Whether you’re human or canine or something in between, there’s definitely an app for you. But while apps are often designed to capture your attention and sell you something, they aren’t always as helpful as they claim to be. How do you decide which to download and which to pass by?
My nine (yes, nine) dogs and I got together to put together a list of recommended canine-focused apps, with an eye on their actual usefulness for both species.
Cost: Free with ads
This free iPhone app is an in-phone dog whistle, and it works on baristas as well. Dog whistles have been around since 1876. Traditionally, they are standard-looking whistles that emit a frequency so high that only dogs can hear and respond to them. They are often used in training, pairing the novel tone with a command like “Come.” Sitting in a cafe, testing out this app version, I tapped on the cute dog whistle image. Although I couldn’t hear a thing, the barista screamed, “Are you doing that?”
The point of a dog whistle, of course, is that it produces a sound frequency so high it can only be heard by dogs — and other highly sensitive creatures. I tried it out of my knuckle-headed dog Rooney as he fixated on a cat on the other side of the fence. Although not yet trained to give a specific response to the whistle, the unique frequency was enough to garner his attention and call him inside. The app does have settings to adjust the sound frequency and length, and 14 pattern options of the whistle, so you can pinpoint what attracts your dog — and keep your coffee supply undisturbed.
There are a number of apps that mean to promote dog-friendly businesses and activities but that aren’t particularly user-friendly themselves. BringFido is an exception, offering an easy-to-navigate interface that allows you to search locations near and far to see what lodgings, restaurants, parks and other spots are available for you and your dog. (The more bones they’re rated, the better.)
It’s not entirely up-to-date, unfortunately, particularly with post-pandemic closures, but the app offers plenty of options to investigate. Start by searching by city, then use the icons in the upper left corner to filter by food, lodging, etc. Then you can hop in the car with your pack and avoid awkward glances when you arrive for your table for five and they realize only one of you is human.
Nothing is more frightening or dramatic for both dog and owner than an unexpected medical emergency, even if (hopefully) it turns out to be something as simple as an allergy or a torn nail. Luckily, the Red Cross, which for years has offered courses in pet CPR — so they know what they’re doing — has a Pet First Aid app.
The app offers solid information on checking your dog’s vital signs, knowing what is “normal,” treating wounds, and, of course, when to head to your veterinary ER. In addition to step-by-step guides to identifying health issues, the app also links to educational videos, including for CPR.
Cost: $29 a week (first week is free)
One of the biggest challenges of having a new dog is training, and one of the biggest challenges of training is finding the time to stick with it consistently. This app is one possible solution. GoodPup offers guidance for your dog’s first 12 months, but it comes at a cost: $29 a week.
Designed specifically for dogs in their first year, the app starts by getting some information about you and your dog, including the dog’s age and how long you’ve been together. It then outlines the curriculum you will be following, with assignments based on the information you’ve shared in your intake: things like potty training, learning commands such as lay down, preventing jumping, and so on. The outline helps you and your pup stay on track throughout the week, and a weekly video consultation with a real, live trainer helps trouble-shoot where you might be going wrong. Good news: The first week is free, and GoodPup has also been partnering with some shelters and rescues to offer complimentary consultations with new adoptions to ensure that those dogs that finally have found a home will be certain to keep them.
Cost: Free to $99
Puppr offers training for tricks using an in-app clicker and an introduction to clicker training for dogs and their owners. Clicker training uses a sound cue to reinforce your dog’s good behavior, or in the case of trick-training, it is used when they complete a task.
A lot of the basics here come free of charge, but if you and your companion want to graduate to more advanced tricks, including a Circus performance sequence, the access comes with a fee of as little as $1.99 for a package of six tricks or as much as $12.99 per month or $99.99 per year if you want access to their Canine Good Citizen course, which can lead to official certification for your dog. The instructions for all levels are clear, direct, and offer video references. Also worth noting: I tried the clicker out on my barista, and he didn’t mind the sound at all.
Cost: Free, with premium add-on option of $2.99 monthly or $13.99 for life
Dog Scanner may be a ridiculous app, but it is also ridiculously addictive. Using existing photos or even a live active dog (including my Rooney in cat-chasing mode!), the scanner attempts to identify the dog’s breed by appearance. The problem with this app is that a dog’s appearance is often not a great indicator of breed, and the dog’s breed isn’t always a great indicator of useful info such as personality traits.
Still, I couldn’t stop myself from testing this app on a variety of dogs, including some in my own house (and some humans, too). The results are on point for the most obvious dogs, like my Rottweiler, Paul, and at least intriguing for my mystery sisters Etta and Ani, whose mom was definitely a pit bull but whose size and appearance suggest something else entirely. The basic features are free, but for a premium of $2.99 a month, or $13.99 for a lifetime, you get to skip the ads and will have promised access to new features when they are added.