Here are some notes from my encounter with Sit Means Sit Austin. These notes are purely subjective and how I remember it. I am attempting to be completely honest about how it went down, and I apologize if anyone else saw it differently.
I stormed up to the Sit Means Sit booth and there’s no doubt in my mind I was overly confrontational. I was shaking (I was very very nervous and emotional). I wish I would have paused and walked around the street fair a bit longer and put more thought into it. I can’t remember what my opening was, but it was probably something stupid about shocking their dogs.
I remember the business owner saying something like “I know who you are Steve DeBono”. I enjoyed that.
A main argument of the owner was that the trainers use the collars on a setting so low that it wasn’t painful. I asked to be shocked myself and sure enough, levels1 and 2 were not painful. (You can look at some of the resources at the bottom of this page for an explanation on why the shock being painful or not is a side issue.)
I then asked to be zapped at 10. He refused and zapped me at 6. IT HURT! ALOT. When I asked what the point was of including levels past 2 if they kept it on 1 or 2, the reply was that some dogs don’t “feel it” at 1 or 2. Well, I promise they will feel it at 6!
He mentioned that if he gives a collar to a client and a few weeks later sees it being used inappropriately, he will take it away. At that point, plenty of damage may have already already been done.
He argued that at least they were teaching people to use them and that I should go protest PetSmart instead, since they sell them to anyone. A) so does Sit Means Sit and B) they might sell them but notice they don’t use them in their training programs and C) this is just not about PetSmart.
He said that the collar is never put on puppies. That may be the case with the Austin branch but a quick search on youtube says otherwise for other locations.
He agreed that timing was crucial in using the shock collars. He countered that timing was also crucial when clicker training. I pointed out the major difference of a mistimed clicker being virtually harmless, whereas poor timing with the shock collar can be damaging. To my surprise, he actually agreed. Shouldn’t that be the end of the argument?
There was a lot of “you’re making yourself look unprofessional” and “you’re embarrassing yourself” from his side. I didn’t care and frankly, was not very embarrassed.
At some point, he said he was going to call the police, which I thought was awesome. Hell, that would have made this article way more entertaining.
I regrettably extended by hand for a shake at the end. I don’t really know why I did it. I think perhaps it was just for having the conversation. He refused which I totally understand. I’m actually grateful because I might have felt guilty criticizing them.