While no part of a dog’s life is more important than another, exactly, it’s the bookends — puppyhood and old age — that could use a bit more care and attention.
Enter Doglogbook (Facebook & Twitter), a free app to measure and optimize dog well-being. The app comes from animal welfare researchers and veterinarians at the University of Sydney in Australia, and allows owners to measure and track their dog’s quality of life from puppyhood through old age. Dog lovers get a continual assessment of their dog’s well-being and can elect to share the information with veterinarians, dog trainers, animal behaviorists, or other family members. Animal welfare researchers will use the citizen science data to help inform education for the next generation of veterinary scientists.
Catalyst, Australia’s flagship weekly science program, checked out doglogbook in a recent two-part special, “Making Dogs Happy.”
Doglogbook allows owners to track dog activities and behaviors and rate dog enjoyment. An important strategy when assessing quality of life is to look at changes in activities the dog seems to enjoy. The app also tracks behavioral incidents involving fear, aggression, or other issues, and incidents are further assessed by mediating factors like location of incident, who was present, and what else was involved. From there, the app can reveal whether behavior modification strategies are successful or if a new approach is needed.
I, for one, acknowledge the difficult in holding everything in my head. Sometimes after drinking coffee in the morning, I can’t remember if I brushed my teeth — was that today or yesterday? Most days I figure it out. When it comes to assessing something more important — like behavior change in a dog — it can be valuable to make it less muddled: when did the last incident happen? Not since last month, oh, but wait. Wasn’t there that thing two weeks ago… I can see how a tracking app would help.
Owners can also track dog health, including treatments, symptoms and even seizures, and the app can set reminders for routine preventative health care, like parasite control, and remind you when they are due.
Doglogbook has a two-path approach, one geared toward companion dogs and owners, and one for working dogs, like guide dogs and scent detection dogs, that maps training investment against performance outcomes. The end result is both a qualitative and quantitative assessment of how dogs are doing over time, which, as with humans, is always changing.
Returning to the importance of bookends, one of doglogbook’s benefits is preparing puppies for the environment and lifestyle that awaits them. Numerous studies identify benefits to early life socialization, particularly from 3 to 14 weeks, but also beyond. “Dogs can easily be socialized so they do not display the common behavioral problems that relate to anxiety,” explains Professor Paul McGreevy, one of the app’s creators at the University of Sydney. Doglogbook can “[guide] owners as they socialize their pups, making pups more worldly and potentially even saving their lives.”
Early life socialization aims to help normalize the weird world of sights, sounds, people, and places that dogs can encounter. The app is gamified, and owners are rewarded for seeking out and tracking their young dog’s experiences. “This feature,” Doglogbook developers explain, “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 meet a range of people and other animals.”
When it comes to end of life decisions — the other end of the bookend — doglogbook’s value increases tenfold, in my opinion. End-of-life decisions are tough (how understated is that?), but with an app tracking well-being, it can be easier to let the dog do the talking. As dogs get older, they can show signs of normal aging, “cognitive deterioration that does not affect the day-to-day functioning of the individual,” or something more serious like canine cognitive dysfunction, where dogs experience “disorientation, altered interactions with people or other pets, sleep-wake cycle alterations, house soiling, and altered activity level.”
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SOURCE: Scientific American