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Pet dogs 'reveal owners' health'

Wednesday October 9th 2013

The behaviour of a pet dog can offer clues about the health and wellbeing of its elderly owner, scientists believe.

They fitted dogs with movement sensors which detected 17 distinct activities and they were then able to map the normal behaviour of a happy animal, according to findings presented at the 2013 UbiComp conference in Zurich.

Team member Nils Hammerla, from Newcastle University, said there are "strong emotional and social mutual bonds" due to the fact that humans and dogs have co-existed closely for thousands of years.

"A dog's physical and emotional dependence on their owner means that their well-being is likely to reflect that of their owner," the researcher explained. "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."

The research team developed a hi-tech waterproof dog collar for the study, with research leader Dr Cas Ladha revealing that the team members are interested in creating "intelligent systems that can help older people to live independently for longer".

Dr Ladha added: "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."

Copyright Press Association 2013

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