Is Your Dog A Pessimist?

Dogs seem to have a generally happy outlook on life, but how can you tell if your dog is feeling gloomy? Can dogs be pessimistic?

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We project a lot of human emotions onto our pets, but can are dogs capable of feeling complex emotions like optimism and pessimism? Researchers at the University of Sydney tried to answer this with a 2014 study. They taught 40 dogs of different breeds to associate two different sounds, one with whether they would get a reward of milk (their "treat") or one with an equal amount of regular water. Once the dogs had been taught to learn the difference between the "treat" tone and the less-exciting water tone, they were presented with other, more ambiguous, sounds.

The researchers said they could show how optimistic the dogs were by which sounds they responded to. A very optimistic dog might even respond to the ambiguous sounds that were more similar in pitch to the boring water sound. Other research has shown that some dogs tend to be more anxious than others. In the canine world, this means they get more separation anxiety when they're left home alone. they bark more, and are more destructive. This kind of research is potentially helpful when it comes time to select and train working and service dogs and that dogs need a certain level of optimism to persist with training.

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