New system might make dogs lifesavers for seniors

Beautiful lying chocolate Havanese dogDogs are sensitive to human emotions, and scientists at the Newcastle University in the UK are working on a system where elderly dog owners could benefit from dogs’ responses to our moods and behavior.

To start with, the team needs to know the dog’s normal behavior, so there’s something to compare to. They have developed a remote-sensing water proof collar that can measure what the dog does and how it acts during a normal day.

Step two is comparing changes in behavior with the baseline. Sudden changes can indicate that something has gone wrong. For example, if the dog no longer walks outdoors like it used to, the owner might have run into to issues with mobility. A sudden increase in anxiety in the dog might mean that there’s something seriously wrong with the owner.

The dogs wouldn’t need any extra training. They only have to wear the collar, and behave like dogs do. The idea is to be able to reassure family and caregivers about an older person’s health without intruding on the person’s privacy. Monitoring the pet is less intrusive than monitoring the person.

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