New Study Calls for “Moratorium” on Temperament Testing

The Philadelphia pound intended to kill this dog back in July 2017 after provoking her in a “temperament test.” She would have been killed, too, had the video not gone viral and a rescue group not intervened.

A new study finds that there is not a single temperament test used to evaluate shelter dogs that is reliable in predicting behavior. The study authors are calling for a moratorium on their use by pounds to determine whether dogs live or die.

The authors evaluated over 25 years of research to determine “the validity or reliability” of temperament testing “used or intended for screening shelter dogs for behavior labeled aggressive and/or for adoption suitability.” The conclusion: there is “no evidence that any canine behavior evaluation has come close to meeting accepted standards for reliability and validity.”

Some of the tests were wrong as much as 84% of the time (a combination of poor tests and poor testing practices by pound workers). While shocking, it should not be surprising since the tests are built on a “fatally flawed” premise: “that the provocations used at a single time during a dog’s stressful experience in a shelter will predict future behavior at a different time and place.”

Finally, the authors say further research is not necessary since there is little likelihood that any other conclusion can be reached. As I have long maintained,

It’s time to throw out the fake hand, the doll, the food bowl takeaway, and the loud knock on the door. The debate as to whether temperament testing in a shelter is effective, flawed, needs modification, or should be discarded is over.

The study, “What is the Evidence for Reliability and Validity of Behavior Evaluations for Shelter Dogs?,” is available by clicking here.


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