Pessimism in Dogs is Dangerous

April 8, 2019
Pessimism can have very negative effects on our lives. However, you've probably never considered the fact that pessimism in dogs is dangerous, too. 

Here’s a story for you, all about pessimism in dogs.

A farmer wanted to have his dog and his rabbit compete against each other. He hid a bone and a carrot. While the rabbit began to dig and dig, the dog stayed where he was, thinking about how difficult it would be to find the bone.

However, the rabbit wasn’t discouraged. He just kept thinking that with each new hole he made, the closer he would be to his carrot.

Meanwhile, the dog continued to feel sorry for himself. The rabbit, on the other hand, couldn’t find anywhere else to dig, and so he started to tunnel using his sense of smell. After doing this, he was able to find both the carrot and the bone.

Do you know where they were? Right under the dog! If his own pessimism hadn’t held him back, he would have been able to find the treat right away using his powerful instincts. 

This is just a story of a pessimistic dog that shows how animals can have different moods, pessimism being one of them. This attitude is dangerous for dogs, and we’ll tell you why. 

Optimistic dogs vs pessimistic dogs

Experts conducted a study in Sydney to see if dogs can really be pessimistic, and found it to be true. In the experiment, they used two musical tones. The two different tones were used to show 40 different dog breeds that when they hear one sound, they’d get milk instead of water as a reward.

They separated these tones by two octaves, and so they were quite different. When the animals had learned the difference between the two tones, the experts began the experiment.

Some of the dogs quickly activated the tone that would give them the treat. Even if it didn’t work the first time they did it, they kept on trying several times after that. 

The experts referred to these dogs as the optimistic dogs, because they believed if they kept trying, that they would get more milk. However, there were other dogs that gave up after not getting the milk when they played the tone the first time. As a result, the experts called these the pessimistic dogs.

According to the researchers, ‘the pessimistic dogs seemed to be more stressed by their failures than the optimists. They didn’t want to keep going, and didn’t bother trying again. Meanwhile, the optimistic dogs were persistent and continued.’

The researchers in the study, however, don’t believe that pessimistic dogs are unhappy. Instead, they just think that they’re used to a comfortable routine that they don’t want to give up. However, they do stress the importance of motivating dogs to try new things. 

Pessimism in dogs or realism?

When someone points out that we’ve said something pessimistic, we may have replied: ‘I’m not a pessimist, I’m a realist.’ Does this also happen with dogs?

Marck Bekoff conducted another study based on the one we just talked about. In this study, he concluded that the dogs who stopped looking for milk may not have been pessimistic, but simply realistic. They simply realized they wouldn’t get the milk.

A dog diagnosed with pessimism doesn’t show any interest in any activity, even if there’s a treat involved. Bekoff doesn’t deny that there are pessimistic dogs, especially if the dog has been a victim of abuse from a young age. However, he also confirms that it’s perfectly possible to change their behavior.

How does a pessimistic dog act?

Pessimism in dogs is dangerous.

A pessimistic dog can look a lot like a depressed dog and will show the following behavior:

  • Excessively sleeping
  • Lying around for prolonged periods of time
  • Staring into nothingness
  • Not wanting to play
  • Not responding to stimuli

These are some of the signs of pessimism in dogs. Although there are studies that say they aren’t exactly unhappy, the truth is that they definitely could be happier. A pessimistic dog doesn’t enjoy life or the love that he receives.

Because of this, it’s very important to motivate him to try new things and to live out new experiences. If you don’t know how to go about that, it might be a good idea to reach out to a trainer or even a canine psychologist.