It is estimated that every year around 4.5 million people are bitten by a dog, and about 70 percent are children. Often, the bite is from a dog the child is familiar with, and usually it happens because the child doesn’t know the proper way to interact with the dog. According to the CDC, the most severe dog bites occur with children ages 5 to 9 years old.
After a search for resources to help educate children about dogs came up with little to nothing, the dog food company PEDIGREE decided to create its own resource, a phone app called A Dog’s Story. According to Oliver Downs, Marketing Director at parent company MARS Petcare, the app is “based around eight core lessons providing a fundamental understanding of the most important and commonly unknown guidelines around dog safety, such as how to greet a dog safely, how to pat them, how to behave when they are eating, and what to do if one runs towards you.”
He continues, “if the child chooses a wrong answer, such as patting the dog incorrectly, the characters will tell them why it’s not right and the dog will behave accordingly. When correct answers are chosen, the child is told why it’s the right thing to do.”
The app is designed for kids age 6 to 8 years of age, and the graphics and language are both very kid-friendly. It was created in New Zealand, so the voices have an accent and some of the words are spelled the British way (behaviour, for example), but that wasn’t too distracting.
I really like how the app has a parent section that explains topics, gives suggestions for what to do if your child is afraid of dogs, and answers FAQs. Throughout the app, there is evidence of positive practices, and the company encourages parents to look at how their behavior and language could be influencing their child’s opinion of dogs.
The lessons themselves are fun and interactive. There is a general story line about a boy looking for his dog, and along the way he comes across several people with their dogs. There are always a couple choices for the child to choose from (one “right” and one “wrong”), and the choice is either reinforced for being the right one, or it is explained why it is the wrong choice. There are also fun little extras built in, like the bridge doubles as a xylophone when the boy runs across it, or the tree that tells jokes.
For the most part, the lessons are great; however, in the “How to Pat the Dog,” the app encourages the child to pat the dog on her shoulder, and the boy demonstrates this by walking around and putting his arm over the dog to pet her, which is not what I would recommend. I always suggest patting a dog’s chest or scratching ears — and never come from above.
The lessons include a variety of fun characters (like a hot dog vendor and a yeti) and colorful settings (the seasons change as the boy goes through all the lessons). After each lesson, you get a golden paw. At the end, the boy meets up with dog guru to review all of the lessons.
Overall, the only lesson I wasn’t really impressed by was the patting lesson. Other than that, I liked everything about the app, and would recommend it to any parent of a young child. Whether you have a dog or not, your child could come across a dog a the park or at a friend’s house, and you want them to know how to respect the dog and be safe.