It’s been said, many times, that owning a gundog is the kind of year-round lifestyle commitment that, let’s face it, not too many people are willing to make. As it’s often said, you just can’t throw a dog in the closet when you’re finished with it. Or can you?

Is the day coming when you can indeed just throw your gundog in the closet or park it in the garage after the season’s over? Is the age of the robotic canine companion nigh? Will we finally be able to have a dog that will loyally hunt for us, carry things for us and provide us companionship, all without having to deal with chewed-up shoes, holes in the flowerbeds, poop-scooping, vet and dog-food bills and drifts of fur on the couch? Yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes. In spite of all that, however, scientists still can’t figure out a way to keep the dogs of the future from farting.

From this story on
The U.S. military’s experimental robotic pack-mule has been getting smarter, faster and more agile, but it still sounds like a beast with constant flatulence. Picture the scene. You’re walking through a warzone when suddenly shots ring out. You crouch down and listen closely for enemy movements, and that’s when you hear it, just beyond the tree line: “Pffffffffffffbbbbbbbbbbttttttt. That may someday mean the Marines have arrived. Unless DARPA can fix that too. Until then, enjoy this video of the AlphaDog, a robot developed by DARPA meant one day to carry up to 400 pounds of soldiers’ gear. The latest version, shown off in new footage published Sept. 10, proves that the ‘bot is now smart enough to follow its owner over complex terrain.

Mechanical flatulence aside, it’s amazing video, and I’m pretty sure the AlphaDog is quicker than some dogs I’ve hunted over. According to the story, researchers hope to add audio and visual recognition to the AlphaDog. Now I’m just speculating here, but if they can do that, if the AlphaDog can be programmed to visually recognize its master, and take spoken commands, then what’s to keep them from adding an articulating jaw, a digital sniffer and programming it to recognize various gamebird scents? Granted, the AlphaDog doesn’t quite have the flowing gait or classy style of a pointing dog, or the rugged good looks of a lab or chessie, but it’s at least as good-looking as some Continental breeds I’ve seen (I kid, I kid).

So, do you think robot dogs will eventually take over the upland fields or the duck blind? Will a polished titanium scent-recognition apparatus plugged into the wall ever replace a dog’s warm muzzle in your lap?