my money with the little guy that has decided to be fully positive.
Perhaps the questions shouldn't be, "do we support this company's positive line?" Maybe it should be, "Is there another line, at another company that upholds a mandate that I agree with across ALL product lines?"
That is where my money will go. I feel that is a positive choice.
I don't want to enter the contest.

Darlene said...

Carma, thank you for your support. I truly appreciate it.

Darlene said...

Layla, I understand how you feel. I thought long and hard. I feel it's important to keep Premier and Drinkwell and set a precedent, that we will support what is positive but will remain outspoken about the negative.

Darlene said...

Hi Awesome Dogs,

I understand your reaction and, frankly, that was my first reaction, too. Then I wanted to know more once they offered me the opportunity. I saw what they are doing, heard how long products remain in development, and I thought that in dog training we ignore the negative and reward the positive and that was how I made my decision. I was totally upfront with the company and with my readers. I want more positive products out there and while I will, of course support other companies, I will also support the positive side of this company. For example, no one else has made a cat harness and bungee leash like Premier, their Lickety Sticks I saw in action at the TN vet school. I can't ignore that. We must each live with our choices and I respect your decision. Thank you for commenting.

Gordon said...

Thank you so much for this interesting and informative blog, Darlene. If I may, I would like to zoom in on shock collars and anything that distresses dogs and thank you for speaking out against these barbaric "training" tools, as always.

Darlene said...

Thank you, Gordon. I will always speak out against electronic collars and fences. However, I will also speak out for whatever is positive.

pawsforpraise said...

I'm sorry, but when you purchase products you put profit into a company's coffers. That means that, with your purchase, you are, whether you like it or not, supporting shock collars by default. There are companies that sell nothing but humane products, and those are the companies I now support. I still have some of the old Premier products, but have not purchased that product line since the sale took place to this company. I will not enter.

Darlene said...

I appreciate what you're saying, Pawsforpraise, but do you realize that the flip side of this is that everyone who does that is simply killing Premier. Everyone feared that PetSafe was buying it to kill it. They didn't, so now those who worried about the death of Premier product is killing them. It's a double-edged sword. It doesn't bother me if you don't want to enter the contest. My concern is with keeping Premier's wonderful products in the marketplace where they belong. So, I will ignore the bad and reward the good, just as I do with dogs and cats. It's a personal choice. I do not choose to lose Premier's products.

Gary Rohde said...

If the company has as vast majority of it's products positive then it's OK. No company is perfect.

Darlene said...

Thank you, Gary. That's very true. I think we can encourage them to create even more positive products by supporting those they have and asking for more, and ignoring the aversive products.

Skye Anderson said...

Darlene, how interesting! I, too, was extended an invitation in May to the October Summit but the date was not yet set in stone. In trying to find out more information in the coming weeks, I finally was able to speak with someone in August who promptly rescinded my invitation because I am a reward-based trainer, even though I was trained as a scientist and wanted to learn more - just in case my mind could be changed. I try to be objective in all areas and want to learn more about all methods of doing something. I am glad your invitation was not rescinded, though, and thank you for your thoughts. I, too, value the Premier and Drinkswell products.

Darlene said...

Hi Skye,
I'm surprised that your invitation was rescinded and mine wasn't. I wonder who did that because I wasn't the only positive person there. One of the bloggers uses only positive methods which I discovered when we both spoke up at the same time to stop an employee from correcting her dog. Dogs are welcome there. I hope that someone from PetSafe reading this will reinstate your invitation for the next Summit. I think it's important for us to see what they're doing and for PetSafe to know that we care about what is positive.

Greg Gibbs said...

I regularly use the phrase "reward the good and ignore the bad," but it's quickly followed by "if you can safely do so." In this case, it's similar to ignoring a dog chewing a live power cable - it's not safe to do so. I'm in agreement with Awesome Dogs and pawsforpraise; I won't support the company and recommend a competing brand, like Halti (and if they're part of a P+ corporation, I'd like to know and I'll find other alternatives).

If the cost of putting PetSafe out of business is losing Drinkwell, Premier, Lickety Stick, and others, it's worth the cost. Ideally, they'd lose interest and sell off the patents for these products to someone who would use them appropriately. These products are fig leafs, and I'd rather they stand naked and exposed to the sanitizing light.

I don't want their products, even for free.

And I'm still seriously PO'ed with Premier for selling out.

PetShrink said...

Hi Darlene, I so wish you'd taken over the training session with the GSD and pointed out the change in his body language and that giving the odd treat does not counterbalance an electric shock. The company needs to rethink their "trainers," but clearly you and those who went before you have not changed their thinking. As I mentioned the other day, there is a potential problem with the Lickety Stik even if the owner does not give it to the pet. Dogs have been reported to bite down suddenly on the end and pop - and swallow - the roller ball. This could lead to choking or at least a swallowed foreign object that could potentially cause a blockage in a small dog or cat.

Darlene said...

Greg, I was stunned when Premier sold to Radio Systems. I couldn't fathom it. I still can't.

Darlene said...

PetShink, The only thing I'd heard of after you mentioned a problem waully s a dog who had been given the entire LicketyStick. OTOH, dogs have choked on Kongs and we're still recommending them. Nothing is perfect. Yes, in retrospect, I wish I'd taken over the training session. I'm still kicking myself over that one. However, fully exposing it after the fact was the best I could do at this point. Their alleged trainer has been to conferences and session and apparently, instead of learning, has become totally confused. And he's still working there.
Nothing is perfect. Absolutely nothing. I went there not only as a behavior person and a positive trainer but as a journalist as well. In that I have reported honestly, whether the company or anyone else likes it or not. I wanted to see for myself, they didn't rescind my invitation, so I went. Sadly, there were some bloggers who truly needed the education in positive reinforcement and I did my best to provide it. The company also asked me to recommend books for their company library. I did that. All of them are, of course, positive.

Darlene said...

PetShink, The only thing I'd heard of after you mentioned a problem waully s a dog who had been given the entire LicketyStick. OTOH, dogs have choked on Kongs and we're still recommending them. Nothing is perfect. Yes, in retrospect, I wish I'd taken over the training session. I'm still kicking myself over that one. However, fully exposing it after the fact was the best I could do at this point. Their alleged trainer has been to conferences and session and apparently, instead of learning, has become totally confused. And he's still working there.
Nothing is perfect. Absolutely nothing. I went there not only as a behavior person and a positive trainer but as a journalist as well. In that I have reported honestly, whether the company or anyone else likes it or not. I wanted to see for myself, they didn't rescind my invitation, so I went. Sadly, there were some bloggers who truly needed the education in positive reinforcement and I did my best to provide it. The company also asked me to recommend books for their company library. I did that. All of them are, of course, positive.

Kate said...

Thank you for your honest report of your experience. I am still torn about buying Petsafe products. THere are great alternatives for many of their products but not for all of them.

Darlene said...

Thank you, Kate. I understand your dilemma. That's the same one I face. I'm glad I accepted their invitation and didn't simply reject them out of hand. I know a lot of responsible people who use their pet doors. I'm not a fan of pet doors but they are convenient and safe for many people and those who have them are pleased that they keep out bugs while allowing the pets to come and go safely. And there simply aren't great alternatives for some of the Premier products. They were encouraging about the Premier line and are developing more products. Many of us were impressed by the clicker leash, especially handy for beginners who can't juggle everything at once. We each have to make our own decision. All I could do is report honestly and opt to promote whatever is positive and warn against whatever is aversive. Ignoring them will not make them go away. I think eduction is the key.

Christine Davis said...

I appreciate your trying to focus on the positive, Darlene, but I agree with the many comments here about not supporting this company. I was abused by my father for years when I was a child. My father did, however, get braces for my crooked teeth. Did that pardon his abusive treatment of his little girl? I spent my entire life walking with a bowed head—I know how that poor German Shepherd Dog felt.

Darlene said...

Thank you for your comment, Chris. It's a tough call. It really is. What I want to see happen is people move to positive training, see how easy it is and that it builds the human-animal bond.

Judy Pierce said...

Interesting information, Darlene. I would not use a shock collar on my pet. Thanks for not supporting them.

rescuegal said...

Good post, Darlene. I do appreciate that, even with your concerns and reservations, you accepted their invitation. I also appreciate that you always presented the positive side and held their feet to the fire especially on shock collars and electric fences. I have personally stayed away from Pet Safe products, as I am a positive animal person, but I do think it is important to support their positive products. I do believe that they need to be carefully scrutinized though. While your trip sounds exhaustive, it also sounds informative. Thank you for sharing through your blog.

I would like to enter your contest. I have two dogs who are always ready for a new toy to play with. The Lickety Sticks sound neat to use as reward treats and I'm sure the Bait bag would come in handy. I can always use another clicker as I seem to give many of mine away.

Darlene said...

Judy, Thank you for your comment. I appreciate your feedback.

Darlene said...

Rescuegal, Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I appreciate that you are positive but are also willing to try PetSafe's positive products while avoiding their aversive ones.

Darlene said...

We have a winner of our PetSafe Positive Package! Rescuegal! Congratulations!! Please go to my website: www.darlenearden.com, click on the link to contact me and send me your name and address so I can have you prize mailed directly to you! Thank you! I hope you and your pets enjoy the positive training items that will be heading your way!