Examining the relationship between puppy raisers and guide dogs in training

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2015-08

Authors

Fratkin, Jamie Lynne

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Abstract

Dogs play a unique role in the lives of humans. Many people form positive relationships with dogs but some do not. In working dogs, the relationship that dogs form with humans is particularly important due to the trust people need to put in their dogs. The aim of this dissertation was examine the relationship between guide dogs in training and the puppy raisers who care for the dogs during the dog’s early life. I developed a questionnaire designed to tap the most important elements of the relationships between puppy raisers and working dogs. Participants filled out the questionnaire when their dogs were approximately 4-months of age (131 participants), 8-months of age (124 participants), and 13-months of age (140 participants). Principal component analyses suggested that the puppy raiser-dog relationship can be divided into five different factors: Anthropomorphism, Obedience, Closeness, Understanding of dog, and Care of dog. I evaluated the degree to which measurements using this instrument generalized across testing occasions (separated by four or five months) and rater perspectives (self vs. other). Most relationship factors (except Closeness) generalized across testing occasions and there was mixed evidence for generalizability across rater perspective. Next, I assessed the criterion validity of the questionnaire with respect to two other measures of relationship skills. One criterion measures was furnished by experts observing the dog and puppy raiser interact in a formal evaluation. The second criterion measure was derived from codings and ratings of videotapes from a portion of the evaluation. The puppy raiser-dog relationship factors of Obedience and Understanding of dog predicted scores on both criterion measures. Finally, I assessed the degree to which characteristics of both the human and the dog predicted the relationship factors. Human characteristics (in particular personality and participant age) influenced most of the relationship factors. Dog characteristics (in particular trainability and attachment) influenced some of the relationship factors (especially Obedience and Understanding of dog). These results can help us to better understand when relationships might succeed and when might fail. Such information can help in many applied contexts where humans and dogs form a relationship.

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