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An evidence-based decision assistance model for predicting training outcome in juvenile guide dogs

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Lucy Asher

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Abstract

© 2017 Harvey et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Working dog organisations, such as Guide Dogs, need to regularly assess the behaviour of the dogs they train. In this study we developed a questionnaire-style behaviour assessment completed by training supervisors of juvenile guide dogs aged 5, 8 and 12 months old (n = 1,401), and evaluated aspects of its reliability and validity. Specifically, internal reliability, temporal consistency, construct validity, predictive criterion validity (comparing against later training outcome) and concurrent criterion validity (comparing against a standardised behaviour test) were evaluated. Thirty-nine questions were sourced either from previously published literature or created to meet requirements identified via Guide Dogs staff surveys and staff feedback. Internal reliability analyses revealed seven reliable and interpretable trait scales named according to the questions within them as: Adaptability; Body Sensitivity; Distractibility; Excitability; General Anxiety; Trainability and Stair Anxiety. Intra-individual temporal consistency of the scale scores between 5-8, 8-12 and 5-12 months was high. All scales excepting Body Sensitivity showed some degree of concurrent criterion validity. Predictive criterion validity was supported for all seven scales, since associations were found with training outcome, at at-least one age. Thresholds of z-scores on the scales were identified that were able to distinguish later training outcome by identifying 8.4% of all dogs withdrawn for behaviour and 8.5% of all qualified dogs, with 84% and 85% specificity. The questionnaire assessment was reliable and could detect traits that are consistent within individuals over time, despite juvenile dogs undergoing development during the study period. By applying thresholds to scores produced from the questionnaire this assessment could prove to be a highly valuable decision-making tool for Guide Dogs. This is the first questionnaire-style assessment of juvenile dogs that has shown value in predicting the training outcome of individual working dogs.


Publication metadata

Author(s): Harvey ND, Craigon PJ, Blythe SA, England GCW, Asher L

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: PLoS ONE

Year: 2017

Volume: 12

Issue: 6

Online publication date: 14/06/2017

Acceptance date: 06/03/2017

Date deposited: 04/07/2017

ISSN (electronic): 1932-6203

Publisher: Public Library of Science

URL: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0174261

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0174261


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