The University of Sydney is launching a world-first app that will not only help owners help their dogs be happier and healthier, but could also play a life-saving role by teaching young dogs to behave better — reducing the chances of pups falling victim to what are currently their top killers.
Research from the UK has revealed the leading cause of death in dogs under the age of three relate to behavioural problems — being abandoned or euthanased because they display unwelcome behaviour and being involved in car accidents.
Doglogbook has been designed by animal welfare scientists in the Faculty of Veterinary Science to be a dog's new best friend, helping ensure optimum quality of life and happiness — from puppyhood through to old age to assist with difficult end-of-life decisions.
The free app draws on the University of Sydney's new science of "dogmanship" — a term coined by Professor Paul McGreevy in the School of Life and Environmental Sciences.
"Dogs can easily be socialised so they do not display the common behavioural problems that relate to anxiety — which is where the doglogbook comes in, guiding owners as they socialise their pups, making pups more worldly and potentially even saving their lives," Professor McGreevy said.
He said doglogbook would enable dog owners to gather and review real data about their dog's healthcare, management and preferences in life for the first time.
"The data generated by users of doglogbook, as valued citizen scientists, will be available to researchers and also used to inform and educate the next generation of veterinarians."
The app works by guiding dog owners through the all-important socialisation period. The app is gamified to increase engagement and reward owners for seeking out novel experiences during the critical socialisation period. This feature can work well in conjunction with puppy preschool, or as a simple means of logging when a puppy has travelled, visited different types of environments and met a range of people and other animals.
Doglogbook also enables dog owners to log the activities that their dog undertakes in a usual day (e.g. eating, walking, playing with other dogs, etc) and rate the enjoyment their dog gets from each activity. Owners can gather and review real data about their dog's happiness in life for the first time.
Carers can also log health-related issues (an example might be recording frequent urination) or problematic behaviours (such as barking or destroying things when owners are at work).
Owners and carers can share access to their dogs' records to give veterinarians, behaviour therapists and trainers better insight into the dogs' everyday health and behaviour between consultations.
Doglogbook lets owners schedule and log routine health-related events, such as parasite control (a reminder will pop-up on their smart phone when it's time for intestinal worming, for example) or a time-sensitive course of medication, to help remind owners precisely when doses are due.
A seizure log is included so owners of epileptic dogs can record seizures in real time (vets can access these outside of consultations to review frequency and type of seizures). The app also includes a cognitive decline checklist that may be filled-in monthly or fortnightly to help track older dogs over time. It provides a way to measure and optimise the quality of life for the full life cycle of the dogs we share our lives with.
Mia Cobb, a canine scientist who was part of the expert doglogbook development team, said it was hoped these combined features would help owners become more mindful of their dogs' overall happiness and wellbeing.
"Doglogbook may also help take some of the pressure off owners in identifying and acknowledging decline as dogs near the end of life," Ms Cobb said.
There is also a "working dog" channel in doglogbook that logs training investment and tracks assessment outcomes, as well as assisting in the health management of dogs working in roles as diverse as scent detection, guide/seeing eye, livestock herding, guard/protection dogs, and racing greyhounds.
Funded in part by the Australian Government Office for Learning and Teaching, the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation, Meat and Livestock Australia, doglogbook has the support of the Working Kelpie Council of Australia, the Dog Ownership and Human Health node at the University of Sydney, and was developed in collaboration with the Australian Working Dog Alliance and SmartSports.
Doglogbook information could eventually feed into VetCompass, the national opt-in pet surveillance system for vets launched in Australia recently. Data from VetCompass, which was first trialled in the United Kingdom by Professor McGreevy and colleagues almost a decade ago, shows the main killers of dogs under three years of age both relate to behavioural problems — being abandoned or euthanased because they display unwelcome behaviour and being involved in car accidents.