1. Is Dogs Trust launching an education programme for the first time?
No. Dogs Trust already has an education programme that has been running in one form or another for over a decade. What started in 1999 with a handful of secondary school resources and a single Education Officer - who now runs the department - has become a nationwide scheme with 12 members of staff offering free school workshops in ten different regions across the UK.
Actually, it's not just the UK; Dogs Trust Ireland has its own programme, and we run training for overseas teaching staff too.
2. What does the education programme do?
The main aim of our education programme is to help children understand how to be responsible and safe with dogs. Our free school workshops, which are flexible and curriculum-linked, are a major part of that.
In addition, our education website www.learnwithdogs.org.uk hosts masses of pre-school, primary and secondary teaching resources and guidance notes. These can be used in addition to a workshop or on their own, so even if there's not an Education Officer in the area the information is still available and easily used in schools.
There are also games to help engage children with the topic, and resources and advice on running fundraising events.
3. Where does nintendogs™ + cats fit in? What is 'a dog is not a toy'? How did The Saturdays get involved?
nintendogs™ + cats is a real-time pet simulation video game for the Nintendo 3DS. Nintendo is donating Nintendo 3DS consoles and copies of the game so that, from September, Dogs Trust can use them in school.
The games will assist Education Officers in engaging children to think about what is involved in looking after a dog, from walking it to grooming it, to toilet training and the costs for all of this. The game allows children to put these skills to use in a safe, comfortable environment. Some will have never had any interaction with a dog so being able to build their confidence in the classroom is very beneficial. The children will also be taught about how to make an approach to a real life dog. So whether it means asking the owner first or not trying to wake a sleeping dog, this will all prove beneficial when the children come face-to-face with a real dog.
The partnership has actually existed for a number of years, since the first Nintendogs game was launched. You can watch a video of the previous game being used in the classroom in February 2009. The aim is to celebrate how rewarding owning a dog can be and remind dog owners of tomorrow that ‘a dog is not a toy’. It is also a response to the recent trend of dogs being treated as toys or fashion accessories and carried around in handbags. Dogs are not disposable items and any decisions when choosing a dog should be considered after ensure that the new owners lifestyle has been taken into account and the owner fully understands the responsibility involved.
The Saturdays are dog owners themselves and wanted to ensure the message is as far-reaching as possible.
4. My child loves dogs. What else can they do to get involved?
If your child is aged 7-11, lives in the UK or RoI and loves dogs, you might just want to show them the Junior Canine Carer Competition! The winners of this creative contest get to come behind the scenes at a Dogs Trust Rehoming Centre as well as receiving some Nintendo and Dogs Trust goodies.
If you have any questions about Dogs Trust Education that haven't been answered here, please do leave us a comment or find them on Facebook.