Destructive dogs 'are pessimistic'
Published 11/10/2010 | 17:10
A dog which barks, whines and destroys furniture when left home alone could be suffering from a negative view on life, researchers believe.
A study has looked at whether dogs have a "glass half-full" attitude or a more pessimistic nature using findings from human psychology research.
Researchers at Bristol University say they have gained a new insight into dogs' minds, finding animals that are anxious when left alone also tend to show pessimistic behaviour.
Head of the university's animal welfare and behaviour research group Professor Mike Mendl said: "We all have a tendency to think that our pets and other animals experience emotions similar to our own.
"We know that people's emotional states affect their judgements and that happy people are more likely to judge an ambiguous situation positively.
"What our study has shown is that this applies similarly to dogs, that a glass-half-full dog is less likely to be anxious when left alone than one with a more pessimistic nature."
Twenty-four dogs from two UK animal rehoming centres were used in the study and trained to know that when a bowl was placed at one location, the positive position, it would contain food, but when placed at another location, the negative position, it would be empty.
The position of the bowl was then changed to locations between the positive and negative positions.
Prof Mendl explained: "Dogs that ran fast to these ambiguous locations, as if expecting the positive food reward, were classed as making relatively optimistic decisions; these dogs tended to be the ones who also showed least anxiety-like behaviour when left alone for a short time."
The study, funded by the RSPCA which sees a large number of dogs given up due to behavioural problems, will be published in Current Biology.