Your dog loves you. And you love your dog. These things we know. But what you may not know is that your dog’s desire for you to return that love may contribute to depression if you spend a lot of time staring at your smartphone. Yes, a recent study in the UK actually determined that there’s a common link between cell phones and dogs with depression. The correlation is actually quite simple to understand; those smartphones are causing people to ignore their four-legged friends and being ignored is a depression trigger for them.
Studies show that spending too much time focused on our smartphone can lead to our own mental health problems, but the same thing is being found to crack the emotional bond we have with our dogs. Dogs seek our affection and attention constantly and staring at our phones too often and for too long can leave them feeling lonely and isolated. It goes without saying they likely don’t know the difference between us having our head buried in a smartphone screen because of a dire work emergency worthy of our attention or mindless social media time. And this, if nothing else, should lead us to be a little more thoughtful and aware of keeping those phones in our pockets versus keeping them in our hand.
“We’re a nation obsessed by our mobile phones,” veterinary surgeon and founder of VetUK, Iain Booth, said in an interview “But this gadget dependence is jeopardizing the important relationships we have with our pets, particularly dogs and to a lesser extent house cats.”
Booth explains that the simple difference between the two common household pets being affected by our smartphone obsession differently is just evolution. Dogs are pack animals who look to us as their pack leader. Cats, on the other hand, are far more independent emotionally.
“To understand what’s going on we have to look at the basic principles of how a dog interacts physically and emotionally with a human,” Booth says. “A dog is a social creature, a pack animal. And to the dog, you are the bona fide leader of the pack. You administer every facet of its life - you collect, you feed, you show it where its allowed to go and you - hopefully - nurture its development. But if you’re perpetually attached to your phone, that vital bond breaks down and the dog is hit for six. The dog requires constant feedback and interaction. It wants to please you - that’s simply how its evolutionary hard-wired.”
Booth warns that this isn’t a shift that happens over time. Once they notice our obsession with smartphones they will be affected weeks, months, and years down the road. At best, Booth says this can be the spark of a couple behavioral problems as your dog acts out for attention. To the extreme, they may become aggressive.
“Those sorts of dogs can end up becoming emotionally distant from their owners, which is terribly sad. If you’ve let a relationship get to that level, why on earth did you bother getting a dog in the first place?”