Is Your Dog Pessimistic?
During a visit to our local market I bumped into a neighbor who was seeking affirmation for her thinking
concerning her 4 year old terrier's behavior.
Seems that she leaves the dog home alone while she is at work. Upon returning she may find furniture
chewed, walls scratched, the bed undone, the dog crying and hiding under a bed, refusing to come out.. and when he
does, he is often
lethargic and sullen.
She asked is she could "correct" his bad behavior by crate training... I told her in a flash that I did not
think her dog, named Prince, needed " training", he needed help.
From what she revealed to me, Prince was exhibiting signs of separation anxiety , and his sullen,
depressed mood on some occasions, was a solid indication.
I sent her an article that lays this out pretty well. If your Prince or Princess has any issues when left
home alone, or you know a dog who does, it's well worth the read.
Here it is in part
"Science Daily -- Many dogs become distressed when left home
alone, and they show it by barking, destroying things, or
toileting indoors. Now, a new study reported in the October 12th
issue of Current Biology, suggests that this kind of separation
anxiety occurs most often in dogs that also show
We know that people's emotional states affect their judgments;
happy people are more likely to judge an ambiguous situation
positively," said Mike Mendl of the University of Bristol.
"Now it seems that this may also apply to dogs; dogs that
behaved anxiously when left alone also tended to judge
ambiguous events negatively. Their anxious behavior may reflect
an underlying negative emotional state."
The new findings also raise the possibility that some dogs may be
more prone to responding anxiously when left alone than others,
and that this is related to their general mood. That's important
because "separation-related behavior is common in dogs, so
predicting which dogs may develop this, and treating them
appropriately, is very important for ensuring good dog welfare,"
The researchers conducted the study with 24 dogs, both male and
female, that had recently entered into one of two animal re-homing
centers (shelters) in the United Kingdom. Each dog was first tested
for separation anxiety-related behaviors. A researcher interacted
with each dog in an isolated room for 20 minutes. The following
day, they took the dog back to the room and then left it alone for
a period of five minutes while its behavior was captured on video.
In those five minutes, the researchers observed barking, jumping on
furniture, scratching at the door, and repetitive behaviors to
varying extents depending on the dog.
In order to study decision making in those same dogs, the
researchers trained them to expect that when a bowl was placed at
one location in a room (the "positive" position), it would contain
food, but when placed at another location (the "negative"
position), it would be empty. They then placed the bowl in
ambiguous locations in between the positive and negative positions.
Dogs that ran quickly to those ambiguous locations, as if expecting
the positive food reward, were classed as making relatively
"optimistic" decisions. Dogs that didn't approach the bowl as if
they were expecting a food reward were judged to be "pessimistic."
An analysis of the two sets of behavioral data found that dogs that
made more "pessimistic" judgments about whether they would find a
food bowl empty or full also expressed more separation-related
Dog owners should take note. "Some owners think that dogs
showing anxious behaviors in response to separation are fine
and do not seek treatment for their pets," Mendl says, noting
that he and his colleagues have validated treatments for dealing
with these types of behaviors in past work. "This study suggests
that at least some dogs showing separation-related behaviors
may have underlying negative emotional states, and owners
are encouraged to seek treatment to enhance the welfare of
From sciencedaily.com ###end
If you get one keeper of a thought from this piece it is that your dog has emotions and needs just like you do. If
he or she exhibits a depressed or pessimistic behavior after being home alone and you find the house messed up as
well upon your return....your best friend needs HELP.. not corrective
Contact a canine behavorial therapist and ask for tips on how to help your dog's emotional state and deal with
your being away.
You will never defeat and emotional issue with "training"... it's a deepeer issue and may be related to
his prior life and experiences, especially if your dog is a rescue dog and may have emotional baggage from
desertion, abandonment or worse.
Give him the help he needs as soon as you spot an issue.. the quicker you do, the sooner you will come home to a
happy, well balanced dog and a neat house as well :)