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Dogs of Tomorrow

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There’s never been a better time to be a dog. But the news gets even better. That’s because life for canines through the next decade is expected to be even grr-eater on many fronts.

At least that’s the consensus among some of the world’s top pet experts. Dogster surveyed their takes on everything from medical breakthroughs to new animal shelter missions to home life to innovative dog training classes.

“There is no doubt that this pandemic sparked more innovation in animal health care and a greater embrace of pets truly being part of our families,” says Courtney Campbell, board-certified veterinary surgeon and executive creative director of Vet Candy.

Here are some crystal-ball canine predictions expected to be in place by the next decade.

Genetic testing — everyone’s doing it

With advances in technology, the Morris Animal Foundation is funding more genetic studies on dogs and sees genetic testing becoming routine and affordable, says Dr. Kelly Diehl, internal medicine veterinarian and senior director of science and communications for MAF.

“Technology is only getting faster, less expensive and more reliable,” Dr. Diehl says. “Genetic testing will give us more answers about certain genetic diseases. We are getting a lot more proposals on genetics than ever before.”

Look for continued efforts to standardize genetic tests worldwide to better treat all dogs, purebred and mixed breeds, from such conditions as epilepsy, exercise-induced collapse (EIC) and degenerative myelopathy, adds Mary O. Smith, BVM&S, PhD, vice chair of the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation.

“A big concern in the future is emerging diseases,” Dr. Smith says. “There is a big impetus to rescue dogs internationally, but we need better ways to ensure the dogs we bring from other countries do not bring in unexpected diseases that could impact the health of dogs and of people. We are sponsoring work in the United States and all over the world on this issue.”

Online vet consultations

Due to health mandates during the pandemic, many people parked in veterinary clinic lots waiting for cellphone calls from veterinarians to share news about their dogs inside exam rooms. Look for more face time with your veterinarian — but maybe not in the exam room.

“Telehealth medicine is definitely here to stay and will change how we practice veterinary medicine in a major way,” Dr. Diehl says. “Look for more behavior consultations, health follow-ups and much more to be done via telehealth instead of a phone call or making an in-person appointment.”

©famveld | Alamy Stock Photo

In 2020 at the heart of the pandemic, many people sought answers about their pets’ health from AirVet, a veterinarian-staffed telehealth site led by Dr. Jeff Werber. And, this summer, a new veterinary telehealth company arrived called Dutch, founded by Joe Spector with the goal to connect pet parents directly with licensed veterinarians to treat chronic conditions. Note that today some states are still clarifying their veterinary telemedicine parameters.

Dishing up science-based nutrition

Plain old kibble is so yesterday. Make way for plantbased proteins, fresh-from-the-fridge prepared meals and chow packed with probiotics, prebiotics and supplements. In his breakthrough book, The Clean Pet Food Revolution, Dr. Ernie Ward identifies that more dogs will be eating alternative proteins from plants, fungi, insects and cell-based meat products.

“I definitely see a major trend that emphasizes more science in pet foods and more foods that are designed to treat specific diseases,” Dr. Campbell adds.

©Photoboyko | Getty Images

CBD stays in the spotlight CBD also has a bright future as more studies analyze the real benefits of cannabidiol oil when given to dogs in foods and treats. AKC Health Foundation is sponsoring an ongoing study led by Dr. Stephanie McGrath at Colorado State University on using CBD oil to control epilepsy in dogs.

“By 2031, CBD may not be the miracle drug, but it may be used for seizure control in dogs and for joint pain relief, much as we do now with glucosamine and chondroitin,” Dr. Diehl says. “I think CBD will be with us for a long time, and we will know better how it works on pets and us.

Dog collars get high tech

A major push is underway for wearable technology that goes beyond tracking down a dog’s location in real time. Research continues to perfect devices clipped on collars that can help clue people in about their dogs’ activities and behavior patterns and even dispense time-released medicine in affordable and more accurate ways.

“I see a continued rise in wearable technologies for pets from heart rate monitors to ones that measure temperature and activity levels to health care monitoring kits that use artificial intelligence to predict early stages of diseases like arthritis and diabetes in dogs. Instead of having to poke your diabetic dog, you will be able to check his glucose levels through a reading on your phone,” Dr. Campbell says.

©Artur Debat | Getty Images

Tomorrow’s shelters shift focus When COVID-19 struck, many were forced to work from home. That triggered people to adopt or foster dogs in record numbers from shelters.

This is the perfect time for shelters to pivot their purposes. That’s the belief of Dr. Gary Weitzman, president of the San Diego Humane Society.

“I definitely see a new focus on shelters to find ways that allow people to keep their pets in their homes by providing affordable veterinary services,” he says. “I’m talking wellness, vaccinations, deworming and microchipping being done as well as more mobile units out into the community to deliver food and supplies to those in need so that they can keep their pets and not surrender them due to financial hardships. Why, I even see microchip (identification) scanners at every fire station so people can bring lost pets to one of the friendliest places on earth to be scanned quickly for identification and, hopefully, to reunite the pets with their pet parents.”

Rich Anderson, president of the Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League in West Palm Beach, Florida, hopes that animal shelters will transform from being places for abandoned or lost animals to major community leaders in animal welfare.

“Adoption and foster programs have become so successful that more attention and resources are being able to shift toward programs meant to prevent animals from entering shelters in the first place,” Rich says. “Our Safety Net programs that offer affordable and free veterinary care and our free pet food pantry continue to be expanded.”

Home becomes a calming zone

Beke LuBeach, general manager of DogTV, doesn’t think it is too farfetched to have calming canine pheromones emitting from your television set to help home-alone dogs feel safe and calm. She also sees more content on TV and apps that will help relax rambunctious pups and stimulate the hearing and seeing senses in aging dogs.

She predicts more people shopping for homes that include mud rooms with doggie shower areas and indoor canine play areas as well as stylish, wooden doggie nap spots to replace those ugly metal crates currently parked in living rooms.

“I can see this luxury crate on wheels that a person can push under the stairway when not in use and rolled out when it is ready for their dogs,” she adds.

And, when your dog does join you on a trip, expect more Airbnb, VRBO and other vacation rentals to put out the welcome mat to accommodate the increase in people looking for pet-friendly getaways.

Your dog finally talks back

For far too long, we’ve relied on the I-talk-you-listen-and-comply style of communicating with our canines. We may marvel when our dogs know to accurately pick up the requested toy or understand when we say, “car ride” or “wanna a treat?”

The dogs of the next decade will demonstrate new ways to engage in two-way talk with us and to share their feelings and needs better thanks to pioneering efforts by such people as speech therapist Christina Hunger. Applying what she calls AAC (augmentative and alternative communication), she has enabled her dog, Stella, to “talk” to her.

Stella is a Catahoula-Blue Heeler mix who Christina has trained to have her press speech buttons to communicate key words such as “outside,” “play,” “water,” and even “love you.”

As depicted in her book, How Stella Learned to Talk (William Morrow, 2021), Christina was able to train 3-year-old Stella to even string together a series of words, such as, “Christina come play love you.” (More at hungerforwords.com).

©Jake McConkey

Get schooled in a whole new way

Puppies and newly adopted dogs all benefit by taking basic obedience classes to learn good canine manners. But professional dog training is undergoing a major evolution.

“There’s been a big growth in activities that directly benefit the dog, such as nose work, barn hunt and dock diving,” says Maureen Patin, co-founder of What A Great Dog in Frisco and Richardson, Texas. “The training world is talking more about consent from the animal and in finding out what activities the dogs would enjoy. I also see a trend in dog trainers seeking science-based education and professional certifications in larger numbers. And, all of that promises to be very good for people and their dogs.”

Meet your AI doggie

A segment of dog advocates may feel unable to adopt a real dog due to work commitments, allergies or other issues. That doesn’t diminish their love or need for canine companionship.

Work is now underway at places like Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton to create robopets that do not need to be fed, taken for walks or given medications. The current test dog is called Astro, in honor of the dog from The Jetsons, the space-age cartoon of the 1960s.

©FloridaAtlanticUniversity

Robotic dogs eventually may serve as the ultimate canine protector and trusted companion. “The experience people have had with our prototype Astro feels like he is a sentient being,” says Elan Barenholtz, PhD, associate professor of psychology and co-director of FAU’s robotics lab. “People will definitely develop emotional connections with robopets.”

Alternative eats of the future

Leaving traditional meats behind, these dog foods focus on environmentally friendly proteins.

Yora Insect Protein All Breeds Dog Food; yorapetfoods.com (available in U.K., and coming to the U.S. in 2022)

Good Grub Dog Food; $16.95 – $45.95. jiminys.com

Mindful Meals Black Soldier Fly Larvae Feast Insect Protein Dog Food; $34.99. onlynaturalpet.com

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