Friday, November 19, 2010

Making the Doggone Crazy! Board Game

People are always asking us how we came up with the idea for the Doggone Crazy! board game and how we went about making it, so here are the answers to these questions!

I met Teresa Lewin (dog trainer and behaviour consultant) when I took a puppy to her obedience class. Teresa invited me to come with her to do an education session at a local school. We did a few of these and took our dogs along to show the kids. Teresa would point out the body language that the dogs displayed. It occurred to us that the dogs were not reliable in presenting the body language that we wanted to demonstrate. Sometimes they just slept through the whole thing! We took some photos and made them into large posters so that we would be able to show the key body language signs in a planned way and not just when or if the dogs happened to offer them. This was the start of the Be a Tree program.

We looked into what else was available for educating kids about safety around dogs and we found lots of lists of things that kids should not do, but we didn't find anything that taught kids about dog body language. This was in 2002, so before the current body language craze. We didn't find anything that taught kids about reading the emotional state of dogs, other than the obvious signs of a very angry or fearful dog. We didn't find anything about how to know what your own dog is thinking and how to be respectful of his feelings so that he doesn't get pushed to the point having to growl or bite.

We discovered that not only did the kids not know about dog body language or to stand still if a dog is threatening or a strange dog approaches, the teachers and parents didn't know either. We realized that we couldn't possibly educate a large number of people one classroom at a time so we thought that if we made a game with lots of pictures, we could get the message out to more families.

Us watching the first game boards being printed
We took lots of photos of dogs and designed a game board and made up lots of questions and answers. All the artwork on the game board was done by our kids using carved rubber stamps. We discovered that if you want the words to come out forwards, you have to carve it backwards into the rubber! The kids also helped with photo shoots and by playing the game over and over to test it. They helped make up questions as well. The "dangerous" situations that are depicted on some of the cards were set up using our own well-trained friendly dogs or were created by the magic of Photoshop.

All the photo cards and the game board were made with Photoshop. The prototypes all had cute dogs playing pieces made from Fimo by the kids, but unfortunately it was too expensive to make custom playing pieces in the final manufactured game. We made a bunch of prototypes by hand and we sent them out for review by all kinds of experts and to several game testing families. We took all the feedback and made all the suggested changes. Everyone loved the game and so we decided to take it into production.

Fimo dogs ready for the oven

Our main purpose in creating the Doggone Crazy! board game was to provide a fun and interactive way for kids (and parents) to learn about dog body language, learn to act safely around dogs and to practice being a tree to increase the chance that they would do this in real life. We have had lots of emails from parents telling us that their child (or even themselves or their husband) remembered to Be a Tree in a real-life situation with a strange or threatening dog and the dog went away, just as we said it would. Read some testimonials here.

Here is our video that we made to promote the game. This was made using one the prototypes, so it shows the cute dogs pieces that we didn't end up using in the final game and it also shows a dog tail for the spinner. In the actual game we had settle for just regular plastic arrow because the custom dog tail would have been too expensive. None-the-less the video gives a good explanation of how the game works.

We hope you will help us spread the word by buying Doggone Crazy! as a gift for a child this holiday season, and by suggesting it to others.

In the US you can buy it through:

Karen Pryor Clickertraining

The Humane Society of the US Youth Division

In Canada:

Doggone Safe store (Ontario and Quebec)

Outside North America:

Karen Pryor Clickertraining

The game is also available in some local stores. Click here for a list.

1 comment:

  1. LOVE it!! I used this game in my homeschool unit-study classes and everyone loved it. I hope to generate some new sales for you! Congratulations on a game well-made!!