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Dog’s Mood & Behavior an Indicator of Owner’s Health

Researchers at Newcastle University have hypothesized that a dog’s mood and behavior could be an indicator of their owner’s health.

The project began when researchers developed a tracking system to monitor dogs’ activity. Using special sensors, the team can remotely monitor a dog’s entire day, from how often he sleeps, to when he sits, barks, eats, digs, plays, and more with a special waterproof collar with a built-in accelerometer designed to monitor 17 distinct dog behaviors.

According to an article in the Science Blog,

By mapping the normal behavior 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 behavior which might be an indication of illness or boredom to be quickly spotted.

The next step in their research, project lead Ladha, says, is using the dog’s behavior and activity as an indicator, or early warning system, of an elderly owner’s health and well-being.

The team is dedicated to researching and developing systems for helping the elderly live longer, healthier lives. They believe this new method of monitoring their dogs would allow family and caregivers to “discretely support people without the need for cameras,” and without invading their privacy.

The team believes that eventually the elderly will be able to outfit their dogs with the special collar, allowing their behavior to be monitored, to quickly identify changes in either the dog’s health, or the owner’s.

Does your dog behave different when you’re not feeling well, stressed, or down in the dumps? Weigh in with a comment below!

About the project, Hammerla added, “A dog’s physical and emotional dependence on their owner means that their wellbeing 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.”



  1. Jacqui

    Apr 17, 2015 at 11:22 pm

    My eldest dog, Lady, is a border collie mix. My mom passed away two months ago and I’ve had a rather complicated grief response to her death. I’ve noticed that Lady has not only been sleeping more, but also having more arthritis pain (just like me). Her behavior appears to mirror my physical and emotional feelings.

  2. Sofia

    Apr 17, 2015 at 6:43 pm

    Omg 8 was just saying this very same tjing and a collar to be able to tell if your pup is happy, sad I hope you guys are able to one day make this happen it would be amazing

  3. Kerri Mantella

    Nov 20, 2014 at 3:23 pm

    My dog/s are and have been very tuned into my state of mental health and when I’m down they have always been more protective and sit/follow me around in those times. When I’m in good mental health they do their own thing and don’t seem to feel the need to be with me as often, they are still affectionate but not just there all the time. Late last year I had to look after my 92yr old father with dementia while my mother spent quiet a few months in hospital. I had my 12 yr. old westie X Maltese with me. She ended up looking out for him with letting him pet her (often quiet hard due to not realising it) on her head. Talk to her about his day and his concerns which he could not express to me and she went with him everywhere. When my mother came home from hospital still quiet ill, she (the dog) also looked after her and wouldn’t let anyone near her unless mum said it was o.k.. I’ve seen dogs do amazing things that is hard to explain I had another dog who use to tell me when a cyclone was prominent or an earth quake.

  4. Esther

    Oct 10, 2013 at 8:36 pm

    Whenever I feel sad or depress my german shepherd dog sits next to me like trying to console me. She is so smart…

  5. Elaine

    Oct 10, 2013 at 11:29 am

    I have two poodles. Monty is the serious, concerned one — always watching me to see how I’m doing (I use a rollator to get around). Whenever I begin to fall (whether I catch myself or not) he cries. He also tries to herd me with his nose when I need to walk a little faster.
    Spike is the happy-go-lucky one. His tail is always wagging and he seems to have a smile on his face. He will never grow old!
    Together, they take really good care of me. Favorite time for the 3 of us is while I’m lying in bed — Spike cuddles under my right arm and Monty lies across my legs so I can’t get up.

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