Very recently it came to Mr Yip and Mrs Chew’s attention that the world at large had taken up playing a mobile phone game called Pokemon Go. The object of the game is to catch Pokemons, a portmanteau word for “pocket monsters”, and train them virtually to fight others?!! To catch a Pokemon, players have to physically walk around looking at “augmented reality” visuals on their smartphones i.e where the game’s graphics are overlayed with the player’s surroundings in real life.
This phenomenon has seen hordes of players congregating at hotspots where Pokemon can be caught. It has led to accidents and near-accidents happening due to players paying no attention to where they’re going, so intent are they on looking at their mobile phone screens. The game was only released a few days ago in America and Australia, and already there have been fatalities due to the stupidity and recklessness of players. Or players simply forgot they could not really fly in real life. There have been robberies, stabbings, attempted kidnappings, and crooks have set up “lures” to get unsuspecting players to go to shady, dangerous areas, where they then commit their crimes. Players have even been spotted playing Pokemon Go while driving their cars! Police in America and Australia have started posting warnings for people to exercise intelligence and caution when playing the game. Tourists have begun complaining that certain beauty spots are now spoilt from being crowded with zombie hordes of mobile phone-gazing people.
All the above are verifiable online and in newspapers. Here’s one from the West Australian:
On the plus side, Pokemon Go has gotten people off their couches and beds, and out into the fresh air, and getting exercise. Which is great, only Mr Yip and Mrs Chew can’t help but wonder if they’re really enjoying their surroundings or are just intent on catching a rare Pokemon. Apparently, people are starting to talk to each other and to total strangers, about the game. It’s been seen as bringing people together, but would these people have anything to say to each other if their mobile phones were switched off, or if Pokemon Go did not exist?
But here’s what Mr Yip and Mrs Chew really want to talk about today. An Animal Shelter in Muncie, USA recently advertised for volunteers to walk their dogs while playing Pokemon Go. Here is the ad, from Google:
We were Very concerned when we saw this, and even more so when we saw that it was being lauded by many as a “brilliant idea”, “great initiative”,”innovative”. It seems everyone with a Social Media presence has jumped on the bandwagon and endorsed this idea without considering all aspects of it. The most important of which is of course, the welfare of the Shelter dogs themselves.
We are quite possibly the only canine voice of reason in this sea of Madness the world is currently awash in. We know there are other people out there who feel just as strongly against Pokemon Go, and they have their own valid reasons. As dogs, however, and speaking from the viewpoint of dog welfare, Mr Yip and Mrs Chew feel compelled to write this very long post in response to the whole idea of walking dogs while playing Pokemon Go. Just DON’T do it!
Shelter dogs aren’t like household pets. They can be timid, or have fear aggression, be aggressive, reactive to other dogs or humans, be car chasers, have behavioural issues, etc.
Your dog at home knows you, is familiar with you and loves you. A Shelter dog when being walked by a Volunteer may not have had much socialisation if at all with the handler.
Your pet dog knows its boundaries. You’ve trained it to understand what it’s allowed to do or not. It knows your expectations. You know your dog and how it behaves, and you know how to handle it. This is from months, if not years of living with the dog. A Shelter dog has no such luxury with a Volunteer dog walker. It can therefore be unpredictable, likewise the Volunteer too.
A dog that has been cooped up in the home all day looks forward most eagerly to going for a walk. It’s the highlight of the day. Mr Yip and Mrs Chew will attest to that! A Shelter dog will want to get out of the kennel environment too, it will be looking forward to being able to run around, sniff at all the posts and trees and leave its own signature by pee-mail. There may be interesting animal scents to track, muddy patches to roll in. Or even just the freedom of being able to stretch its legs and relieve itself.
Add Pokemon Go to the equation, and all logic and caution fly out the window, it seems. Yes, a responsible Shelter trains its Volunteers before they’re allowed to handle any dogs. But that training is basic and does not cover how to handle dog reactivity, or what to do to prevent fights or redirection – these are advanced techniques taught to more experienced dog walkers and handlers, and sometimes can take months/years to fully be au fait with it. Even experienced handlers and Trainers get bitten sometimes. A rookie Volunteer dog walker would panic and freeze, no doubt.
Those who say they don’t need to watch their mobile phones while walking a Shelter dog, because all they need to do is walk a certain distance in order to “hatch” a Pokemon Egg, are only lying to themselves and others. If you know there are going to be Pokemon in the area you’re in, of course you won’t be able to resist whipping out your phone and searching for them. And if you see a whole bunch of other players heading for the same area, you know there’ll be Pokemon there, and of course your natural inclination will be to hurry there…with your Shelter dog in tow.
Imagine this scenario then…a dozen inexperienced, rookie Volunteer Dog Walkers, walking dogs they are not familiar with, converging at one spot. What do you suppose will happen? As we’ve mentioned earlier, Shelter dogs may have issues, the Volunteers here are inexperienced, walking unfamiliar dogs and furthermore, are incapacitated by having only one hand holding their dog’s leash, while their other hand, and their eyes, attention and concentration, are glued to their mobile phones.
Here’s what could happen:
– dog leads get entangled
– dogs start fighting
– Volunteer dog walkers try pulling their respective dogs away from each other
– dogs redirect towards their handlers out of frustration because they can’t escape from the melee, or because their handlers are physically trying to prise them off the other dog. Redirection means the dog is frustrated by being thwarted from its intention and instead latches onto the next closest thing to it, usually its handler
And we all know very well what happens when someone gets bitten by a dog. Usually the reason the person got bitten is not considered, just the fact that the dog bit someone is. 😢
Another scenario: players are happily walking their Shelter dog and playing Pokemon Go without mishap. Then they suddenly realise they’ve been out for 3 hours, it’s baking hot, the dog has been dragging its heels for the last 2 hours, it hasn’t had any water or shade, and the Shelter is oh so far away. The Volunteer decides there’s no point walking 3 hours back to the Shelter, because the dog won’t make it, and besides, all the Pokemon that way have already been caught. And so, what do you think may happen?
The Volunteer unclips the dog’s leash and lets it run off. And then he/she finally stops his/her Pokemon Go game…only to phone the Shelter and report that “I’m so sorry, the dog escaped from its leash and I’ve been trying to find it for the last 2 hours”.
An improbable scenario? Don’t underestimate some people! Mr Yip and Mrs Chew would certainly hope that this scenario NEVER happens, and that people retain enough common sense to NOT volunteer to walk Shelter dogs just so they can play Pokemon Go!
Walk dogs because you feel compelled to. Don’t use it as an excuse to play a game. The whole idea looks good on paper, but the motive behind it is just wrong. Surely the welfare of the dogs is more important than some stupid mobile phone game?
Just because everyone you know is playing the game does not necessarily mean it’s the right thing to do? Are you a human being or a sheeple? Please, for the sake of all dogs in the world, be they Shelter dogs or household pets, DO NOT play Pokemon Go while walking a dog, and DO NOT walk a dog while playing Pokemon Go! Keep the two separate, always, PLEASE!
Here is a video of comedian Mr Bean, that some clever person has turned into a “Mr Bean meets Pokemon Go” parody. He’s holding a compass in his hand (the original Mr Bean comedy series was aired years before mobile phones were the norm), but the way his concentration is fixed on what’s in his hand, and the obstacles he bumps into or the near misses with traffic, etc…that is exactly what a Pokemon Player looks like to an onlooker. Can you imagine if a dog was attached to Mr Bean’s other hand?
Mr Yip and Mrs Chew say Pokemon NO!!