A team of researchers has developed a computer game that is designed to entertain children and educate them about the right way to behave around dogs. Children are some of the most frequent victims of dog bites in the United States, and Los Angeles dog bite lawyers are hopeful that using computer software like this can help inculcate safe practices among children. However, the researchers found limited success in helping children translate what they had learned in the game into real-world environments.
The software program called The Blue Dog has been developed by a nonprofit organization called the Blue Dog Trust. The game consists of a number of animated scenarios, in which children can choose different actions. For instance, the child can choose whether to play with a dog that is eating. If the child makes the wrong choice in the game, the animated dog snarls or growls.
Researchers at the University of Alabama, Birmingham wanted to analyze how successful the program was in encouraging safe behavior around dogs. They recruited a total of 76 children. The children were between 3 and 5 years old. The children were given 3 tasks. They were exposed to animated dogs in different situations, and asked questions about how they would react to the dog in each case. Then there was make-believe play using a doll house and dolls. Finally, the children were taken into another room, where there was a real dog. They were rated on their reactions and their behaviors around the dog. They were then given the Blue Dog Software, and were told to use the program often. After 3 weeks, the children came back to the lab, and were put through the same steps again.
The results after the 3 weeks were mixed. The researchers found that the children did learn the right behaviors around dogs after using the software program. However, they were unable to transfer the same safe behaviors to the real environment. In other words, they were unable to practice in the real world, what they had learned on the software program. It appears that the program needs some modifications that encourage a practical application of these learned behaviors.