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New test predicts which pups make the best guide dogs

It takes a special kind of dog to become a guide dog. They must be calm, confident, intelligent, and reliable. A new tool has been created by animal experts at the University of Nottingham to predict which puppies make the best guide dogs.

The personality assessment evaluates puppies and young dogs to determine whether they are “reliable and interpretable.” The test focuses on seven characteristics of the dogs including adaptability, excitability, and trainability.

Over 1,400 surveys about dogs’ behavior were completed for the study. The researchers used this data to develop the Puppy Training Supervisor Questionnaire, or PTSQ. According to the research team, the tool was able to predict the outcome of guide training for dogs between 5 to 12 months old with 84% accuracy.

“Predicting working dog suitability in puppies has been a huge challenge to organizations for many years,’ explained Dr Naomi Harvey, who led the study.

“We were really pleased that this questionnaire-style behavior assessment was able to effectively identify the dogs who were most, and least, suitable to guiding work, from a young age, and help to highlight those in between dogs who were at risk of failing training,” said Harvey.

The researchers believe the PTSQ will improve the guide dog training process. They say it will help eliminate unlikely candidates, and save time and money that would have been otherwise invested in unsuccessful training. The team plans to expand upon this study to predict why some guide dogs retire early.

Chris Muldoon is the Guide Dogs Research Development Manager. According to Muldoon, “The Puppy Training Supervisor Questionnaire is part of a suite of tools developed by the University of Nottingham for Guide Dogs.”

“This tool, and the wider research project, is increasing our understanding of dog behaviour and temperament to make informed decisions that will shape and improve our training process,” said Muldoon.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

Source: University of Nottingham

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