This is what some of our dogs often look like today, when they are dressed for work. They are just as naked as they were when born and they are happy with that. Most of us like to see our dogs in this natural way. However, it must be admitted that there are sometimes situations, when the dogs work, that makes us dog owners a bit, or a lot, nervous.
The man has for ages had a strong temptation to solve problems by technical means. Problems with dogs have maintained the genius of inventors of all kinds and made them to come up with one bright gadget after another to solve all existing problems with dogs. When they then further cudgelled their brain they have even invented solutions to non-existing problems. The customer is however very responsive to messages hidden in advertisements and voila' - we have accepted a new problem with our dog and just by chance we also have a new technical solution to our problem! All we need to do is to lighten our wallet with the weight of a number of hard earned banknotes.
There could most likely have been the old fashioned way to solve the problem by improving the relation to the dog and thereby for example get contact and co-operation with it, but you know how busy we are today... and all those excuses we know so well.
Now let's see what our gundog might look like in the future. Since some of the future gadgets are not invented yet we used bits and pieces of today.
Our future dog will always be well dressed (1) when working. The coat will be selected from many alternatives (7 & 8) depending of the hunting environment and the game. It can cover part of the dog's body or most of it (2). It can keep the dog dry and warm like many of today's coats for dogs that have to sit and wait a lot, or work in cold water. It can protect the dog from the teeth and claws of dangerous animals like the wild boar and the bear. These protective coats for dangerous game hunting will be made from new and very light and comfortable materials like synthetic spider net, 7 times stronger than steel. The coat can be fluorescent; a very useful characteristic when tracking wounded game in darkness. In the near future the coat will only have a protective purpose. However, later in the future when the technique has developed a bit more there will be electronic circuits weaved into the fabric. The fabric will in fact function like a multi-sensor computer. The computer will replace all the electronic gadgets that we today hang on the dog, like:
The radio direction finder (3 & 9)and point indicator: In the near future a single unit replaces these gadgets and the (4) GPS collar. The handheld unit (11) will continuously keep the dog handler updated with information about the dog's position and its movements. With another handheld GSM unit(10) the handler can in the near future also listen and speak to the dog with the GSM (5) attached to the dog, and later the telephone will also be connected to the small video camera (6) on the dogs head so that the handler can see what the dog sees. In the future all these electronics are weaved into the fabric and will not be to any significant burden for the dog. The handler will have a single unit, perhaps integrated into a helmet of the type the modern fighter pilots use. The price tag might be a bit heavy, a million dollar perhaps but what the heck...
Even further in the future the dog will carry a helmet containing a laser gun beside the video camera. The hindrance to do it today is the battery needed to create a laser pulse strong enough to kill a bird for ex. We need a big heap of joule/kwh/foot-pounds of energy in that laser pulse and we do not yet have such powerful batteries that are small enough for a dog to carry. The laser will be equipped with a sophisticated target recognition and aim system. Not only will it have to recognise the game as permitted species but the handler can also tell the computer that today we will hunt only this or that game and other game should not be killed. By recognizing the game species the computer can also adjust the strength of the killing laser pulse to the size of the game and thereby we can avoid having the game overcooked or even roasted, already on the field. The dog could actually be trained to trigger the laser by own will if the situation demand such action, like when the dog is attacked by an angry boar, bear, wolf or snake. That would be a new experience for those predators.
Finally, before publishing this, I asked Briz what she thought about the future electronic, digitalised gundog? As you may see from her expression the answer is not possible to print on a decent website like ours. However, if we mediate it in a very discreet way, we could say that she opposed the whole idea!
Not much more than a week after publishing this prophecy about our future gundogs, did I read about still another and even more advanced GPS-based gadget for the modern gundog. The journalist in the hunting magazine that tested the device admitted that he did not look to much around him during a few days hunt, but most of his concentration was directed towards the display in the hand held unit.
the Swedish Defence Material Administration. Visit www.fmv.se and click on the English flag.
If my prediction will come true, that some day in the future both the dog and the handler will wear a helmet of the type that the modern fighter pilots wear, giving them a steady and sometimes heavy flow of real-time information, then I will also predict that the next new subject in the world wide discussion about gundog training will be that of how to avoid something that the fighter pilots call "Helmet fire". "Helmet fire" will occur when the pilot is fed with more information than he can handle. This will cause a lack of concentration and lead to mistakes and accidents, if not a total nervous breakdown at 40000 feet of altitude.
How this helmet fire will affect the dog and the handler is difficult to predict in detail, time will tell. However we can be absolutely sure that once it has become a reality, then there will also be commercial solutions for it. There will be at least two price levels of solutions, depending of how much money you can afford. The least expensive solution will be a fire detection system with an alarm function only. The handler must when getting the alarm take suitable measures to cool things down, something that might be difficult if he already is confused by too much information. Hence, instead of getting still another piece of information telling him that his or his dog's helmet is already smouldering, and thereby risking that he will be confused further, he can buy a more expensive system that works automatically and progressively. It can start smoothly by cutting out more and more information until there is an equilibrium of received and digested information. If needed it can also entierly cut the power to the helmet and spray the inside of the helmet and the wearer's head/brain with some effective cooling agent like carbon dioxide or CFC (chlorofluorocarbon).
Of course no living creature, man or dog, should be put at risk for such a treatment but they must at this stage of technical development be replaced by robots. The dog and man of blood, muscles and bones will be redundant and another question will arise: Should we really send out independent machines to kill the game like we today use machines to harvest the forest? Where will the sport in the hunting be? In the future the hunting can be made virtual and we can go out to the virtual hunting grounds, without leaving our living room, to hunt virtual boar or partridge, bear or hare with our virtual dog, carrying our virtual gun. Now we could, and most likely will, in this virtual and problem free environment try a few virtual gadgets to keep a virtual contact with our virtual dog...
Maybe we on the other hand belong to the today rare group of a few old-fashioned folks, who still believe that hunting together with a dog is more of a psychological challenge than a technical one? Maybe we still have the ability to perceive the thrilling tension of the spiritual power field vibrating in the triangle composed by the interaction between the dog, the game and the gun? Should this be the case, then we can join the man on this 200-year-old copperplate in his primordial and respectful cooperation with nature and enjoying whatever game nature gives him in response to his humble attitude towards the dog, game and the environment they hunt in.
What can be more relaxing than to completely forget about all the digital stuff previously described, and to walk out into the sunshine with a basic shotgun resting on your arm, a few shot shells in your pocket and a well trained and deeply loved four-legged companion happily jogging around your feet, impatiently waiting for permission to search out? Call me an old fogey if you like, I do not mind being historical and analogue. Just remember me when the batteries in your gadgets have run empty...