Is your dog’s bowl half empty or half full? Canines are optimists and pessimists

A research team at The University of Sydney in Australia have said that their study has revealed that just like people, some dogs are significantly more optimistic than others.

The research team’s leader, Dr Melissa Starling said, “The research is exciting because it measures positive and negative emotional states non-invasively and objectively. It also offers researchers and dog owners an insight into the outlook of dogs and how that changes.”

Scientists set up a rewards system – on a specific sound, one group of dogs was presented with a bowl of lactose-free milk, and another separate group on another sound were presented with just a bowl full of water. After the dogs had learnt that the sound meant they were soon to be presented with a bowl full of that specific substance, the researchers added in random, ambiguous sounds in between the octaves of the original signal sounds, and recorded how the dog responded.

The participant dogs who responded to the more ambiguous noises played in between the signals were seen as more optimistic.

Although this research might seem like a bit of fun, it also has plenty of practical applications in the world of doggy science. A dog with optimistic characteristics is more likely to take chances, meaning that they would be better at things like police work such as searching for drugs or explosives. In contrast, pessimistic dogs are less likely to take risks, making them ideal candidates for becoming service dogs for the blind and physically impaired.

Dr Starling believe that this research could also be used to analyse a dog’s mood, making sure they are happy and checking on their welfare. If the research could be further investigated and applied on a larger scale, scientists and experts could be able to see what a dog finds emotionally distressing, what types of environment they prefer and when they feel safe.

What do you reckon? Is your dog an optimist or a pessimist?

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