When you go out of town, you like to call your petsitter or partner to talk with your dog. While you speak to him in a sweet, high-pitched tone to show that you love him, though, he doesn't respond to you.
It leads you to wonder: Does he recognize your voice over the phone? If he does, then that means you can comfort him while you're gone. If not, it may just be a waste of time, and you'll need to figure out other ways to guarantee he's OK.
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Can dogs recognize our voice on the phone?
While there isn't scientific research on whether or not dogs recognize their owners' voice over the phone, the fact is that the frequency is different over the phone. Dogs don't hear your voice in the same way they would in person.
Additionally, dogs have a very basic Theory of Mind, which means they can't really imagine the mental state of others. Your dog could hear your voice over the phone, but he won't be able to put two and two together and know that the sound is coming from you.
Can dogs see us on our phone or tablet screen?
While a dog can see a human face on a screen, he doesn't know it's his owner's face, according to a study by Dr. Attila Andics, a research fellow at Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest. Basically, your dog is used to seeing you in person, at your normal size. When you're on a screen, you're just too tiny for him to recognize that you're his owner.
Dogs also have a tough time focusing on screens. They just won't pay attention to them. And, since they mostly perceive the world through smells, if they can't smell you, they might not be able to recognize you.
To make it easier on your pup, you could always have your petsitter or partner broadcast you on a bigger screen, like your TV. However, your dog might become confused and look at the back of the screen to see where the rest of your body is located.
Staying in touch with your pet when you’re away
Though dogs might not be able to recognize their owner over the phone or tablet, you could still find ways to make sure he's content when you're not around.
A 2011 study by Swedish researchers revealed that dogs were more excited when their owners came home after being out for two hours than they were after their owners were only gone for a half hour. However, the dogs did not react differently when that time away increased from two hours to four hours.
Separation anxiety does exist, though. If your dog is urinating or defecting on the floor, whimpering, chewing on things, or digging when you aren't home, he likely is experiencing separation anxiety.
To keep your pooch happy and occupied while you're gone, make sure you give him a comfortable crate to sleep in and his favorite toys to play with. Hire a pet sitter or ask a family member or friend to check on him throughout the day. It's best to go slowly and increase the amount of time you're gone each day so that it's not a shocking transition.
Your dog most likely does not recognize your voice on the phone. Either way, though, it's good to check in often while you're away to ensure your pup is happy and healthy. If he is experiencing separation anxiety, give him some toys and a cozy crate where he can spend his time. If the behavior doesn't stop, he may have an underlying medical issue, so talk to his veterinarian as soon as possible.