The effect of educating children and adolescents on preventing dog bite injuries

Dog bites can cause significant injuries leading to death or long-lasting disability. The education of children in the school setting could improve their knowledge and attitude towards dogs and encourage safer behaviour around them. The authors of this systematic review examined studies that determined the effectiveness of educational programmes for children and adolescents in preventing dog bite injuries. The educational programmes aimed to change the children and adolescents behaviour towards dogs.

Two studies were included in this review. Both were of moderate methodological quality and evaluated the effectiveness of educating children on preventing dog bite injuries. Both studies involved a 30-minute lesson. One study additionally compared the effect of educating the children's parents through a leaflet. One study videotaped the way children behaved when exposed to an unknown dog, and their behaviour was observed. The main outcome reported in both studies was a change in behaviour.

It is unclear from this review whether educating children can reduce dog bite injuries as dog bite rates were not reported as an outcome in either of the included studies. The effect of educating children and adolescents in settings other than schools has not been evaluated. There is a general lack of evidence about the impact of education to prevent dog bites in children and adolescents, therefore further studies that look at dog bite rates after an intervention are recommended. Education of children and adolescents should not be the only public health strategy to reduce dog bites and their dramatic consequences.

Authors' conclusions: 

There is no direct evidence that educational programmes can reduce dog bite rates in children and adolescents. Educating children who are less than 10 years old in school settings could improve their knowledge, attitude and behaviour towards dogs. Educating children and adolescents in settings other than schools should also be evaluated. There is a need for high quality studies that measure dog bite rates as an outcome. To date, evidence does not suggest that educating children and adolescents is effective as a unique public health strategy to reduce dog bite injuries and their consequences.

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Background: 

Dog bites can have dramatic consequences for children and adolescents. Educating young people on how to interact with dogs could contribute to reducing dog bite injuries.

Objectives: 

To determine the effectiveness of educational interventions that target children and adolescents in reducing dog bite injuries and their consequences.

Search strategy: 

We searched the following databases: The Cochrane Injuries Group’s Specialised Register, CENTRAL (The Cochrane Library Issue 3, 2008), CAB Abstracts, Zetoc, SIGLE, MEDLINE, EMBASE, ERIC, PsycInfo, SPECTR, CINAHL, National Research Register, LILACs, African Healthline, Science Citation Index, Social Science Citation Index, CurrentClinicalTrials.Gov, Centrewatch, Controlledtrials.com, Vetgate and the WHO database. We checked the bibliographies of relevant reviews and trials and also contacted experts in the field. The searches were carried out to 18 July 2008.

Selection criteria: 

We included randomised controlled trials and controlled before-after studies that evaluated the effectiveness of educational interventions, in populations under 20 years old, for preventing dog bites.

Data collection and analysis: 

Two review authors selected eligible studies based on information from the title and abstract. Two review authors decided on the inclusion of eligible trials and extracted data from the trial reports. We contacted authors of eligible studies to obtain more information.

Main results: 

Two studies met the inclusion criteria. No study looked at our main outcome: dog bite rates. The included studies were randomised controlled trials conducted in kindergarten and primary schools. Their methodology was of moderate quality. One study showed that the intervention group showed less 'inappropriate behaviour' when observed in the presence of a dog after a 30-minute educational intervention. Another study showed an increase in knowledge and in caution after an information programme.

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