My dog smells stress (and it’s coming from my gadgets)

What my dog taught me about my bad technology habits

Just like every other obsessive dog owner on the planet, I believe my dog, Saggio, might be the greatest canine to ever walk the earth. He’s friendly and obedient. He performs a plethora of tricks. He protects the house from Jehovah’s Witnesses, and lets me know every single time a robin has the gall to land on our driveway. He also, apparently, has the ability to peer directly into my subconscious mind – a skill that has had an unexpected effect on my gadget usage.

The first clues of Saggio’s mind reading ability appeared one lazy Sunday evening, as I lounged on the couch, reading a book. Content with his marrow bone chew, Saggio laid sprawled on the living room floor, happily gnawing away.

The difference between spending an hour browsing Twitter and an hour reading Fitzgerald couldn’t have been more noticeable.

A few minutes after I picked up my iPhone, however, his entire mood changed. He let out an irritated yelp, dropped his bone, and attempted to force the phone from my hand.

“Hey, get out of here, Saggio!” I said. “What’s your deal?” He refused to relent, slapping his paw on my knee and nudging my phone with his snout. Okay, I thought, he just wants some attention. But pets didn’t cut it, nor did his ball. He didn’t need to use the bathroom, and he had plenty of food and water.

Confused and frustrated about his irritating outburst, I sat back down, and picked up my book again. Saggio let out a sigh, and returned to his bone, completely at peace with the world.

After that night, my fiancé, Jennifer, and I began closely watching Saggio’s behavior. Our early working hypothesis was that Saggio is simply a spoiled attention whore. We soon found, however, that books, newspapers, and magazines (yes, we still read those) had zero effect on the way Saggio behaved. But the moment either of us picked up a smartphone or laptop, he quickly switched from serene pooch to royal pain in the tail.

Saggio, heavily Instagrammed

If attention was his only goal, why the difference in behavior between us reading books and playing Angry Birds?

To answer this question – in a completely anecdotal, unscientific way – we delved into the kinds of information dogs can gather that we humans often overlook. In addition to sniffing out the drugs you hid in your dirty underwear, some dogs have the ability to perceive a staggering amount of information about us. For example, did you know dogs can detect when a person is about to have a seizure? How about dogs that unlock a person from a Parkinson’s Disease-inflicted full-body freeze? Some miraculous mongrels can even smell cancer

Saggio can’t do any of that. He can’t even ride a skateboard properly. But we remained convinced that he was using his mysterious powers of dogness to tell us something. We just needed to figure out what that something was.

In addition to sniffing out the drugs you hid in your dirty underwear, some dogs have the ability to perceive a staggering amount of information about us.

Our answer arrived after reading about service dogs that treat sufferers of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. While neither of us suffered from this serious debilitating infliction, we perked up upon learning that these highly trained animals could sense when their owners were having anxiety, and would butt in to help snap them out of it. The behavior sounded strikingly similar to Saggio’s distracting efforts.

We quickly shifted our observations from Saggio to ourselves, which led us to discover what I’ll call High Technology Stress Disorder (HTSD) – a mild (completely invented?) psychological ailment that causes a person’s blood pressure to rise simply by coming in contact with a gadget. Saggio, we realized, was trying to tell us we were stressed out by our smartphones.

Once we admitted this to ourselves, the symptoms appeared clear as day: Mindlessly tapping away on our phones inevitably led to a feeling of unease with the world, the kind you get after pounding a Red Bull. Reading, on the other hand, relaxed us, and made us happy. The difference between spending an hour browsing Twitter and an hour reading Fitzgerald couldn’t have been more noticeable. But it took a creature with smarts of a 2-year-old for us to notice.

Have any of you experienced anything like this? I’d love to hear your stories.

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.


The history of Battle Royale: From mod to worldwide phenomenon

Battle royale games like PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds’ and Fortnite have become the biggest trend in video games. The genre is also pushing the envelope in streaming and eSports in a way that might hint at the future of the industry.
Movies & TV

He created comics, movies, and superheroes. But Stan Lee lived for joy

Stan Lee was a creator, a celebrity, an icon, and beneath it all, a real-life good guy with all the same human qualities that made his superheroes so relatable. And his greatest joy was sharing his creations with the world.
Home Theater

The best movies on Netflix in November, from 'The Witch’ to ‘Dracula’

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Emerging Tech

Astronomers discover two rogue planets that do not orbit a star

Astronomers have identified two rogue planets in our galaxy which do not orbit around a star. Unlike the vast majority of discovered planets, these rogue planets drift through space alone with no sun to shine on them.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: 1-handed drone control, a pot that stirs itself

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

Pairs of supermassive black holes spotted in colliding galaxies

Astronomers have discovered several pairs of supermassive black holes in galaxies that are colliding with each other. These black holes will spiral closer and closer together and eventually merge into one supermassive black hole.
Emerging Tech

Quantum-based accelerometer can locate objects without GPS

Researchers have created a quantum "compass" that allows navigation without satellites. The instrument, technically called a standalone quantum accelerometer, is small enough to be transportable and has a very high level of accuracy.
Emerging Tech

Ancient continent discovered beneath the ice of Antarctica

Antarctica could be hiding the remains of a long-lost continent. Scientists created a 3D map of the crust beneath the Antarctic ice sheet which shows a similarity to the crust in Australia and India, suggesting they used to be joined.
Emerging Tech

Rocket Lab steps into spotlight with its first commercial rocket launch

Rocket Lab has deployed multiple small satellites into orbit in its first notable commercial launch. Its New Zealand-born boss said the success means "rapid and reliable access to space is now a reality for small satellites."
Emerging Tech

Alibaba’s Singles’ Day sale smashes online shopping records

The annual online shopping frenzy that is Singles' Day this year raked in $30.8 billion, up from $25 billion last time around. The Alibaba-organized event generates more in sales than Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined.
Emerging Tech

Watch this lab-grown heart tissue beat just like the real thing

A team of researchers in Germany have used stem cells to create a lab-grown human heart tissue which actually beats, as well as responding to drugs in the same way as the real thing.
Emerging Tech

Shipping crate filled with 3D-printing robots may be the future of construction

Autodesk has created a robot-filled shipping container which may represent the future of construction work. The crate contains two robots able to 3D print custom components for building sites.
Emerging Tech

Michigan’s former transportation chief has some advice for wannabe smart cities

After 31 years as Michigan’s transportation director, Kirk Steudle has seen it all, particularly with smart city projects. He spoke with Digital Trends recently about what makes smart cities work, and offers advice along the way.
Emerging Tech

Sticking these tiny needles in your eye may help fight blindness

An eye patch covered in tiny needles sounds like a torture device. In fact, it's a potential new medical treatment for eye diseases like glaucoma and macular degeneration. Here's how it works.