A farmer wanted to make a contest between his dog and rabbit. He hid a bone and a carrot. While the rabbit began to dig and dig, the dog remained in place bemoaning how difficult it will be to find the bone. The rabbit was not discouraged with each new hole in fact he felt more encouraged since it made him like he was getting closer to reaching the carrots.
Meanwhile, the dog was still lamenting. You see, pessimism is a bad counselor, even for dogs. The rabbit, when he no longer had to dig site, made a tunnel following his nose. So until he found not only carrots, but also the bone. You know where I was? Right under the can!
If pessimism had not seized him, the hairy might have found his prize only using a small part of his instinct.
This is just a story about the pessimist dog that shows that animals too can have different moods. They can become pessimistic. This attitude is dangerous for the dogs and I’ll explain why.
Optimistic versus pessimistic dogs:
A study in Sydney corroborated the fact there really are pessimistic dogs. The study was proven by running an experiment using musical tones. Researchers exposed 40 dogs of different races to two musical tones. Basically milk was used as prize in the experiment. Dogs were taught to play the two tones and they were shown which one would lead them to more milk.
These tones were between two octaves, so they had different shades. When animals learned to differentiate the two tones, he began the experiment.
Some of the dogs quickly touched the tone that would win them the prize. They did it several times, even though the first time they did not receive their prize.
These dogs were considered optimistic, as well as confident that if they continued struggling they will keep getting more milk. However, there were other dogs, seeing that the milk did not reach that tone first, they gave up. Those were considered pessimistic.
According to one of the researchers, “Pessimist dogs seemed more distressed by their failures than optimists. They accepted the failure and they decided that they could not keep up, hence avoided trying again. Meanwhile, the optimists were persistent and continued.”
The researchers in this study, however, do not believe the pessimistic dogs are unhappy, but they are accustomed to a comfortable routine where the dogs don’t feel the need to struggle to earn a reward. Therefore, the researchers emphasized on the importance of motivating them to do new things.
Pessimism or realism?
When someone does catch our attention by some pessimistic words we have said earlier, our answer was: “I am not pessimistic, I’m realistic.” Does this happen in the case of our dogs too?
Another study by MarckBekoff and based on the experiment mentioned earlier, he concluded that maybe the dogs that stopped looking for milk were not pessimistic, but realistic, and realized that they are not going to get it.
A dog with a pessimistic diagnosed pathology shows no interest in any activity, even if these carried hidden rewards. Therefore, Bekoff does not deny that there are pessimist dogs, he states that there are like this, especially if they have been victims of abuse since childhood. But also confirms that you can change their behavior.
Pessimistic dogs are more likely to carry a negative outlook on life, they may consider every ambiguous situation as negative. The dogs with a negative emotional state are more likely to look at everything negatively even it is very petty. The negative outlook will hold him back from enjoying in situations where the rest of the dogs are happy. He may seem disconnected and may suffer emotionally even in a fair situation.
Changing a dog’s behavior can be very daunting and time consuming since it requires a lot of cognitive training, assessments and testing dogs in various situations.
How to identify a pessimist dog?
A dog may seem much pessimistic and depressive if he carries these attitudes:
- Lying prolonged periods
- Stare into the void
- Will not play
- Unresponsive to stimuli
Another study that determined whether a dog is more inclined towards pessimism requires studying the dog’s paw preference. This will require you to notice which paw our dog uses more often, which paw is more responsive. Scientist link the paw preference to the brain. As we are aware that there are two hemispheres of brain and each hemisphere controls the opposite side of the body. Hence the activity of right paw is controlled by left side of the brain and the activity of left paw is controlled by right side of the brain. Each part of brain controls a specific set of emotion such as the left is associated more with courage, acceptance to change, adventure. The right side is more of a realistic side that promotes withdrawal from any new situation, fear of change and staying in comfort zone. Hence when you figure out your dog’s paw preference you can easily determine his behavior. The dogs with right paw preference are more likely to have a positive outlook on life. Whereas, the dogs with left paw preference are more likely to develop a negative outlook hence, inhibiting them from enjoying situations that are unusual even though safe.
These are some signs that a dog is pessimistic. Although there are studies that say they are not unhappy, the truth is that they could be happier. A pessimist cannot enjoy life and love what others have to give, so it is vital motivating him to do new things and enjoy new experiences. If you do not know how, maybe it’s a good idea to talk with a coach or even a canine psychologist.