Experts have not been lacking in warning us of the negative health implications of our smartphone addiction. But most of us will not be deterred from using the mobile phone throughout the day despite the countless studies showing that those hours we spend looking at our gadgets are bad for our physical and mental health, and I know I'm guilty of that.
Gadget dependence is an increasingly growing problem among humans, and some studies show that it's altering our brains. Furthermore, overuse of smartphones is affecting not just our social relationships with other people but also the relationships with our pets, according to veterinarian Iain Booth in an interview with Metro.
Here are five signs your smartphone addiction may be making your dog sad:
1. Attachment to your phone distances you from the pack
Dogs are pack animals that look up to someone as the alpha leader. Studies have shown that dogs need someone to follow. And in your home, you are the designated leader of the pack. However, if you are constantly engaged and distracted by your phone, then you become distant from your pack and break the bond you have with your dog, according to Dr Iain Booth.
Some of the signs that indicate you're not properly bonding with your dog include a lack of eye contact, a reduced desire to snuggle next to you, and the inability to listen and respond to your calls. Your dog might also not be bonded well to you if he doesn't excitedly greet you when you come home. If he's not checking up on you or keeping you within his line of sight, it may also be a sign that you and your dog have a distant relationship.
2. Failure to give your dog attention is causing distress
Dogs are always craving for attention and seeking social interaction since they are pack animals. It's a trait they have inherited from their canine ancestors’ thousands of years ago so this attention-seeking behavior has been ingrained in their evolution.
But not all attention-seeking behaviors are disciplinary issues because dogs sometimes want your attention in order to communicate their feelings. They also need your feedback. The desire to receive affection and approval from their owner is also necessary for their mental stimulation. It is distressing for a dog to have no interaction with their pack leader because that's not in their nature.
Meanwhile, Dr Iain Booth believes that cats may be less affected by your smartphone addiction than dogs. It's probably because cats are naturally the more independent animals than dogs and require less social interaction and attention.
Even without the popularity of smartphones, only a few dog owners truly understand why giving attention is vital to their pet's mental health. The problem has worsened today, though, as some pet owners would rather be scrolling through their Facebook newsfeeds than trying to interact with their dog. As a result, the dog exhibits the bad kind of attention-seeking behavior because he's not getting the stimulation he needs.
3. Your dog starts acting up and misbehaving
You'd be lucky if your dog remains patient and waits until you finish looking at your phone to demand his playtime or exercise. But the more you stay glued to the smartphone, the worse your dog's behavioral problems get.
For one thing, you may experience problems getting the dog to obey your commands if you tell him to stop barking too loudly or jumping at your guests. For another thing, your dog might start chewing on your things and manifest other forms of destructive behaviors.
It's easy to neglect your responsibilities towards your dog if spend more hours looking at photos on Instagram or replying to Twitter. However, if you don't walk or play with your dog, it's also easy for him to grow bored and be filled with pent-up energy. Unfortunately, boredom and pent-up energy in dogs are recipes for disasters.
4. Your dog becomes aggressive
When the destructive behavior isn't corrected properly, it can worsen into an aggressive behavior since the dog has not been socialized. Shouting or punishing your dog because he has become a nuisance may also make your pet emotionally distant from you, Booth further warned.
There are many reasons why handing down punishment is never the right method for curbing dog aggression. In fact, experts in a study in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior say that punishments can only worsen the aggressive behavior. It also doesn't address the real problem, which is your lack of attention for your dog because you’re always on your smartphone.
5. Your dog manifests canine depression
Veterinarian Ian Booth also said that dogs which do not receive the proper stimulation from their smartphone-addicted owners may develop canine depression. They might lose their appetite for food or sleep-in more than normal. They might also try to withdraw or hide when you're around or show stress-soothing behaviors like licking their paws.
Experts, however, said that dogs aren't capable of suffering from long-term depression. But these behaviors should be a wake-up call for pet owners to put down their phones and stop obsessing on social media.
How to Fix the Problem
It's never too late to reconnect with your dog and fix this problem. Aside from addressing the nuisance behaviors with proper training, you must make the effort to do regular activities with your dog; detach from your gadgets and bond with your pup through some unique and fun ways.
Give your pup your undivided attention by putting your phone on silent when you have to play with him so that you won't have to be distracted by your phone's notification. If you have to walk your dog, consider leaving your phone at home and for now, forgo updating your Instagram with your dog’s video or photo. Limit your screen time to a few hours when you are home with your pup.
Keep yourselves occupied with doing something productive together like teaching your dog a new trick. The training sessions will also help your dog sharpen his focus and his natural skills.
Our dogs deserve to be showered with quality time. If you do the activities like clockwork, you'll soon see him learning to trust and love you more. You'll also see a change in behavior as he becomes more confident, well-adjusted and socialized.