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Behavioral and physiological predictors of guide dog success

By L. M. Tomkins, P. C. Thomson, P. D. McGreevy

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A range of mobility aids are available to assist people living with vision impairment, and of these, guide dog ownership offers them several unique benefits. However, training a dog to be a successful guide dog comes at a high cost (approximately AU$30,000). Therefore, the aim of this study was to determine whether temperament testing and kennel behavior measures could be used by Guide Dog Organizations for the early identification of dogs suitable for guiding work and thus to reduce production costs. Temperament tests (Passive and Noise, Sudden Appearance, and Dog Distraction Tests) and kennel behavior assessments (Activity Level, Salivary Immunoglobulin A Concentration, and Kennel Surveillance) were assessed in potential guide dogs (n=25-113) at the Guide Dogs NSW/ACT Training Centre, Glossodia, New South Wales, Australia. Several significant predictors of guide dog success were identified. The presence of panting (P=0.029) and licking (P=0.005) when contrasted with baseline observations in the Dog Distraction Test, significantly reduced the probability of guide dog success. Success was also reduced with the latency for a dog to sit in the third Noise Test (P=0.028), and when the time spent resting was reduced during the evening period (P=0.018) in the Kennel Surveillance assessment. This study reports that 4 specific behavioral responses, which may reflect anxiety and restlessness, predict low suitability of dogs for guiding work. Through the identification of early predictors of guide dog success, resources can be more appropriately focused on dogs with a higher probability of success, whereas unsuitable dogs can be rehomed.

Date 2011
Publication Title Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research
Volume 6
Issue 3
Pages 178-187
ISBN/ISSN 1558-7878
DOI 10.1016/j.jveb.2010.12.002
Author Address Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Sydney, 12 Brodie Street, Baulkham Hills, NSW,
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animal physiology
  3. APEC countries
  4. Australasia
  5. Australia
  6. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  7. Carnivores
  8. Commonwealth of Nations
  9. Costs
  10. Developed countries
  11. Dogs
  12. Education
  13. Flowers
  14. Globulins
  15. Guide dogs
  16. Immunoglobulins
  17. Latency
  18. Mammals
  19. Noise
  20. Oceania
  21. OECD countries
  22. peer-reviewed
  23. Pets and companion animals
  24. Plants
  25. predictions
  26. predictors
  27. Production
  28. sight
  29. surveillance
  30. temperament
  31. training
  32. training centers
  33. vision
  1. peer-reviewed