Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Dogs showing separation-related behavior exhibit a 'pessimistic mood'

Date:
October 12, 2010
Source:
Cell Press
Summary:
Many dogs become distressed when left home alone, and they show it by barking, destroying things, or toileting indoors. Now, a new study suggests that this kind of separation anxiety occurs most often in dogs that also show "pessimistic"-like behavior.

Dogs can be pessimistic too. A study has gained new insight into the minds of dogs, discovering that those that are anxious when left alone also tend to show 'pessimistic' like behaviour.
Credit: iStockphoto

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 "pessimistic"-like behavior.

"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," Mendl said.

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 behaviors.

The results suggest that behavior regarded as "problematic" for owners also has emotional significance for the animals concerned, even when the behavior itself isn't being expressed, the researchers conclude. Mendl says the results also suggest that "optimistic" versus "pessimistic" decision making may be a valuable new indicator of animal emotion.

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 their dogs."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cell Press. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Michael Mendl, Julie Brooks, Christine Basse, Oliver Burman, Elizabeth Paul, Emily Blackwell and Rachel Casey. Dogs showing separation-related behaviour exhibit a ‘pessimistic’ cognitive bias. Current Biology, Volume 20, Issue 19, R839-R840, 12 October 2010 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2010.08.030

Cite This Page:

Cell Press. "Dogs showing separation-related behavior exhibit a 'pessimistic mood'." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 October 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101011125828.htm>.
Cell Press. (2010, October 12). Dogs showing separation-related behavior exhibit a 'pessimistic mood'. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101011125828.htm
Cell Press. "Dogs showing separation-related behavior exhibit a 'pessimistic mood'." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101011125828.htm (accessed August 30, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) State health officials say testing has confirmed the presence of a killer amoeba in a water system serving three St. John the Baptist Parish towns. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Australian Sheep Gets Long Overdue Haircut

Raw: Australian Sheep Gets Long Overdue Haircut

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) Hoping to break the record for world's wooliest, Shaun the sheep came up 10 pounds shy with his fleece weighing over 50 pounds after being shorn for the first time in years. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Minds Blown: Scientists Develop Fish That Walk On Land

Minds Blown: Scientists Develop Fish That Walk On Land

Newsy (Aug. 28, 2014) Canadian scientists looking into the very first land animals took a fish out of water and forced it to walk. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Huge Ancient Wine Cellar Found In Israel

Huge Ancient Wine Cellar Found In Israel

Newsy (Aug. 28, 2014) An international team uncovered a large ancient wine celler that likely belonged to a Cannonite ruler. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins