Selecting shelter dogs for service dog training
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Journal of applied animal welfare science : JAAWS. 2002; 5(1): 43-62.
Service dogs are an essential aid to persons with disabilities, providing independence, mobility, and improved self-esteem. Because of these proven benefits, the growing se of service dogs is creating a demand and supply crisis. One major cause is the 50% verage dropout rate for dogs selected for training. Weiss and Greenber (1997) re-cently found that a dog, successful on the most commonly used selection test items, was as likely to be either a poor or a good candidate for service work. The experiment presented here evaluated test items developed by the author in 15 years of experience with dogs. The test items were administered to 75 dogs from the Kansas Humane So-ciety. Once tested, the dogs received obedience and retrieval training. The experiment assessed each dog on behavior over 5 weeks of training versus performance on each selection test item. A subset of the selection items, combined in a regression analysis, accounted for 36.4% of the variance with R = 0.603. This research also revealed a reli-able test for dog aggression without risking injury to dog or tester. Items for testing in-cluded fear, motivation, and submission. Another set of selection items reliably pre-dicted the trait of "high energy" commonly described as "high strung." Future research should involve investigating the effectiveness of both cortisol levels and blood pressure in predicting traits to help strengthen the predictive value of the tool and then testing on dogs trained to be full service dogs.
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