‘Pessimistic’ dogs tend to behave badly

October 12th, 2010 - 4:32 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Oct 12 (IANS) Dogs that bark and chew furniture when left alone are not badly behaved - they are pessimistic, a study shows.

Far from causing mayhem due to boredom or mischief, the dogs are suffering from anxiety resulting from a “separation related disorder”, the study says.

If they are taught to overcome their dependence on their owners, they can become much happier pets and would be less likely to cause trouble when they are left on their own.

The study, by Bristol University, Britain, found that some dogs suffer from a “glass half-empty” attitude to life and assume they have been abandoned every time they are left on their own, reports the Telegraph.

Prof. Mike Mendl, head of the university’s animal welfare and behaviour research group, said: “We all have a tendency to think that pets and other animals experience emotions similar to our own.”

“What our study has shown is that this applies to dogs, that a ‘glass-half-full’ dog is less likely to be anxious when left alone than one with a more pessimistic nature.”

A group of dogs from two UK animal re-homing centres were used in the study. The dogs were trained to identify a bowl, which when placed at a particular spot (positive), would contain food, but not otherwise.

The bowl were then shifted 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 displayed least anxiety when left alone for a short time.”

The study was funded by the RSPCA, which receives a large number of dogs abandoned due to behavioural problems.

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