January 15, 2013
LAS VEGAS – High-tech redneck has rocketed into the stratosphere at the 35th annual SHOT Show. Not only can you now electronically track your dog, you can find out how many times he barked that particular day.
You can tour the "New Product Showcase" at this show without pen or paper in hand. With a mouse-size barcode scanner in your palm, just run it over an interesting item, then a digital press release and website link are emailed your way.
First of all, it should be noted that the term "redneck" is used here affectionately, since I am one. But even a Manhattan concrete jungle native would be impressed by the latest technology unveiled at the Sands Expo & Convention Center this week.
It's unimaginable where the technology will go next, but it's a hoot right now to participate in the latest and greatest.
How many times your dog barked today? Really? Yes, and it's very cool.
"I'm a traditional hunter," said Ted Gartner, who grew up in Nebraska. "I like being in the solitude of nature. But I'm also kind of a tech geek. This is a fun place to be."
For the past 10 years, Gartner has been in Olatha, Kan., working for Garmin, the GPS-oriented corporation that has spun off products for everyone on land, in the air and on the sea.
Dog training products are one of the latest Garmin specialties. The first dog shock collars got a bad name among many for their harshness. The new Garmin Delta Sport collar then came about, so gentle and intuitive that Gartner once put it on his 10-year-old son.
"My wife is going to love reading that," Gartner said.
Admittedly, that particular scenario is a bit of a stretch. But not much of one. Once, when assuring his son that the e-collar wasn't hurting their dog, Gartner let his son feel the "shock."
"He couldn't even feel it, when it was set on the lowest level," said Gartner, who, of course, left the lesson at that. But it illustrates the eye-popping technology now available can be something as simple as a dog collar.
"The basis of these e-collars is you only want to use enough (electricity) to get the job done," Gartner said. "You never want your dog to yelp. It's not meant to be a punishment. Dogs are easily distracted. This is a way to focus your dog's attention. Dog training still requires a lot of time.
"Twenty or 30 years ago, these collars were either on or off, and there were some volts flying through them."
Now, according to Gartner, the collar buzz goes up only when the dog's mind has wandered from the day's lesson. And you don't even have to be there to do some teaching.
"If you're away, and your dog is in the backyard and he likes to bark at squirrels, this will keep him from barking," Gartner said. "If your dog continues to bark, it will automatically rise to the level that suits him.
"At the end of the day, you can come home, take the collar off and it will tell you how many times your dog has barked that day."
Just the time you start feeling creepy about all the Big Brother possibilities of high technology, here comes the other side of that story.
As Gartner mentioned earlier, he can now enjoy the outdoors more than ever. When his hunting dogs are out of sight, he can relax by looking at the GPS tracking collar and discovering exactly where they're roaming.
"I don't holler at my dogs as much as I used to," Gartner said. "It's nice to have that sense of safety, if I need to know where they are. Otherwise I can set it down and enjoy things."
If my parents had owned one of these, they could have been able to keep me out of the local pool hall. But that aspect of future child-rearing is best left to another time and another place.