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What Happens When Dogs Wreck Computer Equipment? We Talk to a Data Recovery Expert

David Zimmerman gets digital stuff back when a faithful canine friend slobbers all over a laptop.

Phillip Mlynar  |  Sep 12th 2014


Has your dog ever broken something valuable? Say a lamp, a piece of clothing, or even a beloved upholstered chair? Doggie damage to a physical object can be annoying, but those items can always be replaced. But what do you do when your canine companion manages to chew through a camera’s memory card or tampers with your laptop?

Enter David Zimmerman, a data recovery champion at LC Technology, who’s seen his fair share of dog-destroyed memory cards and computer components. Here’s his guide to safeguarding your data from your technologically challenged pooch.

Dogster: What’s the most frequent way you hear about a dog destroying someone’s data?

David Zimmerman: The majority of our work is data recovery from media, whether it’s a USB drive or a compact flash card, so we do get quite a few that have been chewed on by dogs. We also get a lot of weird stuff in like monkeys and some other animals, but typically when they come in it’s physical damage that the dog has done: The physical casing could be dented from being chewed on, or it’s wet from being slobbered on. But a lot of things that come in are damaged to the point where we take them apart, take the chips out and pull the data from there.

What happened with the monkey?

Somebody had gotten ahold of a camera and it was chewed on by the monkey and the case was dented. It was wet as well so we had to take it apart and pull the chips off of the board and do the recovery that way.

Do you ever suspect people are doing the damage themselves and attempting to blame it on their pets?

I doubt that as they’re going to be paying for it! The pet’s not going to pay for it. When they come in it’s obvious. You can see teeth marks on the case of a compact flash drive because it’s made out of a thin aluminum casing and I don’t think peoples’ teeth would be doing that. But I could see a kid blaming it on the dog to their parents!

You mentioned dogs slobbering earlier. How much slobber would it take to corrupt a data card?

Oh, not very much at all. It’s the moisture. It doesn’t take much to wet the contacts. Flash drives are not so bad, but when moisture gets inside of compact flash cards that have a case on them, the moisture will stay there and you’ll have condensation.

So would a dog peeing on a laptop be better or worse than just spilling a cup of water on it?

I would say probably worse because of the disabling content and what it does to electronics. We do get a lot of things that come in that have been in salt water and obviously the electronics inside start to oxidize and we take them apart and use some solution on them and try and get the corrosion off with a fine wire brush. But there is acid in that urine, so that could definitely hurt the circuitry or cause it to short out.

What one piece of advice would you tell people to safeguard their data from their dog?

Well, we have the same philosophy for dogs as we do with small children — don’t leave them laying around! If a flash drive is on the counter, your dog sees it in your hand all the time, going in and out of your computer, and he sees it one day and decides, “Well, I see this all the time so let me put it in my mouth.”

Do you think there’s potentially a market for dog toys that look like memory cards then?

I don’t know about that! While we do get a lot of them in, if dogs were really attracted to the memory card itself I suspect we’d be getting a lot more in. I don’t think they taste too good. They’re also small so something like a micro-SD card isn’t probably going to get the dog’s attention — but maybe something like a flash drive that’s a little bit bigger would work as a toy.

Have you ever had you dog go to town on your computer equipment? How was the damage? What did you do? Tell us your story in the comments!

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