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Amy Morris, from The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine class of 2010, was awarded the third-place prize in the 2009 Hill's Pet Nutrition Inc. Innovations in Public Health award. This award is designed to stimulate interest in veterinary public health, encourage creative thinking, and to develop creative writing skills among veterinary students.
Candidates for the award wrote and submitted innovative proposals for scholarship assistance that were judged on a variety of criteria including clarity, the plan's objectives, implementation and feasibility, innovation in approach to public health or disease prevention, and the potential impact on a community or target population.
Morris developed the idea to use clicker training and positive reinforcement to teach dogs to demonstrate 12 safety commands. These dogs would then be used to demonstrate commands to young children. "The handler might say, Spot what do you do when you see a fire, and the dog stops, drops and rolls," Morris said. "Or, 'what do you do when you smell smoke?', and the dog crawls along the floor on his belly."
The program not only teaches safety to children, but it also enriches the lives of dogs who would otherwise be considered for abandonment to shelters, by providing them with a creative outlet for energy that can sometimes be channeled into destructive behaviors, Morris said.
"These commands are easy to teach, a dog can practice all 12 commands in the time it takes to make a cup of coffee or during a commercial break, it's fun for the owner and the dog, it's mentally stimulating to the dog, and it's a point of pride for the owners," which strengthens the human-animal bond, Morris said.
Morris believes the program has the potential to provide a positive and structured volunteer opportunity to high school students, particularly those in urban areas who would assist in the program. The program is also a great tool to teach children about animal safety, and to help them to feel more comfortable around dogs.
"Most victims of dog bites are children, and parents statistically aren't good evaluators of what is unsafe behavior around a dog," Morris said. "The second half of the program is a discussion of animal safety, especially dogs, and kids can practice greeting the dog one by one, supervised by the handler, presenter, and an assistant. Kids who learn how to be safe around dogs-not to hug dogs, not to approach strange dogs without permission, or not to run from dogs if they're scared-are less likely to be bitten, and dogs who don't bite children are less likely to be relinquished or euthanized."
Morris said she got the idea for the program from seeing a fire station use a Dalmatian to teach elementary students to stop, drop and roll.
Morris received a cash award in recognition of her commitment to improving public safety. "I was so pleased to receive this award, because it meant that my idea would be available for other people to see, so they could establish a 'Paws a Moment - Think Safety!' program in their own communities, or could even improve upon my idea," Morris said.
Posted by Holly Davis
July 9, 2009
About the College of Veterinary Medicine at Ohio State
Founded in 1885, The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine is ranked fifth in the nation and includes more than 1,000 faculty, staff and students in the Departments of Veterinary Biosciences, Veterinary Clinical Sciences, and Veterinary Preventive Medicine. The Veterinary Medical Center is one of the largest specialty referral centers in the world, with more than 35,000 farm, equine, and companion animal patients each year. A nationally-recognized ambulatory practice and teaching unit in Marysville, Ohio provides farm animal experience to every veterinary student, and the Food Animal Health Research Program in Wooster, OH focuses on detection, control, and prevention of disease. Located on the only campus in the country with a comprehensive medical center offering seven health sciences colleges, we admit up to 162 veterinary students per class, and offer a new comprehensive graduate program in Veterinary and Comparative Medicine as well as a unique Master’s degree in Veterinary Public Health, in partnership with the College of Public Health. http://vet.osu.edu.