A Video Game To Keep Children From Being Savaged By Wild Dogs

University of Guelph professor Barbara Morrongiello doesn't want your children to be eaten by dogs, so she's created a video game that will teach kids how to avoid catastrophic canine confrontations.

Dogs are man's best friend, but they aren't all that sure about children. I can relate. Children can be downright terrifying, and while our canine companions are generally on their best behaviour, the loud shrieking, sudden movement and occasional spooky laughter that emanates from our species' young can cause even the most peaceful pooch to ponder taking a bite out of them. Hell, I've come close myself.

Barbara Morrongiello wants to help children avoid being the target of dog wrath, which is a noble endeavour if I've ever heard one. To that end, she and a group of researchers from Belgium have developed The Blue Dog, a video game designed to help kids recognise situations in which their otherwise friendly pets might get snappy.

The goal of the game is to "impact children's knowledge of dogs and understanding of dog behaviour," so they can safely interact with them and avoid getting bit, says Morrongiello. She says children have a "false sense of security" when it comes to their own dogs and don't understand that you can't safely do everything you do with your own dog with other ones.

It's the truth. Between cartoons, movies and the way we coddle our own pets, we're training children that dogs are all cuddly bundles of love and affection, like stuffed animals. Wild street dogs, wolves, coyotes, and yes, dingoes take offence when you treat them like stuffed animals.

Before playing The Blue Dog, children are tested on their current knowledge of dog behaviour via a series of photos that depict dogs in various safe and unsafe situations. Once their knowledge is assessed, the children are free to take home the game and play it for a few weeks.

The game is basically a series of scenarios with wrong and right ways to react. If the child chooses incorrectly, the in-game dog will bear its teeth and growl, letting the player know it made the wrong choice. In effect, she's using dog training techniques on children. I find this oddly pleasing.

Morrongiello plans to use a similar format to create a game that teaches children about fire safety. I'm interested to see how she implements the growling and teeth baring.

U of G professor uses video game to teach dog safety [GuelphMercury.com]


    I have raised Newfoundlands for 15 years and now specialise in large breed dog sitting. While Newfs enjoy a generally calm temperment and are reputed to be great child minders I would never have left a young child unsupervised with even my St Johns Ambulance medalled therapy dog who was virtually bomb proof. I trust the dog to be a dog and not a saint. I would never trust the little child so....this program sounds both sensible and long overdue. Btw: as a teacher of first year highschoolers, I found basic canine obedience training techniques phenomenally useful. "HAH!! WAAaaaaiiiIT! sit,...and gooooooood students! you are soooo clever! etc" with lots of praise. It worked every time. They never clued in. And we still had lots of educational fun.

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