Vets, animal welfare charities, and researchers have frequently cited educating owners as a necessity for improving the welfare of companion dogs. The assumption that improving an owner’s knowledge through an education intervention subsequently results in improvements in the welfare of the dog appears reasonable. However, the complexity of dog welfare and dog ownership and the context in which these relationships occur is rapidly changing. Psychology has demonstrated that humans are complex, with values, attitudes, and beliefs influencing our behaviours as much as knowledge and understanding. Equally, the context in which we individuals and our dogs live is rapidly changing and responding to evolving societal and cultural norms. Therefore, we seek to understand education’s effectiveness as an approach to improving welfare through exploring and understanding these complexities, in conjunction with the relevant research from the disciplines of science education and communication. We argue that well designed and rigorously evaluated education interventions can play a part in the challenge of improving welfare, but that these may have limited scope, and welfare scientists could further consider extending cross-disciplinary, cross-boundary working, and research in order to improve the welfare of companion dogs.
- ownership practices