A preliminary study to estimate contact rates between free-roaming domestic dogs using novel miniature cameras.

Bombara, Courtenay B; Dürr, Salome Esther; Machovsky-Capuska, Gabriel E; Jones, Peter W; Ward, Michael P (2017). A preliminary study to estimate contact rates between free-roaming domestic dogs using novel miniature cameras. PLoS ONE, 12(7), e0181859. Public Library of Science 10.1371/journal.pone.0181859

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Information on contacts between individuals within a population is crucial to inform disease control strategies, via parameterisation of disease spread models. In this study we investigated the use of dog-borne video cameras-in conjunction with global positioning systems (GPS) loggers-to both characterise dog-to-dog contacts and to estimate contact rates. We customized miniaturised video cameras, enclosed within 3D-printed plastic cases, and attached these to nylon dog collars. Using two 3400 mAh NCR lithium Li-ion batteries, cameras could record a maximum of 22 hr of continuous video footage. Together with a GPS logger, collars were attached to six free roaming domestic dogs (FRDDs) in two remote Indigenous communities in northern Australia. We recorded a total of 97 hr of video footage, ranging from 4.5 to 22 hr (mean 19.1) per dog, and observed a wide range of social behaviours. The majority (69%) of all observed interactions between community dogs involved direct physical contact. Direct contact behaviours included sniffing, licking, mouthing and play fighting. No contacts appeared to be aggressive, however multiple teeth baring incidents were observed during play fights. We identified a total of 153 contacts-equating to 8 to 147 contacts per dog per 24 hr-from the videos of the five dogs with camera data that could be analysed. These contacts were attributed to 42 unique dogs (range 1 to 19 per video) which could be identified (based on colour patterns and markings). Most dog activity was observed in urban (houses and roads) environments, but contacts were more common in bushland and beach environments. A variety of foraging behaviours were observed, included scavenging through rubbish and rolling on dead animal carcasses. Identified food consumed included chicken, raw bones, animal carcasses, rubbish, grass and cheese. For characterising contacts between FRDD, several benefits of analysing videos compared to GPS fixes alone were identified in this study, including visualisation of the nature of the contact between two dogs; and inclusion of a greater number of dogs in the study (which do not need to be wearing video or GPS collars). Some limitations identified included visualisation of contacts only during daylight hours; the camera lens being obscured on occasion by the dog's mandible or the dog resting on the camera; an insufficiently wide viewing angle (36°); battery life and robustness of the deployments; high costs of the deployment; and analysis of large volumes of often unsteady video footage. This study demonstrates that dog-borne video cameras, are a feasible technology for estimating and characterising contacts between FRDDs. Modifying camera specifications and developing new analytical methods will improve applicability of this technology for monitoring FRDD populations, providing insights into dog-to-dog contacts and therefore how disease might spread within these populations.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


05 Veterinary Medicine > Research Foci > Veterinary Public Health / Herd Health Management
05 Veterinary Medicine > Department of Clinical Research and Veterinary Public Health (DCR-VPH) > Veterinary Public Health Institute
05 Veterinary Medicine > Department of Clinical Research and Veterinary Public Health (DCR-VPH)

UniBE Contributor:

Dürr, Salome Esther


500 Science > 590 Animals (Zoology)
600 Technology > 630 Agriculture




Public Library of Science




Susanne Agnes Lerch

Date Deposited:

22 May 2018 11:47

Last Modified:

23 Oct 2019 08:30

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:






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