Development and validation of a novel method for evaluating behavior and temperament in guide dogs

James A. Serpell, Yuying Hsu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

190 Citations (Scopus)


Most guide and service dog organizations would benefit from the development of accurate methods for the early evaluation of canine temperament traits. This paper describes the development and validation of a novel questionnaire method for assessing behavior and temperament in 1-year-old guide dogs. Volunteer puppy-raisers scored a total of 1097 prospective guide dogs on a series of 40 semantic differential-type, behavioral rating scales. Principle components factor analysis of these scores extracted eight stable and interpretable common factors: stranger-directed fear/aggression, non-social fear, energy level, owner-directed aggression, chasing, trainability, attachment, and dog-directed fear/aggression. Three of these eight factors exhibited moderate internal consistency (Cronbach's α ≥ 0.72), while the reliabilities of the remaining factors were relatively low (Cronbach's α = 0.53-0.61). The eight factors were then validated against the guide dog school's own criteria for rejecting dogs for behavioral reasons. The results of this analysis confirmed the construct validity of the puppy raisers' questionnaire assessments of their dogs, and suggested that such methods can provide a useful and accurate means of predicting the suitability of dogs for guiding work. Various modifications to the original questionnaire are proposed in order to enhance its overall reliability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)347-364
Number of pages18
JournalApplied Animal Behaviour Science
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2001 Jun 1
Externally publishedYes


  • Behavioral assessment
  • Guide dog
  • Temperament

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Animals
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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