Jared Marmen and his dog, Sprinkles, try out the prototype of his invention called Chord, a rewards-based dog collar for training and monitoring a dog's behavior.
Jared Marmen and his dog, Sprinkles, try out the prototype of his invention called Chord, a rewards-based dog collar for training and monitoring a dog's behavior. (Barbara Haddock Taylor / Baltimore Sun)

He loves dogs and computers, and he knows what makes both tick. So Bel Air resident Jared Marmen set out to make a “smart” collar for canines, high-tech neckwear that rewards pets for obedience instead of shocking them for bad behavior.

The Chord Collar project is a passion for Marmen, 37, a Bel Air native who attended John Carroll, earned a physics degree from St. Mary’s College of Maryland and a master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering from Johns Hopkins. Marmen’s company, Barttron, Inc., which he founded in 2014, is named for his first dog, Bart.

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What triggered your interest in developing the Chord Collar?

It stems from my experience in not having my needs met. At St. Mary’s, my wife and I had a dog and a house in a neighborhood where fences were not allowed — so the only way to keep Bart in the yard was to bury a wire in the ground and shock him. That got me to thinking. I just wanted be able to throw lacrosse balls to him and have him lick my face. But how could I keep him away from the road?

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That was in 2003, after which you worked as a military defense contractor. How did that job mesh with your collar proposal?

The idea never left me. Five years ago, while working on an Army robotics project training rats to find land mines, I engaged an animal behaviorist to help. After we talked, I decided this dog collar is my life.

How would you describe the Chord Collar?

It’s like a little robot brain that contains both a professional dog trainer and you. The collar is filled with vibration motors which help teach a dog to do everything from stop barking to stay off the furniture. It has a GPS and can set up virtual boundaries in your house. It keeps the dog safe and redirects him away from stuff that you don’t want destroyed, like your shoes or your sandwich. Think of it as a Smartphone — and the training is all rewards-based.

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What are the rewards?

When you call your dog, the collar vibrates slightly and when he comes, there’s another vibration as you give him a treat. Do that for a couple of days and the vibrations become instinct. But you also have to reward him for doing something good, even if it’s boring. If you’re fixing dinner and the dog is in his bed instead of in the kitchen, slobbering all over the food, you take a piece of meat to him and the collar will vibrate, showing him that he’s good.

When will the Chord Collar be available, and at what price?

At least 18 months, and $300.

Why should folks buy it?

It will give you the dog of your dreams without your being crazy about it.

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