Beware the Straw Man

The Science Dog

Many animal shelters regularly use standardized tests to assess the behavior of dogs and to determine adoption suitability. However, while the use of these tests has become ubiquitous, there is a distinct lack of research demonstrating their reliability or validity. In other words, while testing a dog’s degree of friendliness, aggression and fear prior to adoption makes intuitive sense and feels like a good idea, we do not actually know whether or not it actually works. This is an important question to raise (and I am by no means the first to be raising it), because when these tests are administered as a method for predicting a dog’s future behavior, the dog’s performance on the test often determines whether or not he has a future.


My previous blog,  “This test you keep using…..” reviewed a study that examined the predictive value of a single subtest of a standard behavior test, the fake hand as a test for food aggression (1).  That paper’s results…

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