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Ethotest: A new model to identify (shelter) dogs? skills as service animals or adoptable pets

Pia Lucidi, Nicola Bernabò, Michela Panunzi, Paolo Dalla Villa and Mauro Mattioli

Revue : Applied Animal Behaviour Science

a - Department of Scienze Biomediche Comparate, Veterinary Medicine, University of Teramo, Teramo 64100, Italy
b - DVM, Veterinary Hospital Città di Pescara, Pescara, Italy
cInstitute Zooprofilattico dell?Abruzzo e del Molise, Teramo, Italy


The paucity of dogs dedicated to animal-assisted therapy (AAT) for disabled people creates long waiting lists worldwide and compromises the health of the few certified animals by demanding too much work from them at times, thus jeopardizing their future as service dogs. In an attempt to obviate this situation, a mathematical model has been conceived to select animals endowed with a set of specific inborn skills from a population of sheltered dogs. The model is able to select dogs capable of creating a special bond with humans and able to work anywhere and with any human partner or team; it represents a rapid, inexpensive and coherent method and has been validated after 1 year of observation. The algorithm consists of three steps. Step A is a test assessing the aggressiveness and temperament of animals and selection occurs based on a binary criterion (yes or no). Step B is a test comprising three items and selects animals able to interact with humans; dogs have to fulfil two conditions to pass on to Step C. Step C is a test evaluating the animal's ability to respond appropriately to easy commands (trainability) given by different partners; dogs have to fulfil two interrelated conditions judged more flexibly than in test B. The aims of the Ethotest are: (a) to prevent aggressive animals from entering animal-assisted activity and/or Therapy programmes; (b) to select dogs with the right aptitude and especially to restrict selection to dogs that offer consistent responses; (c) to include both male and female purebreds or mix breeds older than 1 year of age; (d) to identify animals able to work with different partners. Moreover, the aim of this contribution is to share with the scientific community an easy method to select shelter dogs as safe companion animals.
Keywords: Service dog; Animal shelter; Animal-assisted activities; Animal-assisted therapy

Corresponding author. Tel.: +39 0861 266851; fax: +39 0861 411285

Applied Animal Behaviour Science. Novembre 2005

 

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