Letter from the editor: Why on earth was anyone studying that?


Stefano Hatfield@stefanohat
Wednesday 26 October 2011 18:51

Last Christmas, I tried in vain to get a gadget I’d heard about called a Dog Cam.

As the name suggests, it’s a small video camera that you attach to your dog’s collar so you can see what he or she gets up to when you’re not there: what they’ve been watching on television, for instance, or how many phone calls they’ve made, or how long it really took them to finish the crossword. (This is not as stupid as it sounds. A friend of mine always puts the television on when he goes out, so that his sheepdog doesn’t get bored. And in case you’re wondering, he particularly liked nature documentaries or horse racing.)

Anyway, thanks to the anthrozoologists at Bristol University, we now know what our best friends get up to when they’re left to their own devices: precisely nothing. The reason for this is that, not entirely surprisingly, they are too depressed from their enforced solitude to get up to much. A study of 20 dogs revealed that they suffer from a condition called separation distress, and they spend much of the time pacing the floor in anxious anticipation of their owner’s return. (By the way, they aren’t watching the clock, because dogs apparently have no concept of time. This would explain why my dog greets me with the same breathless rapture whether I have returned after popping out to the paper shop or from a fortnight’s holiday.)

These findings are the result of a 25-year study and, certain though I am that the boffins at Bristol are highly eminent in their field, I have to say it’s not entirely startling that creatures we have nurtured to be sociable should feel upset when they’re on their tod. I make this point because every morning, on the home news list, there is always at least one study or survey that provokes a couple of questions. Like, didn’t I know that already? Or, why on earth was anyone studying that? Coming soon, a scientific study that reveals humans really don’t like Mondays! Woof woof!

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