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

Harvey, Naomi D. and Craigon, Peter J. and Blythe, Simon A. and England, Gary C.W. and Asher, Lucy (2017) An evidence-based decision assistance model for predicting training outcome in juvenile guide dogs. PLoS ONE, 12 (6). e0174261. ISSN 1932-6203

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Abstract

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on the scales were identified that were able to distinguish later training outcome by identifying 8.4% of all dogs withdrawn for behaviour and 8.5% of all qualified dogs, with 84% and 85% specificity.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.

Item Type: Article
Schools/Departments: University of Nottingham, UK > Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > School of Veterinary Medicine and Science
Identification Number: 10.1371/journal.pone.0174261
Depositing User: Eprints, Support
Date Deposited: 22 Jun 2017 11:14
Last Modified: 12 Oct 2017 22:57
URI: http://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/43717

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