Tag Archives: journal

Picking puppies most suited to guide dog training

Animal behaviour experts at the University of Nottingham have developed a new tool which can be used to predict a young dog’s likelihood of successfully completing guide dog training.

Guide dog

Working dog organisations like the charity Guide Dogs, who funded the research, need to regularly assess the behaviour of the dogs they breed for training as not all of them turn out to be suited to the role. The charity is the largest of its kind in the world, breeding around 1,400 dogs for possible guide dog training every year.

As part of a wider £500k epidemiology research collaboration with Guide Dogs, the researchers in the University’s School of Veterinary Medicine and Science have created and tested a questionnaire-style decision tool which could help trainers from Guide Dogs to monitor and evaluate their dog’s behaviour. The tool successfully predicted training outcomes in 16.9% of young dogs of 5 to 12 months old to an accuracy of 84%. The tool is called the Puppy Training Supervisor Questionnaire (PTSQ).

The aim is to identify dogs who are not suitable to a guiding role early, before they enter time-consuming and costly formal training. The PTSQ is also intended to improve the understanding of a young dog’s behaviour, which Guide Dogs will use to inform their future training processes to give the best chances of success. The full study has been published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Lead researcher on the project, Dr Naomi Harvey, said: “Predicting working dog suitability in puppies has been a huge challenge to organisations for many years. If you’ve ever owned dogs you will know that every dog is different. They have their own characters and personality, which are heavily influenced by their life experiences. We were really pleased that this questionnaire-style behaviour 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.” 

Chris Muldoon, Guide Dogs Research Development Manager, said: “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 behavior and temperament to make informed decisions that will shape and improve our training processes.” 

The new behaviour assessment has been designed to be completed by training supervisors of young dogs at the age of 5, 8 and 12 months old. Questions were sourced either from previously published literature or created from suggestions from Guide Dogs staff surveys and feedback. This large study revealed seven reliable and interpretable character scores for measurement by the questionnaire. These were:

  • Adaptability
  • Body sensitivity
  • Distractibility
  • Excitability
  • General anxiety
  • Trainability
  • Stair anxiety

The research also evaluated aspects of the questionnaire’s reliability and accuracy. The results of the questionnaires completed by the training supervisors – 1,401 in total – showed consistency of individual dogs’ scores over the three age ranges. Of the dogs included in the study, 58% went on to qualify as guide dogs, 27% were behaviourally unsuited to guiding work and the remainder were unsuited for health reasons. Within this number there were also dogs with exceptional character and temperament who were selected for breeding.

The researchers say the work could be extended in the future to follow up the dogs’ working life as a guide dog. They say this could help shed light on why some dogs are retired early for behavioural reasons and the human and dog factors which contribute to this unique partnership’s success.

Source:  University of Nottingham press release

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The dog effect – what’s a dog story worth for newspaper readership?

A new journal article in PS:  Political Science and Politics outlines research done in tracking coverage of news stories in regional newspapers.
The researchers found that by mentioning a dog in the news story, more people are likely to read the news item and increase readership of that issue of the newspaper.
It’s called the ‘dog effect.’
I’ve included the Abstract and the full journal citation below, but you will have to pay to read the entire article if you are not a subscriber to the journal…
Since I love to blog about news involving dogs, this research doesn’t come as a big surprise to me.
There are dog lovers throughout the world and we love to read about dogs!

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

ABSTRACT

Journalists consider the importance of events and the audience’s interest in them when deciding on which events to report. Events most likely to be reported are those that are both important and can capture the audience’s interest. In turn, the public is most likely to become aware of important news when some aspect of the story piques their interest. We suggest an efficacious means of drawing public attention to important news stories: dogs. Examining the national news agenda of 10 regional newspapers relative to that of the New York Times, we evaluated the effect of having a dog in a news event on the likelihood that the event is reported in regional newspapers. The “dog effect” is approximately equivalent to the effect of whether a story warrants front- or back-page national news coverage in the New York Times. Thus, we conclude that dogs are an important factor in news decisions.

 What’s a Dog Story Worth?
Matthew D. Atkinson,Maria Deam and Joseph E. Uscinski (2014).
PS: Political Science & Politics,
“>Volume 47
, Issue04, October 2014 pp 819-823http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?aid=9365716

One of the first domestic dogs revealed

DNA technology is being used to refine our understanding of when the domestic dog became a separate genetic line from wolves.

Wolf

In latest research, published in the open access journal PLoS ONE, DNA analysis on a 33,000-year old dog is reported.  DNA was extracted from a tooth.

The analyses show that the dog, from the Altai region which is east of Kazakhstan and north of China and Mongolia, is more closely related to modern dogs than contemporary wolves.  The research team, led by Anna Druzhkova from the Institute of Molecular and Cellular Biology in the Russian Federation, report that genetic analyses of ancient canids may help to reveal a more exact date and centre of domestication for the dog.

While it is widely accepted that the dog domestication predates the beginning of agriculture (about 10,000 years ago), no one can be sure when the genetics of wolves and domestic dogs began to diverge.

Source:  PLoS ONE

Aggressive dog? How agreeable is the owner?

Research from the University of Leicester’s School of Psychology  has revealed that young people who are more disagreeable are likely to own an aggressive dog.

‘Agreeableness’ means being less concerned with the needs or well-being of others.  Such people may be suspicious, unfriendly and competitive as well.

Participants were given personality tests and  indicated their preference for different types of dogs  . The dogs were independently rated according to how aggressive people perceived them to be. Bull terriers were rated as most aggressive, followed by boxers; retrievers and cocker spaniels were seen as least aggressive.

The study’s results also show a small effect suggesting that those who liked aggressive dogs showed signs of conscientiousness – being careful, reliable and thoughtful about their actions.

Whilst this finding (about conscientiousness) contradicts a long-held perception that owners of aggressive dogs are always irresponsible, Dr Vincent Egan, the study’s lead researcher suggests caution before reading too much into the conclusion:

“These results with Conscientiousness were unexpected, but the effect is a small one, and needs to be repeated in a different group of people. Studies of this kind tend to only look at a restricted age ranges, which may exaggerate findings which do not occur across the entire lifespan, so we believe a stereotype is always true, whereas it may only be true under certain conditions. Our study employed a broader age range.”

Dr Egan’s study has been published in the journal Anthrozoos.