Researchers Seek Children with Disabilities and Family Dog

Finding New Ways to Keep Kids Physically Active

Researchers at Oregon State University are seeking children with disabilities around 10 to 16 years of age who also have a family dog willing to participate in a current study. Scientists are hoping to find new and creative ways to keep kids physically active by studying the partnership with the family dog and how it might contribute to children’s activity levels and overall health.

Dogs and KidsMegan Macdonald from OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences as well as Monique Udell of OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences are orchestrating the project.

“Participating children need to be able to follow basic instructions, but beyond that, we want to be as inclusive as possible,” MacDonald said. “It’s really about the child and the dog being active together as a team.”

“We need to find creative ways to engage kids in physical activity,” she continued. “And beyond physical activity, animal companionship can have a significant impact on health and well-being.”

The study is set to begin later this summer; it will take place over two years. Participants and their families will visit OSU for an hour a day for two weeks, with some room for flexibility in scheduling. Children will learn to teach their dog new behaviors using the “Do as I Do” method and positive reinforcement, where the dog follows the child’s lead. Walking the dog at home every day and other homework assignments will also be part of the program. Selected children and families will have a chance to participate in the training sometime over the course of the study.

“Parents who have questions about whether their child and their pet are a good fit for the study should feel free to give me a call so we can discuss their individual needs,” said MacDonald.

Families wishing to participate or those interested in learning more about the study can contact megan.macdonald@oregonstate.edu or call 541-737-3273. 

By Matthew Hunt

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