Is Man’s Best Friend a Pessimist?

2011/06/06
By Gabriela

Menina Dede via Flickr

A study has shown that dogs, like humans, can be pessimistic. If a dog becomes especially anxious when left alone they show signs of pessimism. Like humans, dogs may look at a situation as “the glass half full” or “half empty”.  But how is this possible?

Scientists at the Academy of Bristol took two dogs and taught the dogs when a bowl was placed in one room where the bowl was filled with food; this would be the positive position.  In the other instance, the bowl was placed in another room where the bowl had no food in it; this would be the negative position. After they placed them at ambiguous locations to see the two dog’s reaction, the dogs displayed positive and negative reactions depending on the positive or negative situations.

The dogs that ran to the locations were considered optimistic because they expected a good result. The ones that were a little more hesitant were considered pessimistic. The “pessimistic” dogs were usually the ones that got very anxious when left alone, anxiety would be considered a pessimistic trait. Dog’s emotions cannot be labeled directly because these emotions cannot be told. Essentially, we can assume dogs emotions based on finds of the human emotions.

The study seemed to prove the point that dogs, like people, had different personalities and outlooks on life. Do you think if dogs can be pessimistic they can be depressed? Are there any treatments dogs can receive to cure depression? Is depression in dogs able to be passed down genetically as it is with humans?

  • Joeybronzz

    This was an interesting post Gabby. I have a dog, but she’s always happy and never hesitant. There have been experts and studies that show dogs can be depressed via a death, seperation, or chronic pain. My family has had someone  in our house recently pass away. My dog Charlie still goes into that persons room and sits with a sad demeanor. 
    http://pets.webmd.com/dogs/features/depression-in-dogs

  • Deirdre

    Interesting post Gabb, I never thought that animals could have depression. I was interested in other animals having depression, so I looked it up. I found out that other animals will become sad when their partner dies. This applies more often to animals in the wild who mate to achieve the biological goal. Researchers are also interested in testing if animals commit suicide. This, like the depression topic is hard to assess because we can never actually know what an animal is thinking. On the website I found information from, there were cases where animals perform dangerous endeavors after the death of their master. I do not know the validity of this case but I can say that my dog, who has been given to us because my Uncle was moving has no signs of depression. If depression occurred in all animals after the disappearance of their owners, I’m sure my dog would be a little more hesitant on life. 

  • Deirdre
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