Newcastle University, UK, are using movement sensors to track normal dog
behaviour while the animals are both home alone and out-and-about.
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.
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
Early warning system
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.
of our research is focused 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.
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."
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.
dog's physical and emotional dependence on their owner means that their
well-being 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' behaviour could be an early indicator for families that
an older relative needs help."
How the technology works
In the UK,
around 30% of households own at least one pet dog, totalling an estimated 10.5
provide an indicator of animal welfare in an age when dogs are increasingly
left alone for long periods of time, the team created a hi-tech, waterproof dog
collar complete with accelerometer and collected data for a wide range of dog
order to set the benchmark we needed to determine which movements correlated to
particular behaviours, so in the initial studies, as well as the collars, we
also set up cameras to record their behaviour," explains Ladha.
the two datasets, the Newcastle team were able to classify 17 distinct dog
activities such as barking, chewing, drinking, laying, shivering and sniffing.
had to work for all dogs," explains Ladha, "so the challenge was to
map distinct behaviours that correlated whether the collar was being worn by a
square-shouldered bulldog or a tiny Chihuahua."
adds: "This is the first system of its kind which allows us to remotely
monitor a dog's behaviour in its natural setting.
beyond this it also presents us with a real opportunity to use man's best
friend as a discreet health barometer. It's already well known that pets are
good for our health and this new technology means dogs are supporting their
older owners to live independently in even more ways than they already