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Do dogs have moods?

I think so.

They are like us in lots of ways, so why wouldn't they have moods too?

They are mammals. They have emotions. They have hormones and experiences. They feel physical and emotional pain. They get sick. They vary in their temperaments and sensitivities etc etc.

In the dog world we often talk about the effect of trigger stacking on behaviour. Basically if there are several things which stress a dog, each event individually might be manageable. All of them together, or one after the other, might be too much. (More info about that here.)

What if 'mood' affected this too?

In a 'good mood', the dog might cope with situations that might otherwise be a problem. In a 'bad mood' they might not cope with situations that are usually no problem.

The Absolute Dogs Team have developed and enthusiastically promoted the idea of playing games to build a dog's optimism. Trainers around the world, including me, have adopted these because they're simple, good fun, and the concept makes sense.

Optimism is a mood lifter. It's about approaching life expecting good things to happen rather than bad.

We can't read our dogs' minds, but a dog boldly, (or cautiously), approaching something new is likely to be more 'optimistic' than a dog shrinking away and avoiding it. We pay attention to what the dog does to make our best guess as to what they're feeling.

There's no doubt that genetics affect temperaments and humans and dogs are very likely born with optimistic or pessimistic leanings, BUT environment can shape these too. We can provide environments and experiences which lift our dog's optimism and therefore, perhaps, keep them in more of the 'good mood' space.

That said, we still need to remember that like us, dogs are living, feeling beings and sometimes they'll have not so great times (moods and emotions). If we pay attention and get to know our dogs really well, we'll recognise these times. We'll also learn what they need from us, and we'll provide it.


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