An Evaluation of a Pet Ownership Education Program for School Children
Authors: Coleman, Grahame J.; Hall, Margaret J.; Hay, Margaret
Source: Anthrozoos: A Multidisciplinary Journal of The Interactions of People & Animals, 1 September 2008, vol. 21, no. 3, pp. 271-284(14)
Abstract:Children aged 5 to 6 years are disproportionately susceptible to dog bite attacks relative to the adult population and there is a need to provide them with well-validated education programs to teach correct behavior when interacting with dogs. The main aim of this study was to assess the immediate and longer-term learning outcomes of the Responsible Pet Ownership Program (RPOP), delivered to young Australian children in their preparatory year of primary schooling. A further aim was to investigate the impact of class size on learning outcomes of the RPOP. Children's ability to identify potentially dangerous dogs through canine body language, their knowledge of how to interact with dogs, and their knowledge of aspects of responsible pet ownership were assessed by measuring the immediate (within 2 weeks following the RPOP) and delayed (2 and 4 months post-RPOP) retention of this knowledge. Preparatory-aged children who had participated in the RPOP showed a better capacity to correctly identify emotions in cartoon, photographic, and video depictions of dogs than did those children who had not. In general, this effect did not persist 4 months after completion of the RPOP. In the case of the photographic presentations, children could correctly identify an angry dog, although this had disappeared in the groups that were assessed 2 and 4 months after the program. Children's role-play responses to interacting with a dog and its owner persisted for 4 months after the RPOP. In general, children did not identify dog behaviors that were relevant to the emotions of anger, fear, or happiness that had not been included in the RPOP. This suggests that there is specificity in the knowledge that the children received from the program. Children's knowledge of responsible pet ownership was higher for those who had just been through the program compared with those who had not. There was little evidence of retention of this information 2 and 4 months after instruction. Results suggest that the test measures used are appropriate to assess the effects of the program with young children. That little longer-term retention of information (especially 4 months post-RPOP) was evident indicates the need for follow-up instruction to improve the longer-term learning outcomes of the RPOP.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: 2008-09-01T00:00:00