2011 APDT Foundation Poster Awards

An Evidence-Based Canine Companion Training Curriculum Assessment Methodology
Lisa R. McCluskey, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA, Moongazer Canine Companion Training
Kevin Small, Ph.D., Tufts University

Incidence of Parvovirus in Puppies Attending Puppy Socialization Classes

Meredith Stepita, DVM; Melissa Bain, DVM, DACVB, MS; Phil Kass, DVM, Ph.D.

Owner Attachment and Problem Behaviors Related to Relinquishment and Training Techniques

Jennifer Kwan, BS; Melissa Bain, DVM, DACVB, MS

First Prize Winner

An Evidence-Based Canine Companion Training Curriculum Assessment Methodology

Lisa R. McCluskey, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
Moongazer Canine Companion Training

Kevin Small, Ph.D.
Tufts University

One aspect of modern dog training is a movement from competition-based to companion-based curricula -- where the primary goal is satisfactory integration of the pet into the household. This shift in focus has facilitated innovative paradigms (e.g., clicker training) and development of activities targeted at more casual canine enthusiasts (e.g., nose work[1]). However, as offerings de-emphasize competition, measuring progress is more difficult.  While adherents of each path tout advantages, claims are made largely via anecdotal observations.  For dog training to continue progress toward being a scientific discipline, these claims must also withstand the rigor of unbiased, systematic, evidence-based analysis.

Our research proposes such an analytic methodology for quantifying training curriculum effectiveness.  We apply this framework within a retrospective cohort study of 63 clients that completed a three level training program resulting in an AKC CGC designation, followed by enrollment in at least one non-competitive activities course (Rally-O Skills, Fun Run Agility, Companion Sniffer Dog Training[2]). Improvement is measured through differences in responses to a three-point Likert scale evaluation of eight common obedience commands contained in a survey module[3] first given during level one orientation and again after training at our facility for at least six months.  Standard safeguards are used to control for acquiescence bias. 

We first performed a Wilcoxon signed-rank test to demonstrate statistically significant improvements in all obedience commands, noting differences in skill advancement -- which can inform future curriculum modification.  Secondly, we conducted a comparative-effectiveness multivariate regression analysis to determine which higher-level activities courses led to better "obedience outcomes".  Finally, we use a similar regression analysis to compare the expected total income derived from each of the respective activities courses to contrast corresponding client retention and satisfaction.

[1]A. Herot and J.M. O'Brien. K9 Nose Work. The Association of Pet Dog Trainers Annual Educational Conference (Presentation), October 2010.

[2]L.R. McCluskey, S.A. Larson, E.C. Bess, and K. Small. Utitlizing the companion sniffer dog training method to develop aptitude in locating target scents. The Association of Pet Dog Trainers Annual Educational Conference (Poster), October 2010.

[3]K. Overall. Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Small Animals. Mosby, 1997.

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Honorable Mention

Incidence of Parvovirus in Puppies Attending Puppy Socialization Classes

Meredith Stepita, DVM; Melissa Bain, DVM, DACVB, MS; Phil Kass, DVM, Ph.D.

Socialization is one method of preventing behavior problems in dogs; however, some oppose socialization before 16 weeks of age due to the risk of contracting infectious diseases. Our objectives were to determine the incidence of parvovirus (parvo) in puppies presenting to veterinarians, comparing puppies that attended puppy socialization classes to those that did not, as well as the incidence of parvo in puppies that presented to trainers for such classes. Our hypotheses were: appropriately vaccinated puppies that attended socialization classes would be at no more risk of being diagnosed with parvo than appropriately vaccinated puppies that did not attend these classes; and that the incidence of parvo in appropriately vaccinated puppies that attended classes would be low. 
In Part 1, 21 clinics in four large cities collected information (demographics, vaccination, parvovirus diagnosis, and class attendance) on puppies ≤ 16 weeks of age. Each clinic was provided with free parvo antigen tests to test puppies suspected of having parvovirus. In Part 2, 24 trainers in these same cities collected similar information on puppies that attended their classes.
Of 1,217 puppies in Part 1, 51 puppies attended socialization classes, and no puppies that attended classes were diagnosed with parvo (CI=0-7.0%). Of puppies attending socialization classes, 22 were examined at clinics in low-income areas and 29 were examined at clinics in high-income areas.

Ninety-two puppies were diagnosed with parvo, 91 from clinics in low-income areas. Puppies had a higher risk of being diagnosed with parvo if they were obtained as strays (OR=4.0; CI=1.6-10.3; p=0.004) or from a pet store (OR=2.8; CI=1.2-6.6; p=0.017). Six puppies diagnosed with parvo were purebred Rottweilers, which appeared to be at higher risk compared to all other breeds (OR=3.3; CI=1.2-9.0; p=0.021).

Of 234 puppies in Part 2, none were diagnosed with parvo prior to or while attending classes (CI=0-1.5%). Fifty-three puppies attended classes in low-income areas, and 181 in middle- or high-income areas. All but four of the puppies in classes were vaccinated for parvo before starting classes.

We concluded that appropriately vaccinated puppies that attend properly run socialization classes are at no more risk of being diagnosed with parvo than puppies that do not attend these classes.

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Honorable Mention

Owner Attachment and Problem Behaviors Related to Relinquishment and Training Techniques

Jennifer Kwan, BS; Melissa Bain, DVM, DACVB, MS
Problematic behaviors are a significant cause of relinquishment and euthanasia, and relinquished dogs are more likely to have problem behaviors.  This study was conducted with standardized surveys of owners relinquishing their dogs to shelter and dog owners visiting vaccine clinics.  "Relinquishing" and "continuing" owners were solicited from three local shelters and vaccination clinics associated with them.  Owners were asked questions in the following categories: demographic information; training methods and tools; frequency with which their dog engaged in problematic behaviors; satisfaction with training methods and tools; and attachment to their dog.  Relinquishing owners were also asked reasons for relinquishment.

Results of 129 surveys (80 relinquishing and 49 continuing) showed that relinquishers scored lower on pet attachment than continuing owners, and they were more likely to keep their dogs outside 100% of the time. Relinquished dogs were significantly older and larger than continually-owned dogs; and Pitbull-type dogs were more represented in the relinquishing group than continuing group.  Also, relinquished dogs were no less likely to have attended a training class than continually-owned dogs.  In both groups, owners that used punishment-based collars reported less satisfaction with their dog's overall and leash-walking behaviors, and Pitbull-type dogs were reported to be no less well-behaved compared to all other breeds combined.  Sixty-five percent of relinquishing owners reported some behavioral reason for relinquishment, with 48% of them indicating that at least one problem behavior was a strong influence in their decision to relinquish.  These findings implicate that using punishment-based tools may affect the human-animal bond.

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