Virtual Reality Dog Experience May Help Prevent Future Dog Bites

Lori Ennis
by Lori Ennis
Scientists at the University of Liverpool believe that a virtual dog may be the newest and best educational tool to help prevent people from getting bitten by dogs.

Dogs Trust and researchers from the University of Liverpool’s animal behavior department are teaming up on a project led by the University’s Virtual Engineering Centre (VEC). The project will create a virtual reality (VR) experience for people to learn how to properly approach and interact with dogs (or how not to!) who show signs of aggression. The aim is to allow people to experience it virtually and keep it safe in real life by teaching children and adults how to recognize behaviors that could possibly lead to bites or attacks from dogs.

There were nearly 7,000 hospital admissions for dog bites/incidents in the United Kingdom in 2013, and the University believes that’s a small number in relation to actual bites as many do not report bites for fear of something bad happening to the dog.

Related: US Postal Service Says Dog Bite Numbers Are on the Rise

Dogs Trust wanted to see if a virtual dog would be able to help people learn about behaviors and stress levels of dogs that would most likely indicate the dog may bite or attack the person.

The animal behavior scientists and psychologists at the University teamed up with the engineers at the VEC to be very specific about body language and behaviors of the virtual reality dog would be realistic enough to be applied in real life.

In the experience, a person will ‘approach’ the dog, which then makes the body language of the dog change slowly, as might happen in real life. The dog then starts showing signs of aggression to the person, which include lip licking, lowering the body and head, lifting its front paw, growling and showing its teeth. These behaviors belong to the ‘Canine Ladder of Aggression,’ and show ways a dog might behave when it does not want to be approached by a human.

Related: Customizable Pets Are Virtual Reality in The Sims 4

Iain Cant is the VEC Visualization Team Leader and said that their next steps will look at making the immersive virtual environment as real as possible, and to show a larger range of dog behaviors for people to see and learn how to interact with or avoid. Additionally Cant hopes that the future developments will include how the dog might interact with the human based on their behaviors as well.

And your mother told you your video gaming would never amount to anything….

Lori Ennis
Lori Ennis

More by Lori Ennis