Reducing koala and dog interactions
Dog attacks are the third most common cause of death among koalas. Leave It is a dog training program focussed on reducing dog and koala interactions. It is an ongoing project, and is currently in its fourth year.
Leave It was created using the 3-step social marketing process: co-create, build, and engage (CBE).
Read on to learn how Leave It was built with CBE.
A multi-method research approach reported in the Australasian Journal of Environmental Management was used to gain insights into what the community and its citizens wanted. We needed to learn about past approaches and people’s preferences to understand what we needed to do.
What has been done before?
A systematic review of the literature was conducted to identify previous effective strategies, interventions and campaigns. Only a few programs focussing specifically on dog and koala interactions were identified.
Engaging with experts
Several experts were consulted (koala rescue, vets, local council, dog trainers) to understand the issue better (e.g. What are the dangers of dogs attacking or barking at koalas? Does dog size matter?).
What does the community think about it?
A survey with over 630 dog owners in the Redland City Council area identified that every fourth dog has chased wildlife, and approximately one in ten dogs have killed wildlife.
Involving the community to design a program
Co-design sessions with over 40 Redlands dog owners demonstrated the need for a program that was dog and not koala focussed. The participants wanted to know what they could do and they wanted programs to be fun. In this work we learned that 2 out of 3 dogs aren’t trained.
Watch this video on how to implement Co-design.
After learning that dog owners wanted help to learn what they could do to prevent their dog attacking a koala we built four week training program led by trainers who could teach koala aversion.
Figure 2 - Leave It dog training session.
To be a certified Leave It trainer, our training professionals received koala aversion training skills from expert dog trainer Steve Austin. Leave It offered a training package of four training sessions for AUD $150, a significantly discounted price than the normal market price.
The co-design insights also indicated a desire for community events which sparked the creation of DogFest. This “dog festival” was a free community event offering a dog focussed festival feel. In addition to fun and engaging attractions such as dog treats (puppicinos, dog beer, and dog tea), pet photography, competitions, and dog treat demonstrations, there were dog trainers and obedience clubs delivering talks and obedience displays.
DogFest was used to promote Leave It and raise awareness about the importance of dog training.
Figure 3 - Promotional poster for DogFest
All promotion strategies (e.g. Figure 3) featured the website link (www.leaveit.com.au), where detailed Leave It program information was made available. The website contained information on Leave It session types, the Leave It trainers, frequently asked questions, and program pricing.
Further, the website provided information communicating the DogFest program of events, and training tips and tricks through a blog page.
The "Leave It" program
with dog owners, environmental and dog training experts, and the regional council.
delivered by local dog trainers.
Local dog trainers
trained by elite dog trainer Steve Austin.
Koala aversion training
is a unique component of the training program.
DogFest attracted over 1,500 attendees, which represents about 10% of the dog owners in the community. Over 90% of the visitors said they were extremely satisfied with DogFest and wanted to attend again.
Figure 4 - Changes in dog obedience behaviours
Similarly, the Leave It dog training program had high satisfaction rates (85%), and it was effective. A repeated-measures longitudinal study design was used to assess dog abilities pre and post Leave It demonstrating the program’s effectiveness (see Figure 4).
Detailed results can be found in Social Marketing Quarterly.
Figure 5 – Changes in dog obedience behaviours (assessed by dog trainers)
Observation notes from the training also reflected the success of the program, including an improvement in wildlife aversion behaviour (see Figure 5).