The dog stole my phone (& why that’s not so funny)

Our Wellbeing

Calling all pooch parents!

PAWGUST is here and, if you don't already, it's time to amp up your furbaby-walking frequency to a daily occurrence. 

Esme Barratt is a Project Officer, Community Wellbeing with the City of Adelaide's Wellbeing team - and a proud pooch parent of Jazzy and Rosa (oh, and a lovely son and daughter too!) Along with encouraging dog owners to walk their pets more often, in this article she explains why she hopes they'lconsider combining their strolls with some time-out from tech.


Google the words 'the dog stole my phone' and you’ll find endless videos of dogs stealing their owner’s mobiles. While they’re meant to be funny, they’re also quite telling in that it seems our pets have worked out something many of us struggle to admit: that phones can divert our attention, our emotion, and even our love – away from many things that really matter (including dogs apparently!) We’re addicted.

In just a few short years, the mobile phone has often become an all-consuming device, training us ‘Pavlovian style’ to respond to a 'ping' or vibration and eagerly unlock the next vital message.

Dogs playing in the parkjpg

What’s somewhat ironic is that it’s our pooch pals that are trying to tell us something: ‘Make time to put your phone down and connect with the real world’. Dogs desperately want our attention and it’s amazing to think they’re the ones that have figured out that their biggest rival is a little electronic device.

What makes me sad is that, if our dogs have figured out this is breaking our connection and attachment to them, what is it doing for our relationships with other humans – our partners, friends and even our kids?

I get it. You might get a lot of enjoyment from your phone and they have many plus sides of course, but the question is ‘what is it replacing?’ or, ask yourself, ‘do I have a balance between time spent on my phone, and off it?’

There is a lot of research about the up-sides of tech-free time and the wellbeing benefits of getting out and about in nature (Healthy Parks, Healthy People, SA Govt 2016-2021) and let’s face it, time on tech is usually time spent indoors, or at least not truly engaged with the environment you are in.

Girl in city dog park with dog photo ryan cantwell
photo-icon Ryan Cantwell

Do you know how much time are you spending on your phone? Internet addiction is real and it’s one of the fastest growing addictions in the world¹.

There are several apps available to help you manage your on-screen time, such as AntiSocial - developed by Melbourne software company Bugbean to monitor people’s use of social media. According to AntiSocial's developer Chris Eade, Australian men and women spend about two hours a day on their phones, and that is not including use for music streaming, video streaming, or making calls - that is pure Facebook, web surfing, WhatsApp, Instagram, and Snapchat².

When you are immersed in your digital phone world, you’re probably spending less time being mindful – just sitting quietly with your own thoughts and thinking how you are feeling³. It also means you’re likely to be having less conversation and creating a true connection with other humans; intimate conversations with eye contact and touch.

So, where does that leave our humble pooch? Evidence shows that dogs keep you more active. Researchers have discovered that, even during days with bad weather, dog walkers were more active than non-dog walkers were on the nicest days*.

So, listen to your furry friend – put down that phone and go for a walk. Dogs on a leash are welcome in the Adelaide Park Lands and there are even a couple of designated places where dogs can play off-leash and enjoy some social time of their own.

City dog park photo ryan cantwell
photo-icon Ryan Cantwell

If you really can’t let go of that phone while you’re out with the pooch, use it to take some playful photos together or download one of the many apps that can help you create videos of your time in nature together - like 1 Second Everyday, where you can compile a full length video using a collection of 1 second video clips!

No dog? No worries. There are still plenty of reasons to get out into our beautiful Park Lands with activities including guided walks, bike rides and yoga in the park. So, put the phone down, step outside and see what’s on offer.

Article by

Esme Barratt

Esme Barratt

Esme loves Adelaide - especially the city's open space, walkability, artwork, beauty and how much you can access for free - all of which leads to great wellbeing. With a passion for the Park Lands and a zeal for all things community, she can't wait to share the wonders of our open and friendly city, so you can love it too.