March 03, 2010 03:19 PM

Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham are hoping to save some little fingers by testing an educational computer game geared toward preventing dog bites in children. Called “The Blue Dog,” the game uses visual cues to teach young ones to recognize the warning signs associated with annoyed or aggressive dogs.

Though already available to families ($8 through the American Veterinary Medical Association), the game is still being evaluated for effectiveness. “My expectation is that we’re going to find the software is teaching children something,” professor Dr. David Schwebel of UAB tells “We think it’s a program that can accomplish what hasn’t been attempted: Teaching kids how to stay safe with the dogs in the home.”

Schwebel and graduate student Aaron Davis have been meeting with kids ages 3 1/2 to 6 for the past several weeks, evaluating the risks they’re willing to take with a real dog after using the program. “It’s obvious the ones who’ve played the game because they make better choices,” Davis explains. “They’re more likely to tell their parents about what’s happening, or leave the room.”

The dogs used in the study are therapy dogs from the Delta Society, so they don’t pose a real threat to the pint-sized test subjects, who all have dogs at home. “The child is asked if they want to brush, feed or throw a ball to the dog,” Schwebel explains. “Then we can see how close the child is willing to get to the dog < and how much risk is involved.”

“This is an area that has received very little attention,” Schwebel continues. “We know that dogs are great pets, and have a lot of positive health benefits, but they’re animals and can be dangerous, especially to children. If The Blue Dog software is effective, it’ll be great to really get it out to the public, and make sure children are taught to safely interact with pets.”

Click above for a demo of the computer game. And, tell us, do you think a game like this can help prevent dog bites? Leave your thoughts below.

Read about more pet-related research studies on
New University Study Says Dogs Reduce Need for Meds
Study: Babies Can Best Understand Barking Dogs

You May Like