Frequently asked questions

ABAdog stands for a lot of things. The values surrounding the treatment of behavioural issues in dogs focuses on encouraging a compassionate and prevention-centric mindset. No dog should be unnecessarily forced to endure fear, anxiety or panic attacks, and should never have to suffer aversive human punishment as a result of these emotions.

When some people read the name “ABAdog”, they may naturally see the words “A bad Dog”. This directly conflicts with values of ABAdog. The label “bad” as used by society suggests that the dog somehow willingly acts in a way that it knows to be morally wrong or against the wishes of an owner. Many dogs with behavioural issues are misunderstood by both their owners and society at large. They are falsely blamed by people for being “bad dogs”, when they are actually victims of their own emotions and circumstance. As dogs have the mental reasoning capacity of a human infant, how can we possibly assume that they are guilty of choosing to be “bad”? Just as innocent dogs can be incorrectly judged as “bad”, so too is the name “ABAdog” incorrectly believed to be referring to a questionnaire that is designed for “A bad dog”. ABAdog believes at its core that no dog is a bad dog. The word ABAdog simply stands for Automated Behavioural Assessment for the Dog.

ABAdog is best for dogs who have owners that might be interested in referral to a veterinary behaviourist or suitable dog behaviourists. The owner does not need to know in advance what the cause of the behavioural issue might be might be.

You can start right away, once you begin you can stop and start whenever you like. Part way through there is the option to spend a few days trying to become more aware of your dog’s behaviours. To the best of your abilities, you should observe and identify what behaviours are occurring (use the list here). You should note what situations these behaviours are occurring in. Once you have done this, you are ready to start ABAdog. It can be useful to complete the questionnaire with a small group of people who know your dog well, so that everyone can contribute.

“Early Access” means that ABAdog has not officially launched yet, as we are still in the Early Access phase which is limited to a small number of veterinary clinics in Australia. Prospective veterinary clnics can sign up to a waiting list that adds you to our queue of clinics who would like to use this Early Access version of ABAdog. There is sometimes a delay of days to weeks before being accepted into the early access programme.

The Early Access version may be unstable at times, which means that a minority of users may experience software bugs or errors that temporarily affect their experience. We are up and working over 99% of the time and less than 1 in 50 users experience any errors. We will work as fast as possible to fix these errors should they occur.

The requirement for your dog is that it is over 6 months of age as dogs under this age are likely to receive inaccurate assessment.

No. Some things may improve very quickly however most things will require a lot of time and work on your part. Beware of sources of information that guarantee quick results, as when they fail they tend to blame the owner. The real reason they fail is that no one can guarantee quick results as every dog is an individual. It is hard to make predictions of how fast any dog will improve, as each dog is unique. As a general rule, if you can make the changes recommended in the ABAdog report for your dog, and spend at least 30 minutes of time every day working with your dog, then most dogs can expect to have significant improvement by 3 months.

The questionnaire will take between 30 and 60 minutes to complete. The entire report will take between 1 – 5 hours to read (depending on its length and your reading speed). It is recommended that you read over the report multiple times to get the most out of it. After that, the amount of commitment is up to you, a range of targeted options and solutions for your case are presented, from the simple through to difficult. The more time you put in the more improvement you will get.

No, it is normally not the fault of the owner. The commonly held belief that dogs with behavioural problems must have a bad owner is wrong. This is especially true if we talk about the serious behavioural problems like aggression, phobias or anxiety. Many excellent owners can end up with dogs that have serious problems. Likewise, many owners that do all the wrong things will still have a dog that is well behaved and happy. The reason is that the environment that a dog lives in is only part of what determines their behaviour. Genetics and chance also play a role. Some dogs are born with a brain that is wired to be aggressive, anxious or fearful, and preventing these problems is very difficult without advanced dog behaviour knowledge. Other dogs can be born with a resilience that allows them to remain well behaved, calm and friendly with almost any owner. The large number of dogs with serious behavioural problems cannot be attributed to any one factor such as bad parenting.

Despite this, the way an owner treats their dog does still have a large effect on its behaviour. A dog that is abused while a puppy is much more likely to develop behavioural problems as an adult. Thankfully, most owners do not abuse their dogs. While some people may be unintentionally making the behaviour of their dog worse through negligence, they cannot be faulted for this. In most cases it is simply because they do not understand what is motivating their dog’s behaviour, or how to help them. Unfortunately there is a large variation in the quality of behavioural advice that an owner will come across, and so misinformed owners that make things worse for their dog are also common (but you cannot fault them as knowing who to believe can be very difficult). The proportion of owners that are truly at fault for their dog’s behavioural problems is speculated here to be similar to the proportion of parents that are truly at fault for their children’s mental illness.

Individual vet clinics are eligible for a free trial where they receive some complementary ABAdog Behaviour Scans to try. However, providing these free to a dog owner is likely reduce its effectiveness. Putting a price on this valuable technology will help assess the owner's willingness to complete the questionnaire and read the report.

ABAdog is driven by an artificial intelligence algorithm that is designed to take the input from the questionnaire and store the information as a network. This is similar to how a human brain stores information. In the brain, knowledge is not stored in discrete facts that are present within one brain cell (neuron). Rather, knowledge is stored as a network of connections between different neurons. This network-like representation of the questionnaire allows the use of a second algorithm to intelligently use the data to produce the behavioural report for the dog.

The professional treatment of dog behavioural problems is a very under-serviced division of pet health care. Many owners with dogs that have behavioural issues refuse treatment due to cost and lack of understanding of the possible benefits. ABAdog provides a product to fill this niche, and is designed to make it more likely that owners will go on to seek referral from a professional. To this end, ABAdog explains in detail the benefits of seeking professional behavioural help for their dog. For vets or trainers who integrate ABAdog into their business, it can save significant time which reduces their costs. This allows them to provide a superior service in less time. This improvement in efficiency can allow dog behaviour professionals to see more people at a lower price point, capturing an underserviced segment of the market with a superior service.

Treatment of behavioural problems leads to owners having a closer bond to their dogs, meaning they will spend more on health care and products due to a stronger human animal bond. This can help reduce relinquishment of dogs to shelters due to behavioural concerns. ABAdog provides a high standard of dog behviour advice that provides a minimum acceptible level that a dog should receive. This is useful as the quality and oversight of advice given by dog behaviour professionals is highly variable.

Yes, however there are two checkpoints that once passed will lock all the questions you have already answered. You will be told before passing the checkpoint, and have the change to go back and change things if you like. The first checkpoint is about half way through, the last checkpoint is at the very last question.

We have built in redundancy, so that if you accidentally miss a question but your answers suggest that you should have answered another way, you may be asked again. Just answer each question to the best of your ability to achieve the best result, regardless of whether a question appears to be repeating. Also check to see that you have read the question properly as it may in fact be slightly different to previous versions of the same question.

The questionnaire automatically saves all responses except for the current page you are on. To save your responses on the current page you could click the 'save' or 'continue' button. When you move to a new page the previous page is saved. You can refresh the browser, log out, crash your computer and stand on your head all you want. Your data will still be saved. In rare circumstances the questionnaire could crash as we are still in the development phase, in this case you need to email our support team through the contact page. We will resolve the issue and all your data will still be saved up to where the crash occurred, once we have fixed the issue you will be able to restart from where you were up to.

No. This is not how it is designed, you will end up with large amounts of irrelevant and incorrect information and suggestions if you do this. The report is generated dynamically based on not just your answers, but also based on what you do not click. Apart from this, there is a limit that has been programmed into the questionnaire to prevent people from doing this. Finally, it would take a very, very long time to tick every one of those boxes… During testing we tried this and it took many, many hours. The report was hundreds of thousands of words long, and yet completely useless for any realistic dog that could exist!

The accuracy of the report is mostly determined by the accuracy of the person filling out the questionnaire.

For example, if you state in your answers that your dog never bites, growls or barks, then we will give you no information on aggression. If in reality your dog actually bites a lot, then the report will be inaccurate because you have entered incorrect information. In this situation the report could recommend that you touch your dog during the treatment of some other behaviour problem, which could lead you to being bitten. In such as case ABAdog would have provided appropriate advice, just as if you told your dog trainer that your dog never shows any aggression and they suggested you put a lead on it and meet them at the park. If your dog bites you while putting the lead on then the trainer did not really do anything wrong did they? Owners need to apply some basic common sense to any information they are given, as they are ultimately responsible for their dog while it is under their care.

While this example above is unlikely to occur, it is possible that you will misread or misinterpret some of the ABAdog questions. For this reason we encourage you to take your time doing the questionnaire, it is a fun way to learn more about your dog! If you are unsure about a question you can message us your query through the support button. Due to the length of the questionnaire, some respondents will get some questions a little bit wrong, or miss a small amount of information. Don’t worry too much, in most cases it will not make a large difference on the report and you should still have a lot of useful information sent to you. ABAdog is actually unable to recommend cruel training techniques (e.g. the use of aversive punishment based on dominance theory) and is very focused on maximising safety for everyone involved. For maximum accuracy of ABAdog, you should employ a dog trainer to observe your dog and then help you to fill in the answers together.

No, at ABAdog we do not believe that dominance is required to explain aggression in dogs. Our methods of treating aggression aim to be conflict free and without the use of any aversive punishment. If you believe that your dog has dominance aggression or other problems with dominance then you should certainly do the ABAdog questionnaire and we will provide an alternative behavioural explanation and advice for managing the behaviour. For more information, please view this link

Yes, ABAdog® does not provide advice on all behavioural issues as some are likely to be caused by problems that require a veterinarian to diagnose - they can provided a true mechanistic diagnosis (e.g. separation anxiety - including an understanding of the mechanism behind the behavioural syndrome). However, all common behavioural conditions are included in ABAdog as phenotypic diagnoses (simply a description of the behaviour, no diagnosis of the underlying mechanism). ABAdog does not advise on the following behavioural conditions:

  • Protective aggression where the dog is protecting other dogs or animals
  • Medical causes of behavioural conditions: however it will suggest when medical causes may be possible and recommend an appropriate veterinary check-up
  • Dominance aggression: while very unlikely and rare, this type of aggression could theoretically occur and will never be diagnosed by ABAdog. If you believe that your dog may have dominance aggression then it is still recommended that you perform the assessment. Alternative explanations for the behaviours you believe to be due to dominance will be offered. The treatment options given will still be relevant in the unlikely event that your dog did have dominance aggression. Dominance aggression is extremely over diagnosed by laypeople and professionals alike.
  • Impulse control aggression: Despite not making this particular diagnosis, other diagnoses of aggression will be made that provide useful advice to fix this problem regardless
  • Dangerous dogs: the level of danger that a dog poses to the public cannot be accurately gauged through a questionnaire by the owner of a dog. This includes danger caused by the dog towards other people, animals or destruction of property.
  • Depression
  • Hyperactivity
  • Puppy related behaviour problems (for dogs under 6 months of age)

Some protocols which may be recommended in some situations such as teaching your dog to sit, stay, lie down, crate training or come are not included. For these, you are recommended to seek the help of a professional dog trainer. The complete list of what is included can be found on this link: link_to(features page)

Neither, ABAdog does not diagnose behavioural problems as understood by their mechanism (mechanistic diagnosis). It simply gives relevant information on all the behavioural problems that your dog could possibly have given the responses to your questionnaire (based on the phenotype, or presumptive phenotypic diagnosis). However it intelligently rules out a large number of problems that would be very unlikely given your response. Despite this, there is a tendency to give you information on a problem even if it is unlikely that it exists. For this reason, the report may sometimes have details on things that you feel were not very important to you. Regardless, the information is designed to be useful whether or not the behavioural problem is severe. On the other hand, inaccurate responses will tend to lack information that the owner does not notice, and so may miss out behavioural problems that are in fact present. This can lead to a behavioural report that is lacking some important information. For this reason you may wish to fill out the questionnaire after your dog trainer has observed your dog, which will increase its accuracy.

3 ways. A user could select a behaviour that does not exist, or omit a behaviour that does exist. Or the dog may not have displayed the behaviour yet, but begins to display the behaviour after completing the test.

No – maximum one questionnaire at a time. You must finish it before you will be able to start another ABAdog questionnaire. If you help other people to do the ABAdog questionnaire, it is recommended that they set up their own account rather than doing it through your account.

Are you a veterinarian and animal behaviour specialist? Are you a dog behaviour researcher with a relevant PhD and one or more scientific publications in reputable scientific journals? If so you can contribute to ABAdog. You can do this by reviewing potential errors in the reports that your clients receive. The edit could be a trivial grammatical or spelling mistake. Alternatively, the suggested edit could contribute some meaningfully new information to one specific section of the report. The information can be conditional such that it only applies to certain dogs with specific situations. Your contribution will be reviewed by a senior ABAdog editor and if it is deemed to be novel to ABAdog, common enough to include in ABAdog and as being of value to be added to the report, then it may be included. At this stage we will not offer any compensation for your contribution. However, if the edit is accepted we can retroactively update all the reports of your clients and ensure all new reports also include the changes. If you are interested please contact us, there is the option for you to have a customisable account where you can enter your own report template to base the report on!