Dogs in society - secondary assembly
Aims and objectives
- To consider what a dog needs
- To consider why you choose the dog you get
- To learn about the plight of Staffordshire bull terriers.
You will need
- Several actors
- Dogs in society - Script
- Dogs in society - Images
- Dogs and their owners
- The five welfare needs
- Explain that today’s assembly is about dogs and their owners.
Main issues and problems
- Give students some facts about dogs and people:
- The RSPCA alone took in about 15,000 dogs in 2008* and the number is growing because unfortunately, not all dog owners understand the long-term commitment they are taking on when getting a dog, and some are unable to continue to provide the suitable environment or care their dog needs. Other animal charities have also reported an increase in the number of dogs being brought in to their rescue centres.
- Between 2002 and 2007, more than 2,000 adults and 1,000 children were admitted to hospital with dog bite injuries**.
- Ask the students if they can match the pictures of dogs with their owners from the activity sheet Dogs and their owners.
- Explain that you expected them to match the Springer Spaniel with the ‘country’ man and the Norfolk Terrier with the 'city' woman because we all judge by appearances and, sadly, this is how many people go about choosing a dog. They think the type of dog they choose will say something about them and their status or position in their community or group of friends (hence the term ‘status dogs’).
- Ask the audience to consider whether the problem is with the dogs or with the owners and then introduce the play (see activity sheet Dogs in society - Script). It’s about two male dog owners who both say they want to become professional footballers. Explain that to achieve top footballer or sportsperson status, you need a combination of regular training, real commitment and a healthy diet. Which of our two actors is more likely to make it as a professional footballer? Also, for a dog you can be truly proud of, you need a similar mix. For example, positive, reward-based training, the commitment of the owner and a good diet, amongst other things. Ask the students which of the two dogs they think is going to turn out for the best.
- Explain that lots of people think Staffies are naturally aggressive. Some people avoid having them because of this and other people get Staffies as status dogs for the same reason. Watch the film Staffies through the ages to show how our nation’s views of Staffies has changed from the 1920s to today.
- Explain that the RSPCA estimates that, in recent years, up to 80 per cent of the dogs in some of our animal centres were Staffies or Staffy crosses, some of which were either abandoned by people who were not committed to looking after them, or taken away from people who weren’t caring for them properly. Some of these people may have got a Staffy for the wrong reasons. Ask them to consider which of the boys Staffies is more likely to still be with its owner in two years’ time.
What can we do?
- Explain that a dog is very unlikely to become aggressive if its needs are looked after and it has been reared, socialised and trained properly. (Did you know that the RSPCA provides advice on how to recognise and deal with dog aggression?).
- Ask students what dogs need and introduce the five welfare needs (see factsheet The five welfare needs). Show the symbols on large cards.
- Remind the students that looks are only skin deep - it is a dog’s health, welfare and behaviour that counts - and that depends on us.
- Finish with the good news about the work that the RSPCA and other charities have done to stop the Staffy being so misunderstood. In 2009 more than 500 Staffies, who had been rescued by the RSPCA, started to enjoy a normal dog’s life with their new owners,*** who were able to provide all the care and attention these dogs need. So, if you are about to get a dog, consider getting a dog that really needs a new home.
- Advice from a dog behaviour expert about what to do when you meet an unfamiliar dog, and information about dog aggression.