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United Kingdom Idle Science

Dogs Can Be Pessimistic 99

Not that it will change anything, but researchers at Bristol University say that your dog might be a gloom-monger. In addition to the downer dogs, the study also found a few that seemed happy no matter how uncaring the world around them was. "We know that people's emotional states affect their judgments and that happy people are more likely to judge an ambiguous situation positively. What our study has shown is that this applies similarly to dogs," said professor Mike Mendl, an author of the study and head of animal welfare and behavior at Bristol University.


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Dogs Can Be Pessimistic

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  • by LoudMusic ( 199347 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @12:55PM (#33884074)

    Being a dog owner, I think most dogs just want to hump, eat, and sleep. Some like to bark.

    That's pretty much it.

    • by shoehornjob ( 1632387 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @12:59PM (#33884116)
      Mine likes to shit everywhere.
      • by DigiShaman ( 671371 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @01:47PM (#33884772) Homepage

        He's just marking his territory. Don't shampoo your carpet, they hate it when you do that. It just means more "work" to get up, find a spot, and proceed to take another shit and scoot around. Do him a favor and save his asshole from extended rug-burn.

        • I know he's marking his territory...I just wish he wouldn't do it on the neighbors lawn.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by flu1d ( 664635 )
        As a fellow dog owner. I'd keep an eye out for the one who modded this informative.
    • by DoofusOfDeath ( 636671 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @01:06PM (#33884208)

      Being a dog owner, I think most dogs just want to hump, eat, and sleep. Some like to bark.

      You're thinking of men.

      • ^^^ Remember that the next time you need to get your hair, nails, and face done. You can discuss soap opera drama while doing the above and worrying about your ass being fat or if you need implants or if your significant other really listens when you talk to him.

        Me? I'll be napping with a full belly and empty balls.

        Its great to be a man :)

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by stretch0611 ( 603238 )

        Being a dog owner, I think most dogs just want to hump, eat, and sleep. Some like to bark.

        You're thinking of men.

        Why do you think Dogs are man's best friend? We are envious.

    • by CarpetShark ( 865376 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @01:16PM (#33884354)

      Being a dog owner, I think most dogs just want to hump, eat, and sleep. Some like to bark.

      If you honestly don't realise that your dog has a sense of humor, needs to socialise, to challenge itself on a long run, to play in a river, then I worry you might not be qualified to own a dog.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The dogs I've owned, and I loved them all, well, their sense of humor roughly matches yours.

      • by Rhacman ( 1528815 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @01:44PM (#33884742)
        If you have a dog with a sense of humor you might consider consulting with him before posting.
      • by blackest_k ( 761565 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @02:12PM (#33885136) Homepage Journal

        I'd like to follow up on the parent post and give some positive help.

        People tend not to understand dogs very well and often don't get what their role is in a dogs life.

        http://www.dogbreedinfo.com/ [dogbreedinfo.com]

        Although the html isn't great on this site the advise and insights are excellent.

        Dogs need attention and a role in life, which means they look to you for leadership. Without that leadership they try to be the leader that causes lots of problems. It is pretty easy to see when this is occurring, to be honest you can get similar problems with children too.

        anyway the above link should help any dog owner get the best from their dog. If you can't provide what the dog needs, it may be best to rehome the dog.

        • Thanks, that site is worth an instant bookmark from any dog owner. Lots of useful advice.

        • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          God, not that site again. You know the "dominance" shit that caesar milan and others love, and claim is based off of wolf psychology, is in fact completely unsupported by field observations of wolf packs? You know, the alpha roll, picking dogs up by their scruff, not letting the dogs walk in front of the pack; none of these are actually done by alpha wolves.

          • Well Mr AC care to provide a site which gives a viable alternative?

            Because I haven't found anything better that works. I've seen dogs that are mean and miserable, over protective and neurotic and a good number are well cared for and loved but are let to do as they please.

            It is pretty obvious if you want an obedient well trained dog he has to see you as boss and respond to your commands. Not only that he has to be socialised otherwise he will create havoc and be unsafe round strangers.
            and especially childre

      • by c ( 8461 )

        I think you're reading a lot into someone's attempt at +5 Funny...

        There's some truth to it, though... for a lot of elderly dogs, a warm bed, steady meals and the occasional car ride is pretty good living.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by blackdoor ( 301609 )

        If every parent worried this much about their kids well being then everyone would know the correct way to treat animals. However, since many parents seem to care more about their cars, dogs, cats, computer, money, house, etc, etc, their children grow up not knowing how to care for anything.

      • by gsmraxe ( 442187 )

        I had a dog that thought it was great fun to nip at my ankles which I laughed at at first...But this egged her on so she nipped harder and faster which would make me scream and fall down. She was always so pleased with herself after she succeeded in tormenting me. She was a Rottweiler/Labrador mix with a sadistic sense of humor.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by bhagwad ( 1426855 )
      I don't know how much you interact with your dog if you think he/she just needs to hump, eat and sleep. Maybe your dog is very old...but if not, you're either lying about being a dog owner, or you're not in close contact with them for longish periods.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Dogs tend to reflect the personality of their owners.
      • Dogs tend to reflect the personality of their owners.

        Or vice versa. Does that dog remind you of Philippe Noiret's film persona?

    • by thomst ( 1640045 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @05:13PM (#33887762) Homepage

      Being a dog owner, I think most dogs just want to hump, eat, and sleep. Some like to bark.

      That's pretty much it.

      Being a dog owner, I think it's a bit more complex than that.

      Our first dog - a gorgeous AmStaff - had an irrepressibly sunny disposition. Although he had been criminally neglected by his original owners (when the SPCA took him in, he was skeletally thin, had a heartworm infection so severe he could hardly breathe, and had a choke chain so deeply embedded in his throat that the flesh had grown completely over it, and it had to be surgically removed under general anesthesia), he was a happy guy, who never seemed depressed for long. He was also highly intelligent, very well-socialized, and incredibly eager to please. Our second dog - a mutt - is high-strung, has the attention span of a two-year-old, and has very little impulse control. (She is also well-socialized, but she's dumb as a box of rocks.) Our third dog - a St. Bernard - was another happy-go-lucky fella, and also very well-socialized. Our newest addition - an American bulldog - was abandoned by his owners in the middle of January (when the temperature around here hovered near zero). He was hyper-vigilant, paranoid, and clearly depressed. His behavior has improved tremendously since we adopted him, and he is now a very well-socialized and friendly dog - but he still suffers from separation anxiety, and doesn't seem happy by default, as his predecessors were.

      I attribute the improvements in our bulldog's temperament to leadership, regular exercise, and our refusal to cater to his anxieties. He gets petted and praised when he's calm and relaxed. When he's anxious and fretting, we ignore him until he settles down.

      Personally, I know for a fact that dogs have individual personalities. They all like to sleep and eat; they all enjoy going for walks and meeting new people; they all like to be praised and petted; and they all respond positively to calm, confident leadership, and a consistent structure of discipline. But, beyond that, they definitely have internal lives of their own, and each has a unique personality. Our AmStaff and our mutt both enjoy chewing on Nylabones and Pup Treads, while neither our St. Bernard nor our bulldog have much interest in either. Our mutt likes to jump up on people and compulsively lick them. None of our other dogs has shown similar OCD symptoms. Our AmStaff and our Saint liked to lean against people. Our bulldog and our mutt don't. Our Saint liked and our bulldog likes to stick their snoots under people's hands to insist they be petted - a habit exhibited by neither our AmStaff nor our mutt.

      And so on.

      I'm convinced that the personalities of dogs are as varied and individual as those of humans. Their communications repertoire is more limited, true, but if you've ever doubted that dogs have very real feelings of their own, then clearly you've never seen one smile.

  • From TFA (Score:4, Insightful)

    by iONiUM ( 530420 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @01:00PM (#33884130) Journal

    "Just as happy people tend to see the positive in any situation, so optimistic dogs sprinted toward the bowl, expecting to find food, while pessimistic dogs hesitated or ran more slowly."

    You know, it's often said that semi-depressed people see reality in a much more realistic way, whereas "normal" (if you can call it that) people see reality in an augmented way, and that's why they're more happy and optimistic. It makes me wonder if actually "normal" people should be re-classified as someone who is (by our shitty definitions) semi-depressed, because really they're just seeing reality as it is, not through rose-coloured glasses.

    • Marvin: I think you ought to know I'm feeling very depressed.
      Trillian: Well, we have something that may take your mind off it.
      Marvin: It won't work, I have an exceptionally large mind.
      Trillian: Yeah, we know.
    • Re:From TFA (Score:5, Interesting)

      by somersault ( 912633 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @01:36PM (#33884632) Homepage Journal

      I'd say depressed people are not seeing reality clearly at all. I used to assign very pessimistic reasons to everything. Now that I try to focus on more positive possible explanations for things, I end up being right a lot of the time, and save myself needless worrying and self-deprecation. A silly but representative example would be if someone doesn't turn up to meet me at a certain time I might assume they just aren't going to show up at all rather than the obvious answer that they're just running a bit late.

      I have managed to be a bit more "normal" recently. This is partially through improving my diet and getting regular exercise, which help a lot when it comes to having your body and brain chemistry function "normally", but also I have tried to improve my thought patterns to be more positive, and it does all seem to be coming together at last. Even when I get into foul moods I can still try to be logical and not let myself do anything stupid. Depressed people might think they're being realistic about their situations, but I'd say often they're really not, especially when trying to assign motivation to other people's actions.

      • Re:From TFA (Score:5, Interesting)

        by dgatwood ( 11270 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @02:15PM (#33885176) Homepage Journal

        Fascinating. By contrast, even though I frequently take a cynical view of situations, I find that I'm right about eighty to ninety percent of the time. Maybe it's not that you were too cynical before, but rather that others have just gotten better at fooling you. :-D

        But seriously, normal people take an optimistic view when it comes to their friends and a cynical view about the motives of their enemies, and a semi-cynical view of the motives of strangers. The first two are generally right, the third is out of an abundance of caution, and depending on whether the cynical view was right or not, those people get lumped into one of the first two after a period of time. It's just the way our brains work. To me, it sounds less like you are no longer taking a cynical view and more like you've finally relaxed and gotten comfortable with lumping certain people into your "friends" pile.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by somersault ( 912633 )

          I think so. One situation I'm reminded of is a gf I had for a couple of years, and my brain even had her in the enemy pile during a lot of that time, for reasons that are rather silly and obviously shouldn't have even existed :p Such is the world of a seriously depressed/paranoid person. Now even with people I hardly know I try to be more open minded and optimistic. The more open and friendly you are with people the more likely they are to reciprocate anyway..

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by obarthelemy ( 160321 )

          I'm depressed that you think cynical is the contrary of optimistic. But then again, I should have known not to expect any better. I'm just gonna get trolled now anyway.

    • by adisakp ( 705706 )

      You know, it's often said that semi-depressed people see reality in a much more realistic way, whereas "normal" (if you can call it that) people see reality in an augmented way, and that's why they're more happy and optimistic. It makes me wonder if actually "normal" people should be re-classified as someone who is (by our shitty definitions) semi-depressed, because really they're just seeing reality as it is, not through rose-coloured glasses.

      Why is it that imagining the bowl will be empty is more "realistic". One side of the room *ALWAYS* has an empty bowl and the other side of the room *ALWAYS* constains full bowls. Considering that food is always served in a bowl regardless, Were I a canine, I would think that a bowl in a new location has a the POSSIBILITY of being full and I would be excited and happy to investigate that possibility.

      When, there is a reasonable expectation of a happy result, I chose to believe that a happy result will occ

      • Realistic people are those who cannot just choose to be positive or negative.

        And the no fun being around can extend in both directions. It's been so-called "positive people" who have bitten my head off for making even a modestly critical comment about a situation.

        • by adisakp ( 705706 )
          Someone who is biting your head off for being modestly critical isn't a genuinely positive person. They're worrying inside and your comment is touching a nerve.

          People who are genuinely positive and at peace with themselves do not become instantly inflamed and angry from small external influences. I think anyone who meditates, practices yoga, or is a follower of Zen would consider that action to be a complete failure of maintaining their inner tranquility and joy.
          • Someone who is biting your head off for being modestly critical isn't a genuinely positive person.

            Okay then:

            I know people who want to be "realistic" and chose to imaging unhappy results for everything in life.

            Those people aren't genuinely realistic people. (See how that works?)

            The point is that each type sees the other type of person as being far from what they claim about themself. I know "positive" people as those who are deeply negative, know they have a problem, and try to (over-)compensate, and do it p

        • by adisakp ( 705706 )
          FWIW, you can choose to be positive and realistic. This is my choice. I always hope for an optimistic outcome. I *REALIZE* that this does not always happen. When it doesn't happen, I don't let it bother me unless it's really important.

          In fact, I know many times things don't turn out so well. But you have to account for that in your expectations - you can still hope for the best and be positive, but when something fails that had a fairly low chance of success, there is no need to be disappointed. It'
          • But everyone does that. Everyone hopes for a positive outcome, and everyone realizes that such an outcome does not always happen. It sounds like where you cast someone as a negative person might be in disagreeing with their assessment of the odds of something, and how much disappointment you perceive in them in comparison to your perceived likelihood of the desired outcome having happened.

            But then you can't have it both ways. For example, if someone overstates the odds of a good thing happening, then they'l

    • People who think pessimism is realistic tend to be depressed and find it harder to do anything to improve matters. Peoplw who think optimism is realistic tend to be happy and see problems as opportunities to make things better.
  • by BJ_Covert_Action ( 1499847 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @01:00PM (#33884136) Homepage Journal
    I have ten bucks that says the breed most likely to be pessimistic was the Basset hound. Meanwhile, the happiest dogs were probably Collies or, perhaps, Poodles. Next I'd like to see a study that shows that cats really are condescending bastards. =)
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I am dogsitting a greyhound. It is a miserable dog. It whines when left by itself, it wets the bed, it doesn't play, and I have to muzzle it for each walk because it will try to bite other dogs. Can't ever be allowed off lead either - it has zero recall. Such a contrast to my cheerful, friendly labrador.

      But then, greyhounds have been bred for racing, not as pets. And their early lives are preparation for a lifetime of racing, rather than the socialisation and training given to normal puppies. So maybe it'

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        It could just be that whoever raised the greyhound as a pup never took the proper time to train it. In my experience, while some dogs are more easily trained than others, just about any dog can be taught basic social skills and behaviors, if you will. The primary obstacle to a decent basic training often seems to be the owner itself, lacking the will-power and discipline to actually teach their dog anything. A lot of owners just don't seem to know how to say, "No," in a stern enough tone for the dog to pick
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Moridineas ( 213502 )

          I definitely agree with you, but to an extent. I do put a lot of the blame for bad dogs on owners, but I don't think the owner is always everything.

          My wife and I adopted two rescued puppies when they were about 6-7 weeks old (their mother had rejected some of the puppies). We've been doing things like taking them on walks since a very young age, and while they are in many ways very good dogs (good with commands and listening--best dogs I've ever had for holding in a sit/lay down until verbally released), th

          • by Maxo-Texas ( 864189 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @03:42PM (#33886604)

            I bet the Dog Whisperer could fix them.

            He's had similar dogs and fixed them quickly.

            Pretty amazing stuff.

            I wonder if sometimes he fails horribly and those don't make the show.

            It's amazing the way he stays calm while they bite him.

            • I've wondered the same thing...it does seem like magic!

            • In his books, Cesar Millan has discussed the handful of failures he's encountered over the years. I don't recall the specifics, but even he has run into dogs that in good conscience couldn't be trusted to an owners home. These weren't dogs featured on his show, but he has helped hundreds of animals for many years outside of those shown on TV.

          • I adopted a dog about a decade ago that was completely unsocialized and thought that normal doggie social interaction was snarling and barking and lunging. In the summer times on our regular route that went thru a park there would frequently be numerous dogs (illegally) off leash in the evenings, running and playing with each other. After a couple of years seeing that, and being turned in the opposite direction from other dogs on walks as soon as any anti-social behavior began to erupt, she eventually slo

      • Wow, thanks for the heads up. So many books and adoption sites say retired Greyhounds can make excellent pets for lazy people because they like to lay around and only need occasional sprints to work off their energy. It makes sense that without lots of socialization and training early in life, they could be difficult pets. I wonder how common it is to get an ill tempered one?
        • Ex-racing greyhounds certainly aren't all like the parent's experience. My girlfriend has two rescued greyhounds, and they behave like the description you gave. They sleep most of the day, and just need a walk in the evening to tire them out. (They're clearly build for speed - not endurance..) My guess is the parent's dog misses its owner - the ones I've met are very affectionate, and crave company. They also like order, so it could be a disruption of its routine affecting it.

      • I can tell you that without early socialization cats are whirling balls of claws and teeth.

        The dogs have had Chewtoy for about 4 years now and the little bastard still isn't very friendly (unless full or cold and with the exception of his old 'mama' bitch).

        Great mouser though.

      • It's very unfortunate that you took a single example and extrapolated it to all rescued greyhounds labeling them as "awful, awful" pets. True, such rescued dogs will tend to have special issues due to lack of early socialization, but those issues can be dealt with and they can go on to become wonderful pets. In your example, I'm almost certain the fault lies with the owners lack of willingness to spend the time and energy needed to correct the issues rather than "unsolvable" problems with the dog.

        I don't

    • by ByOhTek ( 1181381 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @01:20PM (#33884426) Journal

      My cats say that such a study would be idiotic and not worth the time of any cat participating, but they also find it predictable that a human would still find it the pinnacle of research.

  • ... can be dangerous when combined with tequila and a game of truth or dare.
  • Yeah, I was afraid they might be pessimistic. :(

  • The bowl (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Ackmo ( 700165 )
    is the wrong size.
  • You betcha (Score:4, Funny)

    by Quiet_Desperation ( 858215 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @01:11PM (#33884282)
    My dog has been pessimistic about the economy ever since he got laid off.
  • by JesseL ( 107722 ) * on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @01:22PM (#33884454) Homepage Journal

    ...to anyone who's ever seen a dog get wise to the old "pretending to throw the ball" trick.

    • Best part of the chihuahua terrier mix at home right now, it gets wise after the 3rd or 4th try. But try again 3 minutes later, and it falls for it another 3 or 4 times! Never ending "pretending to throw the ball" fun!
  • Cesar called (Score:4, Interesting)

    by santax ( 1541065 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2010 @01:28PM (#33884534)
    and told them: You aren't a packleader. With Cesar the dogs where perfectly happy. How much money did this nonsense cost the taxpayer?
    • by blueg3 ( 192743 )

      If you live in the U.S., none.

    • by Reziac ( 43301 ) *

      Speaking as a pro dog trainer -- you nailed it dead on.

      Yeah, dispositions vary. I've had dead-serious dogs, and dogs that were SO cheerful ALL the time that you wanted to smack 'em. But the "separation anxiety" thing is a symptom of lack of human leadership, nothing to do with the dog's outlook on life -- other than that those more perceptive of reality are more likely to notice when the human isn't really in charge.

  • ... my dog listens to a lot of emo and hangs out at the mall!
  • The smart ones understand that a dish that doesn't smell of food probably doesn't have food in it. The dumb ones simply don't believe their keenest sense.
    • by geohump ( 782273 )

      Dogs noses are orders of magnitude more sensitive than ours.
      To the dog, that bowl smells like food "all the time".

      In fact, unless the bowl's made of a material that's completely non-permeable,
      the dog can smell food on it even after you have washed it in very hot, very soapy water.

      according to WP:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dog_anatomy#Smell [wikipedia.org]
      Dogs have nearly 220 million smell-sensitive cells over an area about the size of a pocket handkerchief (compared to 5 million over an area the size of a postage stamp f

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learned_helplessness [wikipedia.org]
    Some dogs never tried to escape the shocks, just giving in and accepting them. Is this technically pessimism? I find this to be a sad study :(
  • by Anonymous Coward

    A little short fat lady who was really strong. Met her in town when I was shopping, saw her loading scrounged wooden pallets onto a trailer. I said, wow you sure are strong! she goes ya, this was my husbands business but he died last year. Oh, sorry says I. So we were talking about this or that, got to the subject of dogs. she goes, dogs are really loyal. They, mostly her husband, had two rottweillers. When her husband died, she says, they went into a funk and *stopped eating* and literally starved themselv

  • Wonderful research study. On the mood of my dog.
  • that is the real question.

  • Interesting result for animal affective states debate.

    http://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(10)01020-1?large_figure=true [cell.com]

Competence, like truth, beauty, and contact lenses, is in the eye of the beholder. -- Dr. Laurence J. Peter