Predictive models of assistance dog training outcomes using the canine behavioral assessment and research questionnaire and a standardized temperament evaluation

Emily E. Bray, Kerinne M. Levy, Brenda S. Kennedy, Deborah L. Duffy, James A. Serpell, Evan L. MacLean

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations

Abstract

Assistance dogs can greatly improve the lives of people with disabilities. However, a large proportion of dogs bred and trained for this purpose are deemed unable to successfully fulfill the behavioral demands of this role. Often, this determination is not finalized until weeks or even months into training, when the dog is close to 2 years old. Thus, there is an urgent need to develop objective selection protocols that can identify dogs most and least likely to succeed, from early in the training process. We assessed the predictive validity of two candidate measures employed by Canine Companions for Independence (CCI), a national assistance dog organization headquartered in Santa Rosa, CA. For more than a decade, CCI has collected data on their population using the Canine Behavioral Assessment and Research Questionnaire (C-BARQ) and a standardized temperament assessment known internally as the In-For-Training (IFT) test, which is conducted at the beginning of professional training. Data from both measures were divided into independent training and test datasets, with the training data used for variable selection and cross-validation. We developed three predictive models in which we predicted success or release from the training program using C-BARQ scores (N = 3,569), IFT scores (N = 5,967), and a combination of scores from both instruments (N = 2,990). All three final models performed significantly better than the null expectation when applied to the test data, with overall accuracies ranging from 64 to 68%. Model predictions were most accurate for dogs predicted to have the lowest probability of success (ranging from 85 to 92% accurate for dogs in the lowest 10% of predicted probabilities), and moderately accurate for identifying the dogs most likely to succeed (ranging from 62 to 72% for dogs in the top 10% of predicted probabilities). Combining C-BARQ and IFT predictors into a single model did not improve overall accuracy, although it did improve accuracy for dogs in the lowest 20% of predicted probabilities. Our results suggest that both types of assessments have the potential to be used as powerful screening tools, thereby allowing more efficient allocation of resources in assistance dog selection and training.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number00049
JournalFrontiers in Veterinary Science
Volume6
Issue numberFEB
DOIs
StatePublished - 2019

Keywords

  • Assistance dogs
  • Behavior
  • C-BARQ
  • Canine
  • Prediction
  • Service animal
  • Temperament

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • veterinary(all)

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