Smartphones are all too easily blamed for being the cause of everything, from screen-obsessed teenagers to zombie-like distracted pedestrians. Now the devices are being called out as the reason why dogs are behaving badly.
A rise in the number of unruly canines over the past five years has been attributed to owners who spend too much time staring at their smartphone screens and gadgets rather than giving their attention-seeking pets the feedback they require.
According to an article by the Daily Mail, dog clinics in the UK are seeing our four-legged friends suffering from anxiety and depression as a result of owners not giving them the visual clues they desire because of their smartphone addiction.
Speaking to a veterinary expert, it claims dogs are pack animals who crave leadership from their owner on whether it can or can't do something, which won't be received if their leader is buried in Instagram.
"If you're walking down the street and your dog sees a cat it will look to you for guidance as if to say, 'Can I..?'" said Amber Pickworth, veterinary nurse at The Vet clinic in Nottingham.
"And because you haven't given a response, as you're engrossed in your phone, the dog simply goes ahead and does what it wants. It needs reassurance from you to say either 'yes it's okay', or 'no, stay here'. If you don't provide that input you're making it anxious and also asking for behaviour issues in the long term", she said.
The veterinarian also encourages owners to not talk on their phones if they're taking the dog for a walk, especially if they have an argument over the phone, as it could confuse and stress the pooch by thinking it is being reprimanded.
Paws for thought
Research has found that smartphone users spend an average of 2 hours and 24 minutes a day on their devices, a huge increase from the 31 minutes clocked in 2011. In the US the so-called 'smartphone zombie' has become such a problem that Honolulu has introduced fines for those who use their phones while traversing sidewalks. Further US states are also considering the law.
Falling literacy levels have also been blamed on smartphone use as owners are increasingly turning to Twitter to write in 140-characters or less, as well as using emoji characters in text messages rather than writing out full sentences.
However, whether it's causing disobedient dogs or school kids skipping their homework, the onus cannot lie solely with technology. Responsible smartphone ownership is for life, not just for walking the dog.