Does Dog Software Bite? Testing of New Computer Program Aims to Find out
Filed under: In The News
Call it bytes versus bites.
New computer software may help kids avoid getting bitten by dogs. First, psychologists at the University of Alabama want to find out if it works.
They need 100 children ages 3 to 6 from the Birmingham, Ala., area with at least one dog at home to test the software.
Kids and their parents will be given the Blue Dog software program, which presents a series of games to teach children to stop pulling dogs' tails and ears and staring directly into their eyes.
Those things often upset dogs and put them in a biting mood, psychologist David Schwebel, director of the university's Youth Safety Lab, tells EurekAlert.org, a Web site of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
"Dogs are wonderful companions that bring great happiness to millions of children and their families," Schwebel tells the site. "But we must remember that dogs are animals, and that they can have the potential to bite young children who don't realize it is dangerous to reach for dogs in the face or to try to play with dogs that are sleeping or eating."
Each year, as many as 4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly one in five [about 885,000 people] suffer injuries severe enough to require medical attention. Among children, the rate of dog bite related injuries is highest for those ages 5 to 9.
The new software was developed by the Blue Dog Trust in England. Researchers will observe the children's behavior with a live dog to evaluate the program's effectiveness.
"If this computer game successfully teaches young children to interact safely with their pet dogs," Schwebel tells EurekAlert, "it could have enormous impact on reducing accidental bites from pet dogs."
Related: Preventing Dog Bites on Your Run
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