We’ve been well-warned of the evils of spending hours scrolling through social media on our phone.
We’re going to develop tech neck. We’re the sole cause of loneliness. We’re not looking up and appreciating the world around us.
These things have failed to convince us to put down our phones. Perhaps this reason will be heartbreaking enough to spur us into action.
Spending hours staring at your phone is making your dog sad, according to one expert.
When we pay more attention to our phones than to our dogs, we damage our emotional bond, making our dogs feel lonely and isolated. That can lead to doggy depression and behavioural issues.
‘We’re a nation obsessed by our mobile phones,’ veterinary surgeon and founder of VetUK, Iain Booth, tells Metro.co.uk. ‘But this gadget dependence is jeopardising the important relationships we have with out pets, particularly dogs and to a lesser extent house cats.’
Ian explains that our phone dependency affects dogs more so than cats because dogs are pack animals, and look to their humans for leadership and reassurance.
‘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,’ he 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.
‘If it’s sitting there looking up at you, but you’re too busy gawping at someone’s irrelevant snap on Facebook, you’ve got a problem.
‘You do that consistently for weeks, months and years on end and you’re going to get some real behavioural issues.’
It makes sense when you think about it. If your dog is asking for your attention but you’re too focused on your screen, your pet is going to get confused and likely distressed.
Whether this results in behavioural problems very much depends on the dog.
Some dogs will simply wait patiently until you’re finishing scrolling through Instagram. Others, however, will use your distracted state to cause havoc, or will start acting out to get your attention.
‘If you can’t be bothered to interact with it, it’ll start interacting with either other people or other dogs instead,’ explains Iain.
‘It could become naughty at one end of the spectrum, or a real nuisance at the other.
‘If there’s aggression involved too you could even be looking at a dog made dangerous because of your relationship with it.
‘It’s also then very difficult to turn things around. If you start yelling at the dog, it might just think, “Well, you couldn’t be bothered a minute ago so why should I listen to you now?”
‘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?
‘And make no mistake, canine depression is a very real thing. Warning signs to look out for are a lack of interest in food, the dog sleeping more, they’ll hide from you or avoid you, and they might start excessively licking or chewing their paws to soothe themselves.
‘There are cases where dogs end up on antidepressants for life because their symptoms are so severe.’
So having your eyes locked on your phone could be causing some serious damage to the beings we care about most: sweet, sweet dogs.
Cats can be affected by this lack of attention too, but being more independent creatures, they may not be as bothered. A cat who’s nuzzling and pawing you for attention will be annoyed when you’re looking at your phone instead of fussing over them, and they’ll feel mistreated if you’re staring at a screen when you’re supposed to give them their dinner.
Iain’s advice is simple: Spend quality time with your pets while you can, as they won’t be around forever. And when you can, leave your phone in your pocket, even if you are just trying to update your puppy’s Instagram stories.
‘Savour and build relationships rather than knocking them down through a lack of attention,’ says Iain. ‘And put the phone away.
‘For me, taking your phone with you when you go for a walk with your dog is the equivalent of sitting in a restaurant with your partner and checking Facebook for an hour rather than talking to him or her.
‘It’s horrible and awkward to see, and if we all saw our behaviours in that light it might affect a change.’