Doghouse founders Alex and Harrison met in 2018 when Alex was looking for help with his two dogs Bacci and Nero. Their shared experience provided them with a desire to improve the quality of life for dogs and dog companions around the world.
Bacci was a puppy when Alex acquired him from a private breeder and following his success with training and bonding with Bacci, Alex decided to rescue another dog, Nero. Nero was found tied to a lamppost by the highway in Hungary. Alex saw a post about him on Facebook and saw that there was a lot of interest in him, over 400 people had responded to the post, but even after some time Nero had not found a home. Alex wrote and asked why Nero was still looking for a home and was told that when they told potential owners about Nero’s ‘issues’ nobody would take him and so they were going to put him to sleep. Alex immediately told them he would take Nero no matter what the issues were.
After some checks to see if Alex (and Bacci) would be a good fit for Nero he arrived in the early hours of a winter morning and they were waiting to welcome him to Berlin and his new home.
Due to his difficult history, Nero provided a bit of a challenge and unfortunately, at this time Alex’s workload increased and so he was struggling to give Nero the attention he would need to be properly trained. Alex saw how the dogs were suffering without extra walks from the ones he was doing and even these were tough, as the dogs were not getting along great. As well as this, Nero and Bacci were not yet comfortable with each other, they had issues coexisting in an apartment, which also served as Alex’s office.
This is when Alex got in contact with Harrison to get some assistance and Harrison began to work with the dogs.
Harrison had been a walker for many years, it had served to provide some extra finance while traveling but when he moved to Berlin his goal was to make it his full-time occupation. Harrison grew up surrounded by animals in Ireland; horses, dogs, cats, chickens, and even cows. He had rarely encountered behavioral issues from the animals in this more rural setting and was coming across it with more and more regularity in the city. He could see that dogs and their handlers were having a considerably more stressful time than he was used to encountering.
With Nero and Bacci he was faced with his biggest challenge yet. However, he was determined to help and so began to study methods to add to his knowledge of animal behavior that he had accumulated during his youth in Ireland, and that had resulted in successful training experiences with other dogs.
At first, Harrison walked them on the busy Maybachufer where he quickly encountered problems. Due to the high level of stimuli on the street, the dogs could not relax and so were difficult to walk.
So he decided the next step was to get the dogs used to a routine. He would walk them separately but on the same route so that they could familiarise themselves with it and become more comfortable on their walks.
Over the first couple of weeks, the dogs began to settle and were more relaxed and confident on their walks but it was clear that they needed a lot more work, particularly the newly-adopted Nero who possessed many triggers.
Harrison proceeded with some basic lure and reward training, teaching basic eye contact, and proceeded to create a routine of leaving the house together calmly. From there they were able to slowly increase their walk together until they could leave the apartment complex. They then started expanding the routine around the block, working their way to the park where they could do some training together and both dogs could continue to improve at a safe distance from their triggers.
As things progressed Harrison continued to research different training methods and gather more experience from working with other dogs around Berlin. In doing this he became adept at building a schedule for individual dogs according to their needs.
Things improved further for the dogs when Alex decided to move out to Wiesensee, a quieter district of Berlin. Here Harrison could walk Nero and Bacci in more open spaces, with a forest and lake nearby, and could even allow them some investigation enrichment off-lead in a safe manner. Alex’s new home also had a garden, which contributed to a more harmonious home-life for the dogs and a safe space for training.
Another change came about with the coronavirus pandemic, during which Alex found he had more time at home with the dogs. Now that the dogs could walk together and run in the forest and garden they started to communicate and play. Nero was beginning to settle and so Alex and Harrison were able to work together to give the dogs the attention and time they needed to recuperate.
Harrison was also noticing how stressed a lot of dog’s handlers were becoming. The idea that getting a dog would be beneficial to their own stress, while simultaneously helping a dog in need seemed to be a common theme as to why people in Berlin were rescuing dogs. However, these handlers found themselves in deep waters as they tried to manage a rescue dog in a busy and unsuitable environment.
Over the last two years of working with Bacci and Nero Harrison compiled a lot of information that has been instrumental in getting the dogs to the happy and contented state they are now in; living life full of activities and enrichment, combined with communication skills and avenues to express themselves.
This new information coupled with the ten years of experience he had working with dogs in Ireland, and living with dogs as a baby formed the foundation of Doghouse.
The thought came to Alex and Harrison to take the ideas and methods used to help rehab Nero and enrich Bacci’s life, compiled from all the wonderful force-free trainers of the world whose content and advice was invaluable and bring it together in a simple and visually direct platform.
After teaming up with Rob, a very talented Irish illustrator, they began to develop behavioral content in a unique way. Very different from the standard dog apps you see on the market, the Woofbuzz style of content makes it a lot easier for the user to process information, combining short text with original art and illustration. This provides a visual cue as well as some short theory. This revolutionary way of providing the information is a far cry from the industry standard of super long articles and videos regularly exceeding the 10-minute mark. Now there is a way to process vast amounts of information in a short amount of time. Also, the content is provided in a fun and engaging way, always remaining available to revisit. Even better, the content is free.
From here Alex and Harrison continued to cultivate this idea of assisting dog-owners in a way that did not mirror the industry-standard, using creativity and personal experience to help enrich the lives of dogs and their handlers. This led to the beginning of some technological innovations. Currently, Doghouse is designing an amazing piece of lightweight hardware that has the ability to track your dog’s daily activity and exercise through an accelerometer and gyroscope and by tracking location and pulse to provide information on your dog’s sleeping habits.
The possibilities for using this data are endless. Being able to analyze and quantify your dog’s daily needs to ensure optimal exercise, rest, and enrichment are being achieved could really help the entire dog world. The software for this will be provided through the Woofbuzz app, where you will be able to see real-time updates and analysis.
Further to this, we have teamed up with the best API on the market for identifying the breed of your dog. Upon initiation of the app, you will be asked to take a picture of your dog in the sit position. Through this picture, the API can recognize the breeds present in your dog (from 300 registered breeds).
Doghouse is also trying to push boundaries on the health side of the dog world. We are building a network of veterinarians worldwide to provide online consultations for issues, medication advice, and general queries. We hope to provide tests for things like worming and allergies as well as the basic medication. We hope this will resolve some unnecessary stress for some dogs during vet visits. We are also developing our own dog-centered pet insurance that will be available through the app.
Doghouse is also building a team of professionals to supply more detailed and niche information for our daily blog, again strictly under the LIMA guidelines. We will gather all the top professionals in the world and give them a platform to provide their incredible experience. This will also connect the dots to some more specific issues that handlers may be facing. Here also users can find a direct way to contact some trainers if they need further help.
Later on our road map, we also plan to create a verified breeder network. This way we can standardize breeder practices and ensure ethical practices that all dogs can benefit from while giving users a direct source to breeders following LIMA guidelines.
We will also have a shop feature on the app. Our dream here was to make life a lot easier for users when trying to decide from the massive array of goods available. Our shop will only supply the highest level of goods, regardless of price. Our shop will only provide goods that our philosophy supports. This means no e-collars, prong collars, electric fences, or the likes. Again Doghouse acts under force-free guidelines. We will provide top-quality natural treats, chews, tug ropes, flirt poles, cognitive toys, harnesses, leads, food, and more.
While developing the platform one more thought arose to the founders. Most information sharing in the dog world was taking place on platforms like Facebook. This means that all the revenue generated for these discussions was going back into Facebook’s books. In order to enact long-lasting beneficial change for dogs, the world over Alex and Harrison decided that 15% of the revenue generated by Doghouse would be placed into a fund that participants on the app will then vote to decide how to use. Their dream is to have an immense and positive impact on the dog world by connecting and helping dog-owners, trainers, researchers, shelters, and veterinarians.
This wealth of professional knowledge will combine with the personal experiences of each user of the app to provide solutions and advice for any query or issue that could arise with your dog. We hope to make human-dog coexistence a much more positive experience for everyone by combining technology with animal science and art. We also hope to standardize a lot of practices that take place in the dog world.
This is the Doghouse story so far. Please come and join a revolution based on the needs of dogs. Join us and contribute to the Doghouse project!