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Functional Behavior Assessment with Guide Dogs in Training: A Feasibility Study
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Guide dogs are an important resource for the community with visual impairment. Despitethe many resources allocated towards preparing the dogs for their guide dog career, guide dog training organizations report over half of dogs in the training program fail to meet behavioral standards required to serve as a guide dog. Guide dogs are trained in a complex system making it difficult to pinpoint the primary contributor or contributors to poor training outcomes. However, the puppy-raising period has been identified in the literature as a period during which puppies begin to engage in behaviors that threaten their suitability as a guide dog. The present research evaluated the treatment utility and feasibility of a descriptive functional behavior assessment for puppy raisers’ management of undesired puppy behavior that could threaten the puppy’s eligibility to serve as a guide dog. Psychoeducation was provided as a second-tier intervention when implementing the assessment-informed intervention did not result in the desired behavior change. Four participants completed the study. The assessment informed a successful intervention for three of the four participants. Psychoeducation was provided to one participant, though the puppy raiser’s poor treatment integrity prevented evaluation of the effects of psychoeducation as a separate intervention. Results suggest utility of functional assessment of puppy behavior and assessing puppy raisers’ compliance to organizational training protocols. Implementation of assessment-informed behavioral intervention is an important step towards data-based decisions regarding the puppies’ best interest with respect to continuing the career path of a guide dog.