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Concept: Guide dog


Sequencing of candidate genes for obesity in Labrador retriever dogs identified a 14 bp deletion in pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) with an allele frequency of 12%. The deletion disrupts the β-MSH and β-endorphin coding sequences and is associated with body weight (per allele effect of 0.33 SD), adiposity, and greater food motivation. Among other dog breeds, the deletion was only found in the closely related flat-coat retriever (FCR), where it is similarly associated with body weight and food motivation. The mutation is significantly more common in Labrador retrievers selected to become assistance dogs than pets. In conclusion, the deletion in POMC is a significant modifier of weight and appetite in Labrador retrievers and FCRs and may influence other behavioral traits.

Concepts: Genetics, Labrador Retriever, Dog, Dog breed, Retriever, Golden Retriever, Labradoodle, Guide dog


Assistance dogs are specially trained to undertake a variety of tasks to help individuals with disabilities. This review gives an overview of the different types of assistance dogs in the UK, including guide dogs, hearing dogs, mobility assistance dogs, service dogs and dual-purpose dogs. The literature describes many benefits of assistance dogs, including their impact on physical wellbeing and safety of their ‘owners,’ as well as on psychological wellbeing and social inclusion. The role of assistance dogs in society is widely recognized by the public, but is not currently acknowledged in government social policy. The current evidence on the benefits of assistance dogs is limited by the type and scale of current research. This article highlights the need for independent funding for high quality research to enable social care and policy makers to make evidence-based decisions on the value of assistance dogs to people with disabilities.

Concepts: Sociology, Disability, Assistance dogs, Assistance dog, Service dog, Guide dog, Hearing dog, Mobility assistance dog


It is often assumed that measures of temperament within individuals are more correlated to one another than to measures of problem solving. However, the exact relationship between temperament and problem-solving tasks remains unclear because large-scale studies have typically focused on each independently. To explore this relationship, we tested 119 prospective adolescent guide dogs on a battery of 11 temperament and problem-solving tasks. We then summarized the data using both confirmatory factor analysis and exploratory principal components analysis. Results of confirmatory analysis revealed that a priori separation of tests as measuring either temperament or problem solving led to weak results, poor model fit, some construct validity, and no predictive validity. In contrast, results of exploratory analysis were best summarized by principal components that mixed temperament and problem-solving traits. These components had both construct and predictive validity (i.e., association with success in the guide dog training program). We conclude that there is complex interplay between tasks of “temperament” and “problem solving” and that the study of both together will be more informative than approaches that consider either in isolation.

Concepts: Multivariate statistics, Educational psychology, Psychometrics, Factor analysis, Principal component analysis, Problem solving, Confirmatory factor analysis, Guide dog


Introduction The BrainPort® V100 Vision Aid is a non-invasive assistive device for the blind based on sensory substitution. The device translates camera images into electrotactile stimuli delivered to the tongue. The BrainPort has recently received the CE mark and FDA approval and it is currently marketed to augment, rather than replace, the traditional assistive technologies such as the white cane or guide dog. Areas covered In this work, we will review the functional studies performed to date with the BrainPort and we will highlight the critical factors that determine device performance, including the technology behind the BrainPort, the impediments to assessing device performance, and the impact of device training and rehabilitation. Expert commentary The BrainPort enables blind people to perceive light, identify simple objects, recognize short words, localize simple objects, and detect motion and orientation of objects. To achieve this, proper rehabilitation and training regimes are crucial.

Concepts: Visual system, Sensory substitution, Book of Optics, Blindness, Assistive technology, Web accessibility, White cane, Guide dog


The overall median lifespan of domestic dogs has been estimated to 9-12 years, but little is known about risk factors for mortality in aged and a priori healthy dogs. The objective of this retrospective cohort study was to determine which characteristics are associated with mortality in aged and a priori healthy guide dogs, in a retrospective cohort study of 116 guide dogs followed from a systematic geriatric examination at the age of 8-10 years old. A geriatric grid collected the clinical data and usual biological parameters were measured at the time of examination. Univariate (Kaplan-Meier estimates) and multivariable (Cox proportional hazard model) survival analyses were used to assess the associations with time to all-cause death. The majority of dogs were Golden Retrievers (n=48) and Labrador Retrievers (n=27). Median age at geriatric examination was 8.9 years. A total of 76 dogs died during follow-up, leading to a median survival time from geriatric examination of 4.4 years. After adjustment for demographic and biological variables, an increased alanine amionotransferase level (adjusted Hazard Ratio (adjusted HR), 6.2; 95% confidence interval [95%CI], 2.0-19.0; P<0.01), presenting skin nodules (adjusted HR, 1.9; 95% CI, 1.0-3.4; P=0.04), and not being a Labrador Retriever (adjusted HR, 3.3; 95%CI, 1.4-10; P<0.01) were independently associated with a shorter time to death. This study documents independent associations of alanine aminotransferase level, skin nodules and breed with mortality in aged guide dogs. These results may be useful for preventive medical care when conducting a geriatric examination in working dogs.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Proportional hazards models, Labrador Retriever, Dog, Dog breed, Retriever, Golden Retriever, Guide dog


Guide dogs and their owners will visit a veterinary practice at least twice a year. The aim of this study was to evaluate what guide dog owners thought about these visits, in order to identify areas of good practice which could be incorporated into the undergraduate curriculum. Nine guide dog owners volunteered to take part in the study and were interviewed by the primary researcher. Thematic analysis was carried out and several themes were identified: good experiences were highlighted where staff had an understanding of visual impairment and the work of a guide dog; the importance of good communication skills involving the owner in the consultation; the need for veterinary professionals to understand the bond between an owner and guide dog; how medication and information could be provided in a user-friendly format for someone affected by a visual impairment and concerns about costs and decision making for veterinary treatment. This work highlights the importance for veterinary staff to talk to, empathise with and understand the individual circumstances of their clients and identifies areas that should be included in veterinary education to better prepare students for the workplace.

Concepts: Decision making, Understanding, Cognition, Knowledge, Labrador Retriever, Ownership, Blindness, Guide dog


Evidence from other species justifies the hypotheses that useful hybrid vigour occurs in dogs and that it can be exploited for improved health, welfare and fitness for purpose. Unfortunately, most of the relevant published canine studies do not provide estimates of actual hybrid vigour because of inadequate specification of the parentage of mixed-bred dogs. To our knowledge, only three published studies have shed any light on actual hybrid vigour in dogs. There are two reports of actual hybrid vigour between Labrador and Golden retrievers, the first ranging from +2.5% to -6.0% for components of a standardised applied-stimulus behavioural test, and the second being at least +12.4% for chance of graduating as a guide dog. The third study provides a minimum estimate of negative actual hybrid vigour: crossbreds between Labrador retrievers and poodles had a higher prevalence of multifocal retinal dysplasia than the average prevalence in their purebred parent breeds. The lack of estimates of actual hybrid vigour can be overcome by including the exact nature of the cross (e.g. F1, F2 or backcross) and their purebred parental breeds in the specification of mixed-bred dogs. Even if only F1 crossbreds can be categorised, this change would enable researchers to conduct substantial investigations to determine whether hybrid vigour has any utility for dog breeding.

Concepts: Selective breeding, Labrador Retriever, Dog, Dog breed, Breeding, Retriever, Golden Retriever, Guide dog


Valued for trainability in diverse tasks, dogs are the primary service animal used to assist individuals with disabilities. Despite their utility, many people in need of service dogs are sensitive to the primary dog allergen, Can f 1, encoded by the Lipocalin 1 gene (LCN1). Several organizations specifically breed service dogs to meet special needs and would like to reduce allergenic potential if possible. In this study, we evaluated the expression of Can f 1 protein and the inherent variability of LCN1 in two breeds used extensively as service dogs. Saliva samples from equal numbers of male and female Labrador retrievers (n = 12), golden retrievers (n = 12), and Labrador-golden crosses (n = 12) were collected 1 h after the morning meal. Can f 1 protein concentrations in the saliva were measured by ELISA, and the LCN1 5' and 3' UTRs and exons sequenced.

Concepts: Labrador Retriever, Dog, Dog breed, Retriever, Progressive retinal atrophy, Golden Retriever, St. John's Water Dog, Guide dog


Achromatopsia was identified in three Labrador Retriever littermates. The dogs demonstrated day blindness, negotiating obstacles under low-light conditions, but apparently blind when outdoors. One of the dogs presented with immature bilateral diffuse posterior cortical cataracts and clinical signs of day blindness became apparent following cataract extraction surgery. Electroretinography demonstrated an absence of a cone photoreceptor response to a bright stimulus and a flicker response of 30 Hz in all three dogs. No fundic lesions have been apparent ophthalmoscopically in any of the dogs as the initial presentation of each case. No abnormalities were detected with DNA screening for known mutations of the CNGB3 gene in any of the dogs.

Concepts: Ophthalmology, Labrador Retriever, Dog, Dog breed, Blindness, Retriever, Guide dog


The present study aimed at evaluating possible behavioural differences between guide dogs living in a kennel and interacting with a trainer and those living in a house and interacting with a blind person and their family, when they are faced with an unsolvable task. Fifty-two Labrador retrievers were tested: 13 Trained Guide dogs at the end of their training programme and 11 Working Guide dogs that had been living with their blind owner for at least 1 year. Two control groups of Labrador retrievers were also tested: 14 Young Untrained dogs of the same age as the Trained Guide and 14 Old Untrained dogs of the same age as the Working Guide dogs. Results showed that the Trained Guide dogs gazed towards the owner or the stranger for less time and with a higher latency and spent more time interacting with the experimental apparatus than the other three groups, which all behaved similarly. None of the groups tested showed preferences in gazing towards the stranger or the owner. Together, the results suggest that at the end of their training programme, guide dogs are less prone to engage in human-directed gazing behaviour and more likely to act independently when facing an unsolvable task. Conversely, guide dogs that have been living with a blind person (and their family) for 1 year behave like pet dogs. These findings indicate that guide dogs' gazing towards humans is favoured by living in close proximity with people and by interacting with them.

Concepts: Labrador Retriever, Dog, Dog breed, Blindness, Retriever, Golden Retriever, Labradoodle, Guide dog