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Socialisation, Training, and Help-Seeking Specific Puppy Raising Practices That Predict Desirable Behaviours in Trainee Assistance Dog Puppies
journal contributionposted on 15.04.2021, 00:56 by Dac Loc Mai, Tiffani Howell, Pree Benton, Pauleen Bennett
Puppies are often purpose-bred and carefully selected to be future assistance dog candidates. Early experiences during their stay with volunteer puppy raisers help shape their behaviour as young adults, which is an important determinant of whether they are selected for further training. Exactly how puppy raisers’ practices contribute to puppy behavioural development during this time remains unknown. The current study aimed to address this by investigating relationships between puppy raisers’ practices, various support factors, and puppy behaviour. A total of 231 puppy raisers (205 females, 25 males, 1 preferred not to say), aged between 18 and 79 years old (M = 40, SD = 18), completed an online survey. They provided demographic information, described their puppy raising practices (e.g., ‘I walk my puppy regularly even when I don't feel like doing it’, ‘I know what to do when my puppy doesn't behave’), ranked their perceived support from various sources (e.g., organisation's dog trainers, other puppy raisers, family members, and friends) and rated their puppy's behaviour (e.g., [My puppy] pulls towards unfamiliar dogs). A principal component analysis revealed that the puppy-raising practices item set was factorable, with three internally consistent subscales, i.e., Socialisation, Training, and Help-Seeking Behaviour. Stepwise linear regression showed that Socialisation and Training predicted most puppy behaviours (Trainability, General Anxiety, Adaptability, and Excitability). In turn, these two factors were predicted by support from mentors/counsellors, although mediation analyses indicated that raiser's help-seeking behaviour mediated these relationships. While further research is required, it is recommended that, to ensure optimal puppy rearing outcomes, organisations should invest resources in improving and supervising puppy raisers’ practices, particularly through promoting a help-seeking culture amongst puppy raisers and through sharing the experiences of previous puppy raisers.