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The domestication of canines is a time-honored traditional around the world. For thousands of years, humans and dogs have been forming close bonds—living together, protecting one another and synchronizing their daily rhythms. By now, everyone’s heard at least one news story about a dog saving its owners life by attracting help with a persistent bark or even dialing 9-1-1 somehow. Now, this idea is being explored thanks to experts at Newcastle University, UK—in a country where 30 percent of all households have at least one pet dog.
Dr. CasLadha, PhD student Nils Hammerla and undergraduate Emma Hughes set out to provide a quick system of medical care for distressed dog owners using the pet’s mood and activity as a health barometer. Using movement sensors and waterproof collars with accelerometers to monitor dogs remotely, they were able to track normal, happy behavior as well as loneliness, boredom and duress.
According to sciencedaily.com, “The Newcastle team were able to classify 17 distinct dog activities such as barking, chewing, drinking, laying, shivering and sniffing.”
The group presented their research at the 2013 UbiComp conference in Zurich.
Ladha, the project’s lead at Newcastle University’s Culture lab, says the next step is to use the dog’s health and behavior as an early warning system that an elderly owner may be struggling to cope.
“A lot of our research,” he said, “is focused on developing intelligent systems that can help older people to live independently for longer.”
“A dog’s physical and emotional dependence on their owner means that their wellbeing is likely reflect that of their owner and any changes such as the dog being walked less often, perhaps not being fed regularly, or simply demonstrating ‘unhappy’ behavior could be an early indicator for families that an older relative needs help.”
The group made sure to test as many breeds of dog as possible to ensure that the monitoring system could work for anyone and anywhere. In other words, man’s best friend just became man’s best friend forever (MBFFs) … makes you wonder if an advanced version of the system could work for other domesticated animals.
The information supplied in this article is not to be considered as medical advice and is for educational purposes only.