Cell phones have intractably become a part and parcel of our daily lives. Although they are a necessary means of staying connected to the world, we have undoubtedly developed an addiction towards them. Even when we are sitting idle, we tend to reach for our smartphones around 10 times a day for no apparent reason. We also unlock our phones 28 times a day, a third of such actions being compulsive and absolutely unnecessary. Staying glued to cell phones affect our mental and physical health, and results in social isolation. However, according to experts, we are not the only creatures being affected by our addiction.
Yes, paying more than necessary attention to cell phones may also damage our emotional relationships with our best friends – dogs. Dogs could be prone to acute depression and loneliness if owners don’t give them the attention they need on a regular basis. Such depression could lead to behavioral issues in them when they grow up. Iain Booth, veterinary surgeon and founder of VetUK, has said, “We’re a nation obsessed by our mobile phones, but this gadget dependence is jeopardizing the important relationships we have with our pets, particularly dogs and to a lesser extent house cats.”
Iain goes on to explain that while cats are more isolated creatures, dogs are pack animals that rely on their owners for leadership. This is the reason why dogs get more depressed when they observe their owners being socially isolated themselves – a habit that’s slowly becoming a norm in developed countries. “You administer every facet of its life – you collect, you feed, you show it where it’s allowed to go and you, hopefully, nurture its development,” he said to the UK newspaper Metro. The bond between humans and dogs breaks down if the owner is perpetually attached to their phones. He finishes his statement by saying, “The dog requires constant feedback and interaction. It wants to please you – that’s simply how it’s evolutionarily hard-wired.”
A new 2018 study, published in the journal BMC Psychiatry, has revealed that pets provide therapeutic benefits to people suffering from mental health conditions. The report, which studies the long-term impact of pets on mental health management, goes on to mention that having a pet is probably beneficial for overall mental wellbeing.
Veterinary experts have consistently warned that technology is causing friction between humans’ relationships with pets. Amber Pickworth, a veterinary nurse from the UK Clinic “The Vet”, warned in 2017 that our current lifestyle may be linked to a surge in unruly dogs. While urging people to keep their phones aside while tending to their pet dogs, she also said, “’You might think you’re spending quality time with your animal when you take it for a walk, but the minute the phone comes out, the dynamic changes without you even realizing it”. She paraphrased a common saying that goes along the lines of – “A dog might be a small part of your world, but you’re their entire world”.
Adults in the UK, on an average, spend nearly 10 hours a day on various screens – more time than they are asleep. While curbing cellphone usage could be beneficial to our own health, it may also result in a more friendly relationship with our pet dogs.