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Article

Revisiting a Previously Validated Temperament Test in Shelter Dogs, Including an Examination of the Use of Fake Model Dogs to Assess Conspecific Sociability

1
Center for Animal Welfare Science, Purdue University, 625 Harrison St., West Lafayette, IN 47907, USA
2
School of Biological Sciences, 19 Chlorine Gardens, Queen’s University Belfast, Belfast BT9 5DL, UK
3
Dipartimento di Scienze Chimiche, della Vita e della Sostenibilità Ambientale, Università degli Studi di Parma, Parco Area delle Scienze, 11/a, 43124 Parma, Italy
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2019, 9(10), 835; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9100835
Received: 30 August 2019 / Revised: 15 October 2019 / Accepted: 16 October 2019 / Published: 20 October 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Welfare of Cats and Dogs)
Globally, many unwanted dogs enter rescue shelters. Shelter staff often avail of behavioural tests as an early screening tool to identify areas of concern to minimise the welfare risk associated with long-term kennelling and failed adoptions. A number of requirements need to be verified in order for a test to become a useful assessment tool, including how reliable and accurate the measurements are. For these tools to be widely used, they need to be feasible and reproducible. We refined a previously validated temperament test for shelter dogs’ assessment, developed in Italy, and applied it to two populations of shelter dogs in the UK. The test measured dog behaviour in the kennel, sociability towards people and other dogs, docility to leash, playfulness, cognitive skills, and reactivity. The test proved easy to replicate, with key outcomes that are consistent with existing research on this topic. Furthermore, an additional experiment provided support for the use of fake dogs instead of real ones to assess sociability to dogs. However, we also highlight the importance of interpreting these data with caution, and advocate the use of behavioural tests as a partial screening tool to be used in conjunction with more extensive behavioural and welfare monitoring.
This study assessed the feasibility and reproducibility of a previously validated temperament test (TT) for shelter dogs. The test was developed to measure dog behaviour in the kennel, and traits of sociability towards people and other dogs, docility to leash, playfulness, cognitive skills, and reactivity. We introduced the use of differently sized fake dogs to check their appropriateness in correctly assessing sociability to dogs to broaden its applicability (as the original study used real stimulus dogs). We hypothesised that dogs’ responses may be modulated by the body size of the stimulus dog presented. The reduction analysis of the TT scores extracted five main dimensions (explaining 70.8% of variance), with high internal consistency (alpha > 0.65) and being broadly consistent with existing research. Behavioural components that were extracted from the fake dog experiment showed that dogs are likely to show signs of anxiety and fear toward both the real and fake dog. Dogs’ responses towards a real vs. fake stimulus were significantly correlated (p < 0.05) and they were not affected by the size of the stimulus (p > 0.05). We discuss the importance of interpreting these data with caution and use behavioural tests as a partial screening tool to be used in conjunction with more extensive behavioural and welfare monitoring. View Full-Text
Keywords: dog; temperament test; shelter; welfare; validity dog; temperament test; shelter; welfare; validity
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MDPI and ACS Style

Barnard, S.; Kennedy, D.; Watson, R.; Valsecchi, P.; Arnott, G. Revisiting a Previously Validated Temperament Test in Shelter Dogs, Including an Examination of the Use of Fake Model Dogs to Assess Conspecific Sociability. Animals 2019, 9, 835. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9100835

AMA Style

Barnard S, Kennedy D, Watson R, Valsecchi P, Arnott G. Revisiting a Previously Validated Temperament Test in Shelter Dogs, Including an Examination of the Use of Fake Model Dogs to Assess Conspecific Sociability. Animals. 2019; 9(10):835. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9100835

Chicago/Turabian Style

Barnard, Shanis, Danielle Kennedy, Reuben Watson, Paola Valsecchi, and Gareth Arnott. 2019. "Revisiting a Previously Validated Temperament Test in Shelter Dogs, Including an Examination of the Use of Fake Model Dogs to Assess Conspecific Sociability" Animals 9, no. 10: 835. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9100835

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