Evaluation of Dog School USA

Project Lead: Dr Lauren Harris

Key people: Dr Robert Christley

 

Project background and summary

Dogs Trust Dog School is a scheme that delivers training classes for owners and their dogs across the UK and will be launching in the USA in May 2020. The aim of Dog School USA is to offer affordable online dog training classes to puppy and rescue dog owners, giving owners and dogs the foundations, they need to develop a strong bond, cope with domestic life and avoid some of the common pitfalls which lead to behaviour problems. 

Background research in the pilot areas (New York and LA) found that access for dog owners to good training and behaviour support to be limited for a number of reasons:

  • We found many trainers to use aversive methods rather than as we do, reward-based training only.
  • In many cases where training was available it was very expensive, and cost was prohibitive for many owners.
  • Many charities are overwhelmed by the number of dogs entering their care and therefore their resources are used for the everyday care of the dogs and therefore post adoption support for owners can be limited, despite the charities realizing the importance and value of that support.

The aim of this study is to assess the impact that participation in the Dog School programme has on attendees. We will collect data on the profile of participants, their attitudes toward dogs and dog training and the learning outcomes for participants. We would also like to look at the longer-term outcomes for participants and their dogs. By comparing the effects of demographic variables on learning outcomes, we can learn more about our target audience, which may help inform decisions regarding locations and format of future DS classes

 

The problem, and its context within Dogs Trust.

The aim of Dog School is to help owners build strong and healthy relationships with their dogs, in order to help prevent the development of behaviour problems in the future (Please see www.dogstrustdogschool.org.uk for more information)

It is hoped to address the issue of unwanted behaviours/ behaviour problems in dogs in the USA leading to their surrender by

  1. Increasing awareness of positive reward-based training as an accessible, affordable option for dog owners
  2. Teaching owners and their dogs how to overcome and prevent potential behavioural issues that could lead to surrender.
  3. Effecting a cultural change in attitude towards dogs and their behaviour and training needs 

Participants will complete questionnaires before and immediately after participation in the programme, with a follow-up survey to be delivered three months later to assess longer-term outcomes. The study will compare answers before and after participation in order to measure learning outcomes/ behaviour changes.

Dog School USA will be working with partner charities to offer training to their adopters in order to support those owners when they first start out their new life with their rescue dogs. The hope is that this will reduce the workload that charities experience with support required by new dog owners as well as reduce the chances of those dogs being abandoned or relinquished in the future due to behaviour problems. We also intend to extend these classes to new puppy owners in the local rea, through the charities stakeholders to try and reduce the risk of those dogs being the abandoned dogs of the future.

 

Publications

This project is still in the early stages, keep an eye out for future publications!