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A New Tool for Selecting Puppies With a Future as Guide Dogs

Update Date: Jun 15, 2017 02:00 PM EDT

Training guide dogs is a difficult process. It is costly and time consuming. Now a new study from the University of Nottingham has established a questionnaire-style decision tool to help trainers evaluate a dogs behavior to determine if they would be good guide dogs. The charity Guide Dogs, which breeds dogs for training as working dogs, funded the research. 

According to lead resesearcher Dr. Naomi Harvey, "Predicting working dog suitability in puppies has been a huge challenge to organisations for many years. If you've ever owned dogs you will know that every dog is different. They have their own characters and personality, which are heavily influenced by their life experiences. We were really pleased that this questionnaire-style behaviour assessment was able to effectively identify the dogs who were most, and least, suitable to guiding work, from a young age, and help to highlight those in between dogs who were at risk of failing training." 

The study, conducted by the University of Nottingham, received ethical approval from The School of Veterinary Medicine and Science's ethics committee. Participants were members of Guide Dog training staff and Guide Dog managers. The dogs assessed were 5, 8 and 12 months old.

Called the Puppy Training Supervisor Questionnaire (PTSQ), the tool identified seven character scores for measurement in the dogs. The seven characteristics are: adaptability, body sensitivity, distractibility, excitability, general anxiety, trainability and stair anxiety. The tool successfully predicted the viability of the dogs to an accuracy of over 84 percent. 

Chris Muldoon, Guide Dogs Research Development Manager, said:" The Puppy Training Supervisor Questionnaire is part of a suite of tools developed by the University of Nottingham for Guide Dogs. This tool, and the wider research project, is increasing our understanding of dog behavior and temperament to make informed decisions that will shape and improve our training processes."

Researchers are confident that the tool can also be used to follow up on guide dogs later in their careers as an assessment tool. This could shed light onto why some dogs need to be retired early from their careers as guide dogs. 


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