Dogs and their owners have a very strong emotional and social mutual bond. But could dogs behaviour patterns give an early warning sign that their owner’s health is deteriorating, or that they are struggling to cope?
Researchers have recently performed a study into the behaviour patterns of dogs, by attaching movement sensors and monitoring them while indoors and out. These sensors give back numbers that show when sitting, digging, barking and other basic dog behaviours. By mapping out the normal movements and behaviours of healthy dogs, they now have a benchmark to study how they then vary from their normal behaviour.
These changes could then be linked to changes in their owner’s health or well-being, which could be useful if applied to owners with special needs or the elderly. Possibly allowing people to live independently of help for longer, and have a helping hand if in need.
The study was held initially with collars and cameras to record the dog’s patterns, but now the collars work on their own. Researcher’s analysed data that included the chewing, drinking, barking, laying, sniffing and shivering which was repeated across many different breeds.
The data is still in its early stages, but already has found that dog’s normal patterns reflect their owner’s normal patterns. So if a dog starts acting differently from its normal pattern, it could be because their owner has stopped feeding them regularly, or their mood has changed rapidly. For example, some early warning signs of Alzheimer’s are confusion and difficulty completing everyday tasks, so rapid mood swings in owners that are being reflected in their dog’s behaviour, could be picked up even if the owner doesn’t know it.
The more breeds that get studied, the more accurate the predictions could be. In Australia 36% of households own a dog. That’s over three million in total. This new technology means that eventually man’s best friend could be not only our friend, but our saviour.