The majority of dog bite prevention measures are presumably readily understood by most adults, but since the majority of dog bites are inflicted to children, a reasonable goal would be to communicate with children on a level they understand, and a new software program teaching children dog bite prevention makes this attempt. Computer software entitled Blue Dog using colorful animation, presents to a child a number of different scenarios regarding potential interactions with a dog, and lets the child make choices about the course of action specific to each scenario, along with the consequences of any particular action. Spoken words are not used.
For example, in one scenario a child is presented with a dog sleeping on a couch. The child must interact with the program, and if it chooses to click on arrow that points to the dog, then the dog wakes up and snarls. Alternatively, if the child clicks on the arrow points to the door, and an adult enters the room and tells the dog to move to its bed on the floor. The software is designed for the parent to take the child through the program and to explain what happens in each situation and to explain to the child the consequences of each choice the child makes. The software is aimed for children between three and six years.
Research currently being conducetd (March, 2010) at the University of Alabama, Birmingham uses the Blue Dog software to to further understand why children are bitten by dogs. Researchers have children play with dolls and dog figurines, and then play with a live, placid dog. Videos of the the interactions in each situation are made for before-and after comparisons. The hypothesis is that there may be a style of playful interaction which make some children more prone to be bitten by dogs. Between video recording session children are instructed using the Blue Dog software program to determine if the instructional software had an effect on the child’s style of play during follow-up play sessions. Control subjects are shown software that is unrelated to dogs. Results of the study have not been published at the time of this posting.
The Blue Dog Parent Guide and CD is available in the United States through the American Veterinary Medical Association for about $10.