There are two recent developments/articles that have made me wonder about the future of dogs in our lives.
The first was an article in the New York Times Magazine which reviewed 32 innovations that they suggest will change your life. Included in this list was something called “smart fur,” an invention by researchers at the University of British Columbia.
We have all heard of the benefits that interaction with a pet may bring. These range from lowering our blood pressure to increasing oxytocin levels, frequently called the “love hormone” or the “cuddle hormone.” With the invention of “smart fur” we may now be able to experience all of the benefits and none of the bother! This faux fur is capable of mimicking the response of a pet, whether it is being scratched enthusiastically, nervously or lovingly. Sensors in the fake fur can distinguish nine gestures or touches that relate to emotional states. This fur, combined with, say a robotic rabbit or dog, may fill many of the perceived needs for having a pet. These new robotic animal models that are sensitive to, and respond appropriately to touch are called “haptic creatures.”
Dr. Jessica Pierce, writing for “Psychology Today” asks, “what is a pet, after all,but something to stroke?”
APHIS Proposed Rule Change
Another recent development that caught my attention was a proposed rule change by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, which will have a huge impact on hobbyists and I suspect many “unintended consequences.” Designed to close a loophole whereby unscrupulous pet breeders could evade inspection, the newly proposed regulations would impact virtually everyone who breeds even a few litters. For instance, no breeding stock would be allowed to run loose in your house, unless you home meets USDA code. Unfortunately, one of the consequences of this regulation would be that the socialization of puppies would suffer. I think it is healthy and desirable when puppies are running through the house, playing with the kids, and having “real life” experiences. We all know that there are critical periods in which the socialization of a puppy must occur in order to have a well-adjusted dog. Dogs who are not well socialized are much more likely to be surrendered. But those puppies that might have been raised in a more natural, family centered environment would be in violation of the new regulations. Preparation of food would need to be separate and could not be done in your kitchen. Basically, puppies would be relegated to the kennel area for their entire puppy-hood.
If you are raising even just a couple of litters you should make yourself familiar with these proposed changes and share your concerns. Comments on this proposed policy change will only be allowed for a short time.
Am I a fan of faux fur robotics? Not exactly, but I do believe that the development of this product helps to highlight the need for maintaining both the connection we make to our pets and the right to breed and raise them as parts of our family.