Dogs show different levels of interest and friendliness to Aibos over two weeks of a live-in experiment. (Provided by Sony Corp.)

Can dogs and their robot imitation, the Aibo, make friends? Manufacturer Sony Corp. says an experiment showed they can, and that the robotic canine may even help lonely dogs develop social skills.

Sony conducted experiments with pet dogs and invited an expert to analyze their behavior toward Aibo captured in video footage.

Mammalogist Tadaaki Imaizumi said he believes the dogs recognized the Aibo as “living creatures,” as they seemed to display a sense of fellowship and showed concern toward the robots.

The experiment used the latest model Aibo, which was released in January. The original model was launched in 1999 as the world’s first home-use robot.

In the first phase of the experiments, Aibo were introduced to 13 dogs of various ages and breeds in a room in the presence of their owners.

Nine of the 13 approached the robot dog and attempted to sniff its scent. Six of the nine sniffed the Aibo’s backside in a gesture to know more and to attempt communication.

However, some dogs kept looking at the Aibo from a distance and did not want to get closer.

In the second phase, Aibos were kept at three households for two weeks to observe dogs’ behavioral responses to them.

A 6-month-old toy poodle was initially scared of the Aibo. But when its owner told the Aibo to do tricks, such as sit down, the poodle went up to the robot dog and performed those actions.

On the third day, it seemed the poodle learned the Aibo’s name, and when the owner told it to “play with Aibo,” the dog playfully bit the robot’s ear and tail. By the eighth day, the poodle tried to play with the Aibo by rolling over to show its belly.

A 3-year-old Jack Russell Terrier wanted to play with the Aibo from the first day.

On the ninth day, the terrier was mimicking the robot’s movements, such as sitting and lying down. When he was told he must bid farewell to the Aibo on the last day, he licked the robot’s face, back, and even its butt, showing he wanted it to stay.

Having a companion to care for can provide psychological stability to dogs, according to Imaizumi.

“I glimpsed that living with Aibo may help dogs to develop something similar to compassion, and help them grow,” said Imaizumi of the experiments.