We often think our beloved dogs are content and happy, as we make sure they receive walks, cuddles, and treats every day. However, recent studies suggest that there might be more to a dog’s mood than meets the eye, and it could be linked to the training methods they experienced.

This fascinating research compared the behaviors of dogs that underwent reward-based training to those that experienced aversive-based training. When the dogs were faced with hidden bowls of food, researchers observed that the reward-trained dogs were more optimistic about finding food inside those bowls, while the aversive-trained dogs exhibited a more pessimistic outlook. It seems that the way we go about training our furry companions could greatly impact their overall happiness and mindset.

Training Methods

Dog training encompasses a wide range of techniques, usually falling into two main categories: aversive and reward-based. Aversive methods involve reprimanding a dog for bad behavior, such as using a spray bottle, whereas reward-based methods focus on positive reinforcement, like giving treats or praise for good behavior, such as sitting to greet guests.

Veterinarians typically recommend reward-based training over aversive methods, as the latter can lead to aggression, fearfulness, anxiety, confusion, frustration, and even physical and emotional pain in dogs. Moreover, dogs are better at associating good behavior with rewards than bad behavior with aversive stimuli.

Several essential aspects of dog training include:

  • Basic commands: Sit, come, stay, down, lie down, heel
  • Consistency: Maintaining a regular training schedule
  • Patience: Understanding that it takes time for a dog to learn and adjust
  • Reinforcement techniques: Using treats, praise, clickers, or other forms of positive reinforcement
  • Advanced training: Crate training, leash training, housebreaking, obedience training, and hand signals

The training environment and owner’s training method are crucial factors that can impact a dog’s mentality and overall well-being. It’s essential always to consider the dog’s perspective and choose a training approach that promotes trust, understanding, and a positive learning experience.


In a study examining varying levels of optimism and pessimism in dogs, researchers analyzed the dogs’ reactions to food bowls placed in different locations. The dogs were first trained to recognize the reward bowl containing food in a standard location. Afterward, the bowls were placed in ambiguous locations to observe the dogs’ responses.

The findings showed that dogs trained with reward-based methods displayed more optimism when approaching the bowls in uncertain locations, expecting to find food inside. On the other hand, dogs trained with aversive methods displayed caution and were less optimistic about the presence of food in the ambiguous bowls.

This study highlights the similarities between the mental expectations and cognitive biases of dogs trained using aversive methods and the emotional state of humans with depression. Although it is a correlational relationship, it suggests the importance of considering the impact of training methods on a dog’s overall mood and mental well-being.

Some factors that contribute to different behaviors in dogs include:

  • Exercise
  • Health
  • Socialization
  • Distractions
  • Consequences
  • Attention span

Addressing these factors can help improve a dog’s behavior and overall mental well-being, reducing stress and preventing destructive behaviors.

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