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Application of Survival Analysis and Multistate Modeling to Understand Animal Behavior: Examples from Guide Dogs

By Lucy Asher, Naomi D. Harvey, Martin Green, Gary C. W. England

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Epidemiology is the study of patterns of health-related states or events in populations. Statistical models developed for epidemiology could be usefully applied to behavioral states or events. The aim of this study is to present the application of epidemiological statistics to understand animal behavior where discrete outcomes are of interest, using data from guide dogs to illustrate. Specifically, survival analysis and multistate modeling are applied to data on guide dogs comparing dogs that completed training and qualified as a guide dog, to those that were withdrawn from the training program. Survival analysis allows the time to (or between) a binary event(s) and the probability of the event occurring at or beyond a specified time point. Survival analysis, using a Cox proportional hazards model, was used to examine the time taken to withdraw a dog from training. Sex, breed, and other factors affected time to withdrawal. Bitches were withdrawn faster than dogs, Labradors were withdrawn faster, and Labrador × Golden Retrievers slower, than Golden Retriever × Labradors; and dogs not bred by Guide Dogs were withdrawn faster than those bred by Guide Dogs. Multistate modeling (MSM) can be used as an extension of survival analysis to incorporate more than two discrete events or states. Multistate models were used to investigate transitions between states of training to qualification as a guide dog or behavioral withdrawal, and from qualification as a guide dog to behavioral withdrawal. Sex, breed (with purebred Labradors and Golden retrievers differing from F1 crosses), and bred by Guide Dogs or not, effected movements between states. We postulate that survival analysis and MSM could be applied to a wide range of behavioral data and key examples are provided.


Mason N McLary

HABRI Central

Date 2017
Publication Title Frontiers in Veterinary Science
Volume 4
Issue 116
Publisher Frontiers
DOI 10.3389/fvets.2017.00116
Language English
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal-assisted activities
  2. Animal behavior
  3. Animal roles
  4. Animals in culture
  5. Animal welfare
  6. Dogs
  7. Epidemiology
  8. Guide dogs
  9. Health
  10. Mammals
  11. Pet ownership
  12. Pets and companion animals
  13. Physical environment
  14. Service animals
  15. Social Environments
  16. survival