A study into dogs\u2019 behaviour when off the lead has led to the conclusion that dogs are more content with their surroundings and other dogs when they are off the lead and owners aren\u2019t agitated.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nThe research was conducted in collaboration with Retrieva Tracking and found that dogs\u2019 behaviour changed positively when a tracking device was used to plot their location. Tracking the dog via a smartphone, iPad or other device with map capabilities meant owners were more at ease with letting their dog have increased freedom, while out walking as their whereabouts were always available.\r\nThe research was designed to explore human-animal interaction mediated by technology, with the ultimate aim of fostering human-animal relationships. The evaluation took two different forms: observation of the animals\u2019 behaviour and testimonials of their human companions.\r\nWhen asked, many of the human participants recalled how distressing it had been for them when their dog had gone missing and how, since wearing the tracking collar, the dogs were more relaxed because they were more relaxed. In addition, dogs returned to their owners independently and more frequently during the walk, without their names being called constantly.\r\nSome owners also reported changes in their dogs\u2019 social interactions as, due to the use of the tracking technology, they were willing to give the dogs much more freedom. One participant commented that their dogs were friendlier towards other dogs because they were able to interact socially unlike dogs that are always on the lead.\r\nAuthor of the study Dr Clara Mancini, a research fellow at the Computing Department of the Open University, said: \u201cNowadays technology pervades almost every aspect of our lives, yet the animals who share our worlds are seldom seen as worthy recipients of our technology.\r\n\u201cAn important aim of this kind of research is to understand how our technological interventions influence animals and their behaviour, so that we can learn how to design technology that can support their welfare and relationships with humans,\u201d she added.\r\nDogs are also considered a part of the family \u2013 meaning a missing pet can be very distressful, said Andrew Stuart of Retrieva Tracking. \u201cTracking your dog on your phone gives them greater freedom and quality of life and it gives you peace of mind knowing they can be found even if you can\u2019t see them.\u201d\r\n\u201cThe prospect of losing that animal is daunting and a very real threat which affects a lot of people,\u201d he said.\r\nThe animals were aged between one and ten and had been wearing the tracking collar for periods ranging from one week to eight years with usage varying from occasional to daily.\r\nThe study, which recently was nominated for the Best Paper Award at the 14th ACM International Conference on Ubiquitous Computing, is part of a wider research programme on Animal-Computer Interaction led by Dr Mancini at The Open University.