A study conducted at the University of Sydney shows that some dogs are natural optimists whilst others are more pessimistic.
During the study, the canines had to touch a target to receive a drink when they heard a tone. There were two tones; one sounded when milk was the reward for hitting the target, while another slightly different one sounded when water was the reward.
When the milk and water tones were learned, new tones were introduced. However, if the dog hit the target after hearing one of these tones, they did not receive anything.
Dogs who kept hitting the target regardless of the tone were marked down as optimistic. Those that became distressed when the non-reward tones sounded were marked as pessimistic.
This study clearly showed that dogs have different characters and deal with the same situation in different ways. There are plans to use the study to determine the characteristics of dogs that are destined for work.
Other studies have shown that pooches with a pessimistic outlook make good helpers or guide dogs. Their careful and cautious approach is a quality that can be important when supporting people with disabilities.
On the other hand, a dog that is persistent and optimistic makes a great rescue dog. They are not fazed when things do not go as they hope and will continue to perform a task regardless of the result. This defiant attitude comes in useful in a search and rescue scenario.