Sunday, 13 October 2013

Dog's Mood Offers Insight Into Owner's Health


Oct. 7, 2013 — Monitoring a dog's behaviour could be used as an early warning sign that an older owner is struggling to cope or their health is deteriorating.

Experts at Newcastle University, UK, are using movement sensors to track normal dog behaviour while the animals are both home alone and out-and-about.

Providing a unique insight into the secret life of man's best friend, the sensors show not only when the dog is on the move, but also how much he is barking, sitting, digging and other key canine behaviours.

By mapping the normal behaviour of a healthy, happy dog, Dr Cas Ladha, PhD student Nils Hammerla and undergraduate Emma Hughes were able to set a benchmark against which the animals could be remotely monitored. This allowed for any changes in behaviour which might be an indication of illness or boredom to be quickly spotted.

Presenting their findings at the 2013 UbiComp conference in Zurich, project lead Ladha, says the next step is to use the dog's health and behaviour as an early warning system that an elderly owner may be struggling to cope.

"A lot of our research is focussed on developing intelligent systems that can help older people to live independently for longer," explains Ladha, who is based in Newcastle University's Culture Lab.

"But developing a system that reassures family and carers that an older relative is well without intruding on that individual's privacy is difficult. This is just the first step but the idea behind this research is that it would allow us to discretely support people without the need for cameras."

Behaviour imaging expert Nils Hammerla adds: "Humans and dogs have lived together in close proximity for thousands of years, which has led to strong emotional and social mutual bonds.

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