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Ethotest: A new model to identify (shelter) dogs' skills as service animals or adoptable pets

By Pia Lucidi, Nicola Bernabò, Michela Panunzi, Paolo Dalla Villa, Mauro Mattioli

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The paucity of dogs dedicated to animal-assisted therapy (AAT) for disabled people creates long waiting lists worldwide and compromises the health of the few certified animals by demanding too much work from them at times, thus jeopardizing their future as service dogs. In an attempt to obviate this situation, a mathematical model has been conceived to select animals endowed with a set of specific inborn skills from a population of sheltered dogs. The model is able to select dogs capable of creating a special bond with humans and able to work anywhere and with any human partner or team; it represents a rapid, inexpensive and coherent method and has been validated after 1 year of observation. The algorithm consists of three steps. Step A is a test assessing the aggressiveness and temperament of animals and selection occurs based on a binary criterion (yes or no). Step B is a test comprising three items and selects animals able to interact with humans; dogs have to fulfil two conditions to pass on to Step C. Step C is a test evaluating the animal's ability to respond appropriately to easy commands (trainability) given by different partners; dogs have to fulfil two interrelated conditions judged more flexibly than in test B. The aims of the Ethotest are: (a) to prevent aggressive animals from entering animal-assisted activity and/or Therapy programmes; (b) to select dogs with the right aptitude and especially to restrict selection to dogs that offer consistent responses; (c) to include both male and female purebreds or mix breeds older than 1 year of age; (d) to identify animals able to work with different partners. Moreover, the aim of this contribution is to share with the scientific community an easy method to select shelter dogs as safe companion animals.


Megan Kendall

Purdue University

Date 2005
Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 95
Issue 1-2
Pages 103-122
Publisher Elsevier
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2005.04.006
Language English
Notes This article added with permission from Elsevier
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  • Pia Lucidi; Nicola Bernabò; Michela Panunzi; Paolo Dalla Villa; Mauro Mattioli (2013), "Ethotest: A new model to identify (shelter) dogs' skills as service animals or adoptable pets,"

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  1. Aggressive behavior
  2. Animal-assisted activities
  3. Animal-assisted therapies
  4. Animal shelters
  5. Animals in culture
  6. open access
  7. peer-reviewed
  8. Service animals
  1. open access
  2. peer-reviewed