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Genetic and environmental factors affecting the suitability of dogs as Guide Dogs for the Blind


Many dogs are found to be unsuitable for training as guide dogs for the blind. Consequently the Royal Guide Dogs for the Blind Association of Australia has embarked on a breeding program to produce a strain of labrador dogs which is suitable for guide dog training.

The most common reasons for rejecting dogs are fearfulness, dog distraction, excitability, health and physical reasons and hip dysplasia. The selection program seems to have been successful in improving the success rate mainly by lowering fearfulness, but there has not been a continuing improvement. This is probably due to continual introduction of dogs from other populations into the breeding program.

Males suffer from a higher rejection rate due to dog distraction and a lower rejection rate due to fearfulness and excitability than females, so that there is little sex difference in overall success rate.

The heritability of success (0.44) is high enough to predict further progress from selection, again mainly against fearfulness.

Variation in environment prior to 6 weeks of age, in age when dogs were placed into a private home and in age when males were castrated, had little effect on the success rate.

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Communicated by J.S.F. Barker

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Goddard, M.E., Beilharz, R.G. Genetic and environmental factors affecting the suitability of dogs as Guide Dogs for the Blind. Theoret. Appl. Genetics 62, 97–102 (1982).

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Key words

  • Guide dogs
  • Behaviour
  • Genetics