This morning, I took our Dog, Dudley out for an early morning walk as he was going to have a long time on his own today and we were concerned about the safety of our carpets.
He did his usual - we took five steps, Dudley nose down with tail frantically wagging. He stopped at a bollard, sniffed it, sniffed around it, looked up as another dog trotted by on the other side of the road before cocking his leg producing a golden trickle marking the fact that Dudley had been there.
We took another five steps and exactly the same thing happened, continuing for the rest of the walk.
My late Mother, an enthusiastic dog owner described this behaviour as dogs catching up and contributing to the gossip. For dogs have the advantage over humans that they can communicate by front and back ends, separately or together.
The sniffing and marking rituals, compulsive behaviour on every walk enables them to identify who has been where, with whom and when and to provide the same messages to those that come after.
Thus, Dudley's bollard experience may have been:
"Sniff - that must be Ralph, the Rhodesian Ridgeback. It's fresh. [Dudley looks up]. Where's he gone. And who is that he's with. She's a bit of a dog. I must mark that."
And so the frantic two-way communication process continues gaining momentum as Dudley continues.
About five minutes into the each walk, Dudley slows becoming choosier in his sniffing zones, eventually finding one which he goes around several times before extruding his number twos in the form of a long series of wrinkled chipolata sausages.
It is other dogs' number twos however which are the location of even more frenzied sniffing for Dudley, in a way mankind could never comprehend. Dudley appears to be thinking:
"Sniff - that's Polly the Poodle's. And what's she been eating? Mmm - Cesar dog good. Lucky."
Dudley or any dog is wrapt by this process in what is in effect the equivalent of a large Facebook platform or more specifically in Dudley's case "Arsebook" - social networking for dogs.
I contrast Dudley's experience with that of my daughters, who are equally rapt by Facebook as the day goes by. They are able however to integrate Facebook into their day to day life in a far more seamless manner. My daughters, unlike Dudley are able to multi task reading post on their walls efficiently while still able to carry out other tasks. For Dudley, reading posts on the bollards opposite our house is endlessly fascinating requiring him to comment carefully on each, a process that continues along the fences that go along the road opposite and for the rest of the walk, meaning that he has very little to say by the end of the walk such are the restrictions on his reserves.
My daughters plan carefully what they upload onto Facebook - the image has to be right, the message unambiguous. They carefully review what their friends have uploaded onto walls, going back to them several times and sometimes showing their friends. For Dudley, downloading onto Arsebook is a necessary feature of every day and something he is obviously relieved to do but is less keen on the impression given. And just like my daughters, he carefully reviews what his friends have downloaded onto walls, floors and spread over shoes, often going back to these offerings several times and very occasionally eating them.
The similarities between the two platforms are very close albeit the opportunities for automation using behavioural indicators are more limited on Arsebook, despite users generally accepting cookies. Receipt of cookies however lead only to a greater appetite for more cookies rather than anything more sophisticated.
There is still much to be said on the topic however Dudley has just indicated to me that we should go on his evening walk. He wants to go back online.