A Moment of Science

Pessimistic Pups: Why Your Dog May See The Dish As Half Empty

Dogs can be worried and pessimistic just like people, researchers report.

White puppy sitting in the snow

Photo: John Talbot (flickr)

Dogs can experience separation anxiety and pessimism just like humans.

Does your dog seem unhappy? Well, in a new study in Current Biology, researchers say that dogs can become pessimistic in certain situations.

Leaving your already anxious dogs at home alone may leave them in a permanent bad mood.

The Study

Twenty-four shelter dogs were studied. Researchers placed dogs in isolated rooms with furniture. While alone, dogs barked, jumped and scratched. Next, researchers placed bowls in two rooms.

The bowls either did or did not contain food. They trained the dogs to understand that sometimes the bowl contained food and sometimes it didn’t. Researchers then placed bowls in random spots in the rooms.

Some dogs raced to the bowls and were said to be optimistic. While other dogs slowly explored the food and were said to be more pessimistic. The more a dog acted out against the furniture, the more likely the dog was to have a pessimistic reaction.

What It Means

Dogs that are left alone for many hours a day and exhibit separation anxiety may need special treatment. They could be unhappy or unstable.

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Margaret Aprison

Margaret is a graduate of Indiana University with a degree in Telecommunications and a minor in Psychology. The daughter of two scientists, Margaret has been surrounded by the subject her entire life. She enjoys social media, writing, television, and, of course, science!

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