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Scientists working on AI tech to match dogs up with the perfect owners



London — When Londoner Chelsea Battle first met her cavapoo Peanut, it was love at first sight.

“He’s my son,” she told CBS News, calling her bond with her dog “one of the most important relationships in my life.”

Chelsea adopted Peanut during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think it’s really important to understand that dogs have different personalities, and you need to find the one that’s best for you,” Chelsea said. “I lucked out.”

Their bond is strong, and picking a dog or other pet often comes down to a gut feeling. But computer scientists at the University of East London are hoping to take some of the chance out of the process. They’re using artificial intelligence to help predict the personality types of individual dogs, so they can be better matched with humans.

“These personality types are defined based on the behavioral attributes, not the breed, not the gender of the dog,” Dr. Mohammad Amirhosseini, a senior lecturer in computer science and digital technology at the university, told CBS News.

Using behavioral records from more than 70,000 dogs from the University of Pennsylvania, the British researchers developed an AI algorithm to classify canines into five groups — you might even call them personality types.

“Our best performing model achieved 99% accuracy, which is amazing,” said Amirhosseini.

They found that dogs can be sorted into one of the following categories: 

  • Excitable and hyper-attached
  • Anxious and fearful
  • Aloof and predatory
  • Reactive and assertive
  • Calm and agreeable.

With this information in hand, the researchers hope to eventually be able to predict the best specific dogs — not just breeds — for an array tasks from sniffing out drugs to guiding the blind, and maybe even cuddling the kids.

Currently, more than half of dogs put into training for specific jobs, such as security or guide work, fail their programs, according to the American Kennel Club.

“If we have an idea about the dog’s personality in advance,” said Amirhosseini, “we can select the right dog for the right job.”

He said he hoped that one day, the AI technology will be readily available to help families looking to adopt a dog find one that’s perfect for them. Right now, about half of dogs rescued from shelters in the U.S. end up being returned by the owners, and behavioral issues are very often cited as a factor.

The researchers hope that as they develop the AI tool, it will help to create more successful adoptions.

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