On the role of technology in human-dog relationships: a future of nightmares or dreams

Dirk van der Linden, Brit Davidson, Orit Hirsch-Matsioulas, Anna Zamansky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Digital technologies that help people take care of their dogs are becoming more widespread. Yet, little research explores what the role of technology in the human-dog relationship should be. We conducted a qualitative study incorporating quantitative and thematic analysis of 155 UK dog owners reflecting on their daily routines and technology’s role in it, disentangling the what-where-why of interspecies routines and activities, technological desires, and rationales for technological support across common human-dog activities. We found that increasingly entangled daily routines lead to close multi-species households where dog owners conceptualize technology as having a role to support them in giving care to their dogs. When confronted with the role of technology across various activities, only chores like cleaning up after their dogs lead to largely positive considerations, while activities that benefit themselves like walking together lead to largely negative considerations. For other activities, whether playing, training, or feeding, attitudes remain diverse. In general, across all activities both a nightmare scenario of technology taking the human’s role and in doing so disentangling the human-dog bond, as well as a dream scenario of technology augmenting human abilities arise. We argue that the current trajectory of digital technology for pets is increasingly focused on enabling remote interactions, an example of the nightmare scenario in our thematic analysis. It is important to redirect this trajectory to one of technology predominantly supporting us in becoming better and more informed caregivers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)352-362
JournalIEEE Transactions on Technology and Society
Issue number4
Early online date20 Sept 2022
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

No funders were acknowledged


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