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Be A Friend to Your Dog

Animals in Rural and Remote Indigenous Communities (AMRRIC) applied for funding to deliver ‘Be A Friend To Your Dog’ (BAFTYD) in 2010, in recognition of the need for school-based education around dog health and welfare.

After the success of the Make an Animal Smile project in Queensland, AMRRIC knew the Northern Territory would benefit from a similar program.  AMRRIC’s Dr Sophie Constable developed a large range of educational resources specifically aimed at NT Indigenous communities. 
AMRRIC is in the unique position of knowing and working with many of the veterinarians engaged by the shires to deliver dog health programs, so BAFTYD programs have been coordinated and delivered by Eileen Fletcher to coincide with vet visits.  This holistic approach enables Eileen to explain the importance of what the vet does.
Resources for all ages are included. Often remote schools have a wide spread of ages and abilities in the same classroom, so to restrict resources to years 3-5, as proposed initially, was felt to be a missed opportunity to spread the message to other age groups.

A breakdown of the resources include:

  • Facial Recognition Magnets – can be used with or without language.  Aimed at helping students to empathise with dogs – dogs have feelings too.  Leads onto a discussion of what you do when you feel a certain way and what makes you feel better.  For younger students or students with little or no English.
  • Puppy Maths Colouring Book – emphasises what can happen if you don’t get your female dog desexed “fixed up”– younger students can colour in the pictures.
  • Be a Friend to Your Dog - A picture book aimed at young students showing them the correct way to carry a dog.


  • The Dogs’ Needs relay race -  Students have to correctly identify a dog’s need and run and fetch it  This game reiterates what is necessary to keep a dog happy and healthy - first team to fulfil all their dogs’ needs wins.
  • Dogs’ Needs Colouring in sheets - everything a dog needs to be happy and healthy.
  • Doggy Doggy Don’t Eat Me - One person plays the Doggy and the rest of the group try to get close to him/her.  This game emphasises dog body language and the appropriate response of body language from the students. It also makes being nice to the Doggy a strategy for winning the game, reinforcing the message of kindness to animals.

For older students up to high school age

  • Recognising Feelings- identifying emotions and understanding that animals share a lot of our emotions recognising similarities and differences.
  • Dog Health Resource Project – literacy and numeracy skills for ages 10 – 12+.  Includes designing  and writing a pamphlet based on the discussion with the AMRRIC visitor which will include 10 things that good pet owners do for their animals.  The discussion/lesson includes calculating the cost of keeping a dog (addition and fractions) and how many puppies your dog can have (multiplication). 
  • Dog Census – Healthy Dogs Healthy Community - Students use Excel spreadsheets to do a survey of community dogs.  They use this to assist the vet with their dog program.  The community are also alerted to the services on offer.

For older students, teachers, teacher’s aides and other community members

  • Kids and Dogs – an easy to read booklet/powerpoint with lots of pictures to help identify some of the zoonotic diseases that can pass from dogs to students and how to avoid them.  Emphasising that healthy dogs =  healthy communities.
  • Caring for Dogs, Community and Country – a DVD that is an educational resource for Aboriginal Communities in Australia about looking after dogs, people, country and environmental health.  The DVD covers treating ticks, fleas, worms, desexing, preventing skin sores and safety around dogs.  This DVD is suitable for all ages and covers the basics of keeping your dog and yourself healthy.

Sophie Constable's research demonstrates that engaging students through delivering the BAFTYD is more effective than handing the package to teachers.  Some teachers recognise the importance of the messages and readily make time for BAFTYD. Feedback so far has been very positive. 

However, other teachers felt it burdensome when there was so much curriculum to cover and that BAFTYD was not relevant to the areas they needed to concentrate on.  Recognition of this problem led AMRRIC to acquire funding for an educational strategist to embed BAFTYD into remote school curriculum, currently underway. 

BAFTYD has so far been delivered to East Arnhem Shire communities of:

  • Mamaruni School, Croker Island (50 students) – arranged to coincide with the vet visit. Dogs on Croker are generally well fed and desexing levels are high.  Topics that needed to be addressed were hot water burns and cruelty.
  • Galawin’ku (400 students including high school and crèche) - coincided with vet visit.  Resources were customized with pictures of people from the local community.
  • Milingimbi (150 students). 
  • In Victoria Daly Shire BAFTYD has delivered to:
  • Woolianna School (40 students) and
  • St Xavier’s School (100 students).

In the Central Desert:  

  • Utopia has also benefited from a three-day visit coinciding with dog health visit  
  • Alparra (15) - high school students were taken to the operating theatre to see what vets actually do.
  • Ankerrapw (15 primary students)  
  • Apungulindum (20 primary students), and
  • Yuendumu - this visit enabled Eileen to introduce the package to teachers for their 205 students.

The Roper Gulf Shire schools of:

  • Urupunga (enrollment 32) and  
  • Ngukurr School (200) were to be visited with assistance from the shire Animal Welfare Officer, who after training, will deliver the package across the whole Shire.

The Barkly Shire hasn’t missed out as the BAFTYD has also been picked up as part of the AMRRIC Barkly Education Strategy with translations of the resource into local languages. 


The 'Be a Friend to your Dog' program was evaluated by Dr Janice Lloyd and Dr Reesa Sorin from James Cook University. The evaluation paper can be downloaded here.

If you wish to enquire further, AMRRIC's contact details are:

Website: http://www.amrric.org/

Email: info@amrric.org

Phone: (08) 8948 1768