A study on dog behavior has revealed that some dogs are inherently more optimistic than others, just like people.
Dr. Melissa J. Starling, an animal behaviorist at The University of Sydney, Australia, did a study to gauge whether or not dogs expect more positive outcomes in their life or more negative outcomes.
“This research is exciting because it measures positive and negative emotional states in dogs objectively and non-invasively,” she said.
Her research revealed what you would expect – optimistic dogs are more adventurous and persistent because they expect positive outcomes to result from their efforts. Pessimistic dogs on the other hand were more risk adverse and cautious, not expecting things to go their way.
Although the research doesn’t have any immediate applications for family pets, Dr. Starling believes there are applications on how we assess animal welfare and working dogs. However, the researchers were quick to point out that neither disposition was necessarily better than the other.
What they discovered was that the service dogs who tend to do well in training are more pessimistic whereas optimistic dogs would likely be more suited for search and rescue work.
“If we knew how optimistic or pessimistic the best candidates for a working role are, we could test dogs’ optimism early and identify good candidates for training for that role,” Starling said. “A pessimistic dog that avoids risks would be better as a guide dog while an optimistic, persistent dog would be more suited to detecting drugs or explosives.”
The “Canine Sense and Sensibility” study was published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE