A new study shows dogs can feel down just like humans. Some dogs are more optimistic when it comes to their outlook, while other pups have a more "bowl half empty" mindset.
Research from the University of Sydney suggests that just like their owners, dogs can be optimistic or pessimistic too. Published in the journal PLOSOne, researchers studied forty dogs with different breeds and ages to explore their emotional states.
The dogs were taught to touch a target after hearing one of two tones that were two octaves apart. They learned to associate one tone with their preferred reward, milk, and the other with water. After learning the reward system, researchers presented the canines with new, ambiguous tones in between the pitches that were linked to milk and water.
If the dog happily hit the target even after hearing the tones in between, they were found to do so because they were optimistic that it would still lead to a reward.
"Of the dogs we tested we found more were optimistic than pessimistic but it is too early to say if that is true of the general dog population," says led study author, Dr. Melissa Starling of the Faculty of Veterinary Science.
Pessimistic dogs avoided repeated the tasks when hearing the ambiguous tones after growing distressed. "Pessimistic dogs appeared to be much more stressed by failing a task than optimistic dogs," Starling says. "They would whine and pace and avoid repeating the task while the optimistic dogs would appear unfazed and continue."
The findings could help trainers know what tasks are best for particular service dogs. Pessimistic dogs were found to be better guides for the disabled because they were careful and less likely to take risks. Optimistic dogs could be better service for search-and-rescue missions since they happily never gave up.
Personality traits are not the only thing we seem to have in common with our pets. Psychologists have also studied the resemblance we have with man's best friend.
Sadahiko Nakajima, a psychologist and researcher at Japan's Kwansei Gakuin University found in a 2009 experiment that participants were able to spot out dog-owner resemblances based on "comparing features of the eye region between dogs and owners."
People might choose dogs that look like them or have a similar outlook on life because of a preference for the familiar.