Optimist or Pessimist – Is your dog’s bowl half-full or half-empty?

BennyAn article in Science Daily suggests, based on materials provided by the University of Sydney, that some dogs can be more pessimistic than others.

According to the research dogs with an optimistic personality expects more good things to happen and less bad things, will take risks and gain access to rewards. Minor setbacks don’t bother them.

A dog with a pessimistic personality expects less good things to happen and more bad things, making him cautious and more likely to be upset by minor setbacks and give up.

“Pessimistic dogs appeared to be much more stressed by failing a task than optimistic dogs. They would whine and pace and avoid repeating the task while the optimistic dogs would appear unfazed and continue,” said Dr Melissa Starling.

Again in Science Daily it seems that dogs with a pessimistic outlook are also those most liable to suffer from separation issues.

“We know that people’s emotional states affect their judgments; happy people are more likely to judge an ambiguous situation positively,” said Mike Mendl of the University of Bristol. “Now it seems that this may also apply to dogs; dogs that behaved anxiously when left alone also tended to judge ambiguous events negatively. Their anxious behavior may reflect an underlying negative emotional state.”

Mendl adds, “This study suggests that at least some dogs showing separation-related behaviors may have underlying negative emotional states, and owners are encouraged to seek treatment to enhance the welfare of their dogs.”

The tests they did to determine whether a dog is optimistic or pessimistic are interesting.

Finding out as accurately as possible whether a particular dog is optimistic or pessimistic is particularly helpful in the context of working and service dogs and has important implications for animal welfare.” Says Dr. Melissa Starling.

A dog’s expectations must surely effect many other things including outcomes when meeting other dogs or people. With people, those who expect to be liked usually are and vice versa. Surely it’s the same with dogs.

I can think of many dogs I have been to that are obviously happy and optimistic, and others that obviously expect the worst to happen and sometimes it’s hard to see why. Possibly they are simply pessimistic by nature. Here is the story of a little dog I went to with a superbly optimistic outlook on life.



About Theo Stewart

I am a dog Behaviourist C.C.B (Certified Canine Behaviourist) INTODogs). I have helped over 3000 dog owners over eighteen years. In addition to online consultations all over the world, I cover Beds, Herts, Cambs and Bucks for home visits. A 'Victoria Stilwell' Positively Dog Trainer (VSPDT) and a full member of the IMDT. Graduate ISCP, International School for Canine Practitioners. My main site: www.dogidog.co.uk
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