Issues

NIH Creating $390,798 Website to Teach Kids Dog Safety

Feds fund project designed to reduce number of dog bites

Puppy / AP

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is spending nearly $400,000 to build a website for kids to learn how to be safe with their pet dogs.

The government tasked the University of Alabama Birmingham (UAB) with creating "A Website to Teach Children Safety with Dogs," which will then be tested on four to six-year-olds.

"Several programs exist to reduce pediatric dog bite risk, but few are empirically- supported or theoretically-motivated," a grant for the project states. "None are widely disseminated. This study builds from existing child dog bite prevention programs to develop and then evaluate a website to teach children safe interactions with dogs."

The two-year project has cost $390,798. The grant argues that the website is needed because dog bites result in over 800,000 doctor visits, 6,000 hospitalizations, and 12 deaths a year in the United States.

The website is being designed to "help children and their parents perceive personal vulnerability to bites."

"Besides teaching children, the website will educate parents via an innovative messaging system triggered by child attainment of points and ‘skill levels,’" the grant said.

Several websites already offer safety tips for how children should interact with dogs to avoid being bitten, "Doggone Safe," "Doggone Crazy," "Safe Kids Safe Dogs," and "Be a Tree" among them.

David C. Schwebel, Ph.D., a psychology professor at UAB who is leading the project, told the Washington Free Beacon that the website is still under development and will not be public for "some time."

"We likely will only publicize it if it is effective in teaching children the skills we hope to teach them," he said. "We will make it semi-public within a few months for an evaluation study."

Schwebel said that the website is unique, but builds off other interventions.

"As one prominent example, we are focused especially on three cognitive factors that place young children at risk of dog bites: poor impulse control, poor ability to recognize details, and poor ability to take the dog’s perspective," Schwebel said. "We are creating a website that will have interactive games and videos that help children learn those critical cognitive skills that will make them safer with pet dogs at home."

Once completed, the website will be tested on 68 children.