Coming to a Dog Park near you: A Robot Dog

Hersch Wilson
4 min readMar 15, 2024
$74,000 Boston Dynamics Robot Dog. Too Much?

We need to discuss robot dogs.
I am not a Luddite (although I enjoy being the cranky old guy). A quick refresher. Luddites were a 19th-century protest group who opposed using machines in textile factories in England. They often broke into factories and attempted to destroy the machines taking their jobs.
Although not that radical, I do have my limits. Testing those limits is the robot dog, more specifically, robot dogs as pets. I can see applications for four-legged robots in specific circumstances, like searching collapsed buildings or toxic environments. Boston Dynamics robot dog, “Spot,” is a perfect example of that utilitarian machine. Every fire department should have one. Of course, for $74,000, it might be a little out of reach.
But Spot as a pet? No.
Then there are the Chihuahua-sized robot dogs designed to replace an actual dog. The commercials for these “dogs” show kids playing and even cuddling with them.
This is probably just the beginning. With the coming of AI and advanced robotics, robot dogs will be “cuter” and more responsive to all sorts of commands. Future generations of robot dogs will possibly be as cool as the iPhone was to us in the 2000s.
Technology advances and has consequences, some good, some bad. And it is essential to remember that in our society, relentless and mindless forces are determined to shape what we “should” like and want and, of course, what we should buy.
My paranoid self believes that somewhere in Silicon Valley, there are teams of technobots and marketers working on that scheme — how they can take over the dog world and go nationwide with robots. I’m sure that before the decade is out, there will be Super Bowl ads focused on how cute and intelligent robot dogs are, and they can even bark! How long before the “puppy-bowl” is a competition between robot dogs?
The marketers will tell us that robot dogs are hypoallergenic and they leave no mess. When you are bored with them, you can throw them in a closet with no fuss, no muss, and no guilty conscience.
On the other hand, real dogs are complicated; they take time and energy. Like people, they can drive you crazy. They are messy and get dog hair everywhere. And if you are ethical, you can’t just toss a dog if it no longer pleases you.
In sum, they are alive. And oh ya, we love them! Can you love a robot? Please say “No!”
Thus, I think it is acceptable to be a little bit of a Luddite in this case. To be clear, that doesn’t mean we should be on the lookout for robotic dogs so we can smash them. Instead, we can smile and ask if said robot dog can fetch, play tug, guard, or snore as “it” sleeps on our beds. (sigh, they probably can be programmed to do it all. . .)
Of course, for the “dog people” out there, the ones who have treats in the pockets of all their jackets and know the names of all the neighborhood dogs, none of this comes as shocking news. And to be fair, I’m sure some kids just see a tiny robotic dog as a cool toy. They will play with them for a while, and then they will end up in that closet with the Barbies, Ken, and the other childhood toys. If they exist (and I might be a touch overwrought here), we need to reach out to those individuals weighing getting an actual dog versus a robot. Like evangelists, we need to preach the value of having a natural dog in their lives, especially if they have kids. (and the living situation is suitable for a dog)
Finally, even though this is not our most severe problem, it echoes something I worry about. I sit here writing, surrounded by technology: computer, smartphone, television, and social media. Many of us — especially kids — increasingly see the world through technology. We see videos of Yellowstone instead of going to Yellowstone. We live in simulations rather than in the amazing and inspiring world. Maybe we need to nurture that small rebellious flame. Turn off everything. Get outside. Take your real dog to the mountains. In the winter, let them roll in the snow. In the spring, sit amidst the wildflowers and a dog’s warm breath on your neck. Live in the real world with a real dog. Luddites rule!



Hersch Wilson

Writer. Retired Firefighter. Dog Lover. Buddhist Beginner.