Why should I use the Blue Dog in my practice?
It is clear we can no longer consider animal health and welfare in isolation of human health and welfare. “Aggression” in dogs is one of the main reasons that pet dogs are given up to shelters or indeed euthanased. Bites in young children in their own home result in a significant number of injuries each year that require medical treatment. So dog bites are an issue that spans both human and animal welfare and it is essential veterinarians have a role, not only in investigating the causes, but communicating current ideas to the public.
Opportunity to work closer with human health care professionals
Some health care professionals see the problem only from the child injury perspective, and so may call for a ban on the keeping of dogs. However, there is much scientific evidence showing the positive benefits to human health and child development of having a dog in the family. The challenge is therefore to devise safe ways of living with dogs such that families can enjoy all the benefits but reduce the risks of harm. Fortunately this is possible, but the first step is admitting the risks exist.
The Blue Dog was developed by a team of professionals from multi-disciplines, including veterinarians, behaviourists, dog trainers, paediatricians, child psychologists, school teachers, artists and communication scientists. To be most effective at a local level it would be preferable to develop a liaison group of interested people from these disciplines. At the very least, veterinarians should strive to have closer links with local health care professionals.
Educating the public about the reality of bites
If one accepts the arguments about “one health”, then clearly veterinarians have an important role in public education. It is essential that the message is scientifically correct and that all the various interested professional groups are giving the same message. It is also essential that the prevention message is given in a style that is most likely to alter the behaviour of the target group in the appropriate way.
Opportunity to work closer with local schools / community
Education can be targeted at any age group, but is probably most effective with children. Remember though, teachers are the professionals in the classroom, and it is important that they guide the lesson in whatever way they think to be best.
Helping to enhance the caring image of the practice
The points discussed above illustrate moral reasons why veterinarians should promote the Blue Dog in their clinics and the community. However, promoting a caring image is also “marketing” and so has a financial spin-off.
The black and white photo shows the author in a local school in the 1980’s. Many of the children shown are now parents with children at the same school – and some are clients at out clinic, maybe as a result of the school programmes all those years ago! The Blue Dog offers a more structured way of being involved in schools and the community.