Monday, June 2, 2014

Maybe Dogs Don’t Want to be Walked by a Drone

Companion dogs are accustomed to being in the presence of an owner, especially when outside. Being walked on a leash by a known person could tap into the secure base phenomenon that I discussed in an earlier post, where being in the presence of a known figure of attachment helps dogs interact with their environment. It could be that because of the presence of their owner, dogs on leash are able to smell more things, look at more things, and really explore the world. A drone flying behind a dog can’t offer that sense of security.

A recent study out of Italy investigated dog attention to their owners while out on walks. They found that on leash, dogs weren’t all that attentive to their owners. “Almost half of them were never oriented to their owners and when they did, both the frequency and duration of their gazes were generally very low.” It is, of course, possible that dogs were attentive to their owners in other ways, such as the smell of their human companion, the sound of their footsteps, or the sound of their voice. Dogs are aware that they are with their owner (in this case physically attached to their owner via leash), which could help them attend to the environment.

When dogs were walked off-leash, however, the dogs looked back at their owners more often and for a longer period of time. This could also help maintain the secure base effect, something I would suggest drones can’t provide.

But the point remains that humans are easily drawn to technology-based products for companion dogs. One reporter at a Canadian media outlet offers, “Despite the obvious issues, if this does become a reality it could really help out on many of those days when it’s raining or snowing.” Instead of testing what the technology means for dogs, we often think about how it’s cool or useful to us. As we increasingly apply technology to companion dogs, it’s worth stepping back and explicitly testing whether dogs derive meaningful benefits.

- More Here

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