Behaving with Respect to Dogs: Children’s Mastered Dog-Safety Skills May Not Generalize Naturalistically

Rachelle L. Yankelevitz1, April Michele Williams2, Alexandra W. Knerr2, & Christina Sheppard2

1Department of Psychology, Rollins College
2Department of Health Professions, Rollins College

Dog bites are a common danger to children. Behavioral safety training strategies are more effective than nonbehavioral strategies, but questions remain about whether learned responses generalize to new dogs and settings. Three preschool-aged girls who exhibited unsafe dog-greeting behavior during in situ assessments were taught to safely greet unfamiliar, leashed dogs using TAGteach™ (TAGteach International, 2016). The children acquired the six-step behavior chain, but responding did not generalize to a novel dog, handler, and setting even after completing the training three times in progressively more-naturalistic settings. These results suggest a need to investigate effective strategies for teaching safety skills around dogs. They also question whether dog-safety training via online modules, classroom-based instruction, or video modeling is sufficient to improve young children’s behavior around dogs in natural settings.

Keywords: TAGteach, safety skills, dog, generalization

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Keywords: dog, generalization, safety skills, TAGteach
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