Kids and dogs – impact on children’s health and social-emotional development

Project Plan

PLAYCE PAWS is a fun new study looking at different ways of encouraging more physical activity in children (and parents) through playing and walking with their family dog. This will help us understand if playing and walking with your dog has a positive impact on your child’s health and development.

The PLAYCE Study (2015 to 2018) reached over 2000 preschool children and has had a positive impact on early childhood education and care physical activity practices and policies.

Previous studies in adults have shown that dog ownership is associated with health benefits such as greater likelihood of surviving a heart attack, lower blood pressure, triglyceride and cholesterol, better emotional and psychological health. We also know that children with a family dog are more likely to achieve the recommended levels of physical activity compared to non-dog owners. In addition to health benefits, it has also been found that children who are dog owners have better empathy and prosocial orientation than non-dog owners.

Your Support

  • We are looking for children aged 5 to 8 years from Australia to participate in this research.
  • Your child should not have a significant condition that would affect participating in physical activity or interacting with your family dog.
  • Your family dog should be well-socialised with your child.
  • You (the parent/guardian) is able to supervise your child to ensure safe dog play and dog walking practices (information will be provided).
  • You are able to read and understand the participant information booklet and explain it to your child.

What does participation involve?

  • Complete three 20-30-minute online surveys at three different time points over 6 months: (1) before the study commences, (2) follow-up 1 month after end of study, (3) follow-up 3 months after end of study.
  • You will be randomly allocated to 1 of 3 groups:
    • Group 1: Receive 3 x SMS text messages every week for 4 weeks, encouraging you to take your child and dog out for a walk or play;
    • Group 2: Receive 3 x SMS text messages every week for 4 weeks, encouraging you to take your child and dog out for a walk or play, and a pedometer for your dog with a dog walking diary for your child to fill in; or
    • Group 3: Continue with your usual routine.

All groups will be provided with information on games your child can play with your dog, walking trails around Perth for your family and dog, and also tips and advice on how children can safely interact and play with your dog.

To take part in this study, email the PLAYCE PAWS team.

NB: Parents are required to consent on behalf of their children. The consent form will be distributed via email for parents to sign and return, alternatively, forms can be posted to parents with reply paid envelopes provided.

This research is funded by the US Human Animal Bond Research Institute and Healthway and has been approved by The University of Western Australia’s Human Research Ethics Committee (RA/4/1/7417).

Project Members

Assoc/Prof Hayley Christian
Chief Investigator

National Heart Foundation Future Leader Fellow; Senior Research Fellow

Leanne Lester
Project Co-Supervisor

Senior Research Fellow, Faculty of Science, School of Human Services

Elizabeth Wenden
Project Co-Supervisor

Data Manager

Michelle Ng
Research Assistant

Project Officer