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Shiny Happy Pets Issue

Raising Potential guide dogs go through considerable training and screening before they even meet their handler. When puppies are about 7 to 8 weeks old, they go to live with “puppy raisers,” who socialize them and teach them basic obedience. Puppy raisers also provide the schools with ongoing information about the dog’s personality and behavior. Dogs that aren’t a good fit for guide work may find a future in other service work. what makes a guide dog? Breding Most schools breed puppies (often Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers) specifically for health and temperament, to increase the likelihood that a dog will have a full working life. “Early retirement of a guide dog can be challenging. It requires the handler to schedule time away from home or work to train with a new dog, and to plan accordingly for the initial ‘getting to know each other’ period,” Brier says. “But perhaps more than anything, early retirement can be quite an emotional time for a bonded guide dog team.” Given the incredible investment that goes into creating the perfect guide dog teams (see timeline above), early retirement of a dog can be costly, not to mention emotionally devastating. So what if guide dog schools could predict whether a dog was likely to retire early? “If you could predict success or failure as a puppy, you could save a lot of resources and let the dog go to his permanent place early on,” says Peggy Gibbon, Director of Canine Development for The Seeing Eye, Inc. “ One doctor is hoping to help. While research led by Dr. James Serpell, Ph.D, director of the Center for the Interaction of Animals and Society at the University of Pennsylvania, may not provide a crystal ball, he hopes it could offer significant insights into why guide dogs stop working, and ways to improve the match-up process. With funding from Morris Animal Foundation, Dr. Serpell is tracking the health, behavior and experiences of a group of working dogs from puppyhood through the early part of their working careers. The data he collects will be analyzed to determine characteristics that lead to early retirement. His study came about after a 2008 Morris Animal Foundation survey of guide dog owners showed that about 20% of dogs were retiring early. The top reasons, after “old age,” were “anxiousness/ fearfulness” and “general health.” Frequently cited health problems included orthopedic, gastrointestinal, skin and ear problems, cancer and cataracts. The most common behavioral issues were distraction, food scrounging and phobias. Surprisingly, 30% to 40% of the owners surveyed in 2008 said their current or previous guide dogs showed signs of stress. Dr. Serpell hypothesized that guide dogs’ ablity to cope with stress might determine whether they develop behavioral and health issues that lead to premature retirement. “If dogs are retiring early or deciding not to work anymore, it’s fair to assume those dogs aren’t very happy for some reason,” he says. “We want to develop research findings that will make life better for those dogs.” With participation from three organizations — The Seeing Eye, Guiding Eyes for the Blind and Canine Companions for Independence — Dr. Serpell and his team surveyed dog handlers multiple times over the course of three years. Using the survey results and additional data provided by each organization, Dr. Serpell developed a database of information on more than 600 working guide and assistance dogs: their living and working environments, behavioral characteristics, health and daily activities. It also included information about the handlers: their personalities, interactions and relationships with the dogs, and their experience with handling dogs. If dogs are retiring early or deciding not to work anymore, it’s fair to assume those dogs aren’t very happy for some reason. ” 42 the shiny happy pets issue


Shiny Happy Pets Issue
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