What are the must-have dog apps every pooch parent needs in 2021? We’re talking absolute essentials. The ones you’d be lost without (if only you knew). We break down the key problems pooch parents need to solve, the single best app you’ll need to solve each of them, and how we arrived at our conclusions. The good news: almost all are free!
This is the self-same process we used to discover the apps we now have installed on our phones. If you’re like us, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without them!
There’s an App for That!
Not surprisingly, in a world where there’s an app for everything, dog lovers haven’t been forgotten. There are literally hundreds available for dog owners as of 2021.
And why not? There’s nothing in the world we wouldn’t do for our fur babies, and we all know they can’t be trusted to look after themselves. A powerful combination for any number of problems that pet parents need help in solving. Which is exactly what apps were sent here to do: make our lives easier. Okay. Maybe for having a little fun, too.
But with so many dog apps to choose from, it can be overwhelming. At least it was for us.
So, we started by getting clear on the problems we routinely try to solve in our roles as dog parents, as well as on behalf of our canine kids. And suddenly it became a whole lot clearer. Not only to narrow the potential list down, but also in helping to assess how good the apps actually were.
The research we did to arrive at this list resulted in the apps we now have installed on our own phones. In other words, we’re eating our own dog food!
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Narrowing the Field
Before we get into the list, here’s what you won’t find. We excluded several candidates based on the following criteria:
- Frivolity: For the purposes of this article we're only interested in dog apps that will make a measurable difference in either your life or the life of your K9 kid - which means we haven’t included the whimsical (e.g. apps that generate dog’s names or dog-to-human translators).
- Pooch Parents Only: We haven’t included apps for adoption in our list. We’re interested in apps that make life easier for those who already have a fur BFF and are looking to better manage and care for them.
Note: We may do separate articles on apps that cater to these areas later. Feel free to leave a comment below if this is something you’d like to see.
Here’s how we arrived at the final list. It’s not rocket science, and probably a similar process many of you use. If that’s the case, this may be more of a validation for you. For those that don’t have the time to do this, it will be a goldmine!
- First, we headed to google (obviously!). Our search strings included words like ‘best’, ‘review’, ‘comparison’ and ’2021’, among others. We did this at a high level; in this case with ‘pets’ and ‘dogs’ as the anchor. This gave us a 'whole-of-market' view.
- We then filtered the apps based on the criteria we set earlier i.e., those that would have a measurable impact on the lives of pet parents and their canine kids. We did this by thinking through the key responsibilities we all have as dog parents (e.g., training, safety, health management, etc.). We noted each app’s purpose, the number of times they were referenced, and added our own grading. This was based on whether the review was positive, negative, or somewhere in between. As well as the quality of the reviewer / source. We did this for ALL of them! No app left behind!
- Once catalogued it was easy to see the most reviewed as well as the average quality of those reviews.
- Then, we went to the App store (for iPhone) and Google Play (for Android) to check out their stats: number of reviews, number of stars as well as number of downloads. We were looking to cross-reference whether actual downloads and experiences from real customers supported our own investigation.
- Finally, based on our grading, we trialed the top three apps in each category.
Below are the outcomes in each of the categories where we believe apps can have the most impact (in no particular order).
Dog Training Dog Apps
App We Use: Dogo – Dog & Puppy Training App with Clicker
What Makes It Good: As far as we can tell it has 1. the largest range of training videos on the market, 2. a comprehensive knowledge base (articles on positive dog training, nutrition, and health) and 3. an active community. You can pick and choose a specific training area to focus on with 100+ dog commands and games. Alternatively, you can take advantage of one of their tailored dog training programs based on an onboarding survey. It also has a built-in clicker feature with a variety of sound options (or a flashlight option for deaf pups).
Platform: Android & iPhone
Reviews: 4.7 Stars (based on 73K reviews) and 1M downloads in Google Play. 4.8 Stars in the Apple App store (from 6.9K reviews).
Cost: Free / subscription (you can do a lot with the free version and the developers have generally refrained from trying to sell you stuff while in the app).
Pet Care Services (Dog Walking, Sitting, Boarding, Grooming, Day Care)
App We Use: Rover
What Makes It Good: This is our pick, although we found Wag! was good too. Ultimately Rover wins for coverage. It has the largest network of dog walkers and caretakers we could find. With over 300,000 pet sitters in over 14,000 cities.
While we’re speaking of coverage, we also like the range of services on offer. From dog walking, boarding, house sitting, and drop-in visits, to grooming and day care services. We particularly liked the vetting process for sitters, with Rover claiming that less than 20% of potential sitters are accepted.
In terms of booking the services you can easily browse photos, read reviews, and exchange messages to find a service provider best suited to you. Payment is also effortlessly managed within the app (no need for cash or exchanging bank details with your service provider).
We also like the GPS feature so you can easily track your dog’s whereabouts. Being able to message and receive photo updates on how they’re doing is great too.
Platform: Android and iPhone
Reviews: 3.5 Stars (based on 9K reviews) and 1M downloads in Google Play. 4.9 Stars in the app store (from 239.8K reviews). We’re guessing rover works better on an iPhone!
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Health Management Dog Apps
App We Use: PawPrint – Pet Health Tracker
What Makes It Good: This is how the app is described in the App store: “Connect your pet's caretaker network around a central information source. Pawprint is the one place for medical records, feeding instructions, reminders, and even cute photos. Make sure all your pet's favorite humans are in the loop!”.
The app can be used for multiple pets and once you’ve set it up with the information it needs it pretty much runs on autopilot, sending you alerts for vet appointments and vaccine updates, for example. You can even track your pooch pal’s birthdays and weight.
We also like that you can add your dog’s insurance information, which can then be submitted in-app. You can also easily share information with other caregivers such as a family member or sitter.
Platform: Android and iPhone
Reviews: 4.2 Stars (based on 264 reviews) and 10K+ downloads in Google Play. 4.7 Stars in the app store (from 2K reviews).
Cost: Free (unless you want to request your pet’s full medical records through the app).
Safety Dog Apps
App We Use: iKibble
What Makes It Good: Love to share something you’re eating with your fur baby, but not sure how safe it would be for them? Your fur BFF just ate something, and you’re worried it could harm them? You need iKibble.
Based on the reviews we’ve read this has the best database of foods. Both to avoid as well as those you shouldn’t stress too much over. It has thorough descriptions of each food and advice on how and when to feed certain types to your pooch pal. You can even mark foods as favorites so they can be easily referenced when needed.
We like that you can browse by category or health rating. You can also easily share the information you find with family and friends.
Platform: iPhone only. (For android, try PupTox).
Reviews: 4.8 Stars in the app store (from 91 reviews).
Cost: Free (with ads) or opt for paid version.
Emergency Care Dog Apps
App We Use: First Aid - American Red Cross
What Makes It Good: Quite simply the best app available for any emergency health issues. A must-have for all pet owners. Easy to use, with clear photos and videos covering common pet ailments and accidents, as well as tools to help you in an emergency - such as locating your nearest vet hospital. It also includes a wealth of information on preventative care and tips for maintaining your pooch pal’s well-being.
Platform: iPhone only
Reviews: 4.3 Stars (from 243 ratings)
Lifestyle Dog Apps
App We Use: Bring Fido – Pet Friendly Hotels & Places
What Makes It Good: There are a lot of good apps in this category. From a US and Canada perspective, however, we liked BringFido. Quite simply the best and easiest way to find and book dog-friendly hotels, parks, beaches, restaurants, and even dog events. Filters are available to enable you to search by pet size and key information is displayed for each venue so you can make an informed choice. Including their policies, pricing, amenities, and customer reviews.
Platform: iPhone & Android
Reviews: 4.7 Stars (based on 384 reviews) and 100k downloads in Google Play. 4.9 Stars (based on 13.3k reviews) in the Apple App store
Activity Tracker (and Locator) Dog Apps
App We Use: Fitbark – Dog GPS & Health
What Makes It Good: This was not an easy category and is the one exception to us having tried the top three apps - Fitbark Inc., Whistle and Tractive - due to the need to subscribe on a monthly or yearly basis). Our choice of Fitbark was therefore based on our desktop research, as well as friends’ advice. Note: you’ll need Verizon coverage in your area if you’re using the locator functionality.
We love that if you if you personally use a FitBit, Google Fit, or Apple HealthKit device, it syncs up and graphs both you and your pet’s progress.
For your pooch, the app tracks key ‘health indicators’ such as calories burnt, distance covered, and sleep. It also provides helpful daily and weekly reports on how your pooch’s activity compares to similar dogs based on age, breed, and weight.
For the locator, we liked that it’s lightweight, waterproof, has the best recharge rate we could find, works for small dogs (as well), and has excellent collar compatibility (the tracker can be attached to any flat collar up to 1.5in wide).
Platform: Android and iPhone
Reviews: 4.5 Stars (based on 769 reviews) and 10K+ downloads in Google Play. 4.6 Stars in the App store.
Cost: Monthly subscription.
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Our content is peer reviewed for balance and reflects our personal views as devoted dog parents (not those of a third party). If you've read this far, we think you'll agree.