Animal Writes
21 March 2001 Issue
Vibrating Collar For Deaf Dogs

by Miranda Spindel - [email protected]

"Emma is a four-year-old Australian Shepherd who is deaf and partially blind as the result of a birth defect. I adopted her from the humane society at which I worked when she was six-months-old. She went through regular obedience training and learned basic commands using touch signals (Sit is a touch on her butt, Down a touch on the back, Stay a touch between the shoulder blades). The only command I couldn't teach her was Come. So my father, an electrical engineer, and I designed a collar based on the principle of the shock collar, though instead of a shock our collar gave her a signal through a gentle vibration because Emma has always known positive, loving training, and I didn't want this to be different. I taught Emma that this vibration meant she should come to me. And it worked. It was also a way to tell her to come to me to work with her off the lead. It was a great breakthrough for us. Since putting the directions on the web, many owners of deaf dogs have written to tell me the collar has helped them as well. Emma is an inspiration to me. She is a joyful, loving dog and lives a very normal life despite her disabilities. We hike, run, play in the park, and live life to the fullest. I would be very happy if her story helps deaf dogs to become well trained and better companions."

Her father Bob, an electrical engineer, wrote:

"The basic idea is to use the guts of a radio remote controlled toy car as a means to turn on and off a vibrator fixed to the dog's collar. The car has everything you need - hand held radio transmitter/actuator, small radio receiver with antenna, and a small motor that forms the basis of the vibrator. Buy the simplest and cheapest. Ideally the battery, receiver electronics and on-off switch should be next to each other in a plastic assembly which can be extracted. Basically, I broke the car apart until this was all that was left. You want these components to occupy as little space as possible because they will be hanging on your dog's collar. I also extracted the motor, and glued a small piece of metal to the side of its shaft. The idea is to fix something to the shaft that will cause the motor to be out of balance so that when it runs it will vibrate. Anything will work, even a pebble. Heavier things will cause greater vibrations. I put the motor in a plastic 35mm film canister (you can get them free at any photo store) and stuffed some paper in to hold it in place. The battery/receiver/on-off switch assembly, and the vibrator, are sewn onto a collar. It's probably best to sew the antenna in too, and not have it stick up where it might get in the
dog's way. If the remote controlled car you started with only runs when activated, then you're finished. In mine the motor ran all the time, only changing direction. Thus, it vibrated all the time, whether the actuator was pressed or not. To stop this I put a diode in series with one of the leads to the motor. Try the diode in each lead to the motor, and in each direction in each lead, until you hit upon the right lead and direction to do what you want. If this seems complicated, find a car that is normally stopped and
only runs when activated (either backwards or forwards, it doesn't matter). That's it. I'm happy to try to answer any questions, or to clarify the above." 

[Editor's note: Since dogs can't do two things at once, (ie respond to the come command and bark at the fence) this device could be great for hearing dogs as well. When someone is contemplating a bark collar, which can even be set off by other dogs barking, and is very confusing to the dog, possibly even causing neurotic behaviors -- this vibrating collar can be used to silently get the dog's attention, triggering a come response, at which time the dog can be praised for doing the right thing
instead of punished for doing the wrong thing.]

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