A free dog training app will soon be available to help owners teach their pets to leave koalas and other wildlife alone.

Wild and domestic dogs are the third most significant threat to koalas (after habitat clearing and road trauma) with around 100 koalas taken to Moggill Koala Hospital, Currumbin Wildlife Hospital and Australian Wildlife Hospital each year following dog attacks.

The ‘Leave It’ app has been developed by the Social Marketing @ Griffith team along with Ryan Tate from Tate Animals following a grant from WIRES Wildlife Rescue.

The app aims to reduce injuries to wildlife while also keeping our dogs safe, and contains a series of modules addressing different behaviours including recall, walking on a lead, crate training and how to train your dog to ignore wildlife, so dog owners can choose which behaviour they want to work on.

For each behaviour, the trainer explains the steps, then the app gives owners time and reminders so they can put these steps into action.

Project lead Dr Sharyn Rundle-Thiele said ‘Leave It’ was developed after conducting research with dog owners to understand what they needed.

Dr Sharyn Rundle-Thiele at DogFest

Dr Sharyn Rundle-Thiele (centre) at DogFest

“Dogs have a predatory instinct and are likely to chase off something they don’t know, like a koala that’s come down a tree in a yard,” she said.

“Just a scratch can kill a koala, so we wanted to find a way to prevent this from happening.

“Dog owners told us they wanted something fun that shows them what to do, and they wanted it to be about all forms of wildlife.”

Initially starting as a four-week in-person training program, the team recognised the limitations of getting experts to every region and people being too busy or time poor to get to training sessions.

Dr Rundle-Thiele said the in-person program reduced koala deaths from dog attacks by 40 per cent, and they’re hoping to see further improvements from an app that’s available for owners to use anywhere, anytime, at their own convenience and free of charge.

“The more dogs are trained to Leave It, the faster we can coexist next to nature.”

The app is set to be launched at the ‘DogFest’ event in Redlands on 6 November 2022–a free community event all about dogs and dog owners featuring dog-friendly stallholders, human-friendly food trucks, live entertainment, activities, demonstrations, and wildlife avoidance sessions.

If you can’t make it to DogFest, you can sign up for the Leave It app waiting list.