Scientist Makes Phone for Her Dog, Dog Never Answers

Photo: alkir/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Though we may not deserve dogs, dogs deserve the world. And part of the modern world is, of course, technology. Unfortunately, dogs don’t have access to many technological innovations aside from battery-operated toys and pet surveillance cams that allow you to watch your dog rub its ass on every surface. So one Scottish scientist set out to right this egregious wrong, making a “dog phone” for her 10-year-old Labrador retriever, Zack.

In her recently published study, Dr. Ilyena Hirskyj-Douglas, who specializes in animal-computer interaction, developed a phone for Zack, rigging a ball with an accelerometer that would place a video call to her whenever he moved it. Genius! Incredible! What will science think of next? Just kidding — the dog phone didn’t really work.

Over the course of her 16-day study, Zack “called” Dr. Hirskyj-Douglas more than 50 times, averaging about five calls per day. However, none of these calls seemed intentional. “Dog rang me but was not interested in our call instead was checking for things in his bed,” Hirskyj-Douglas wrote in the log for one call. In the record of another 30-second call, Hirskyj-Douglas noted, “Dog was playing with his pig and accidentally nudged the ball.” Oftentimes Zack accidentally called while he was asleep because he was “cuddling the ball” — very cute but not helpful, Zack! Nearly all of Zack’s calls appeared to be accidental, and Zack never answered when Hirskyj-Douglas called him. Brutal.

Lest you fret that this means a dog phone will never exist, fear not. As the New York Times notes, the experiment had a number of issues, the most prominent being that Zack was never properly trained on how to use the phone. Another criticism is the extremely small sample size. Here are a few other reasons I believe the study may have failed:

  • Dog is too old: Maybe a 10-year-old dog isn’t hip to this newfangled technology. Give the dog phone to a Gen-Z pup and see what happens.
  • Dog is mean: Unlikely but still something to consider.
  • Dog was just joking: The most likely answer, in my opinion, is Zack is very funny and knew it would be humiliating for his owner to have to publish an academic paper that said, “My dog didn’t answer when I called.”

So it doesn’t sound like we’ll have a dog phone anytime soon. In the meantime, your dog will just have to make do with an iPad.

Scientist Makes Phone for Her Dog, Dog Never Answers