Dogs happier to EARN rewards rather than receive handouts

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(NaturalNews) When humans finally solve what they perceive individually as a particularly difficult problem, that is often referred to as the "eureka moment." New research now suggests that humans are not the only creatures to experience this feeling. Dogs, too, gain some pleasure from solving difficult problems.

Britain's Daily Mail reports that, in a series of experiments, researchers discovered that dogs become happier when they earn a reward by performing a task instead of just being handed a treat.

Dr. Ragan McGowan and colleagues from the University of Agricultural Sciences in Sweden conducted the research. The experiment consisted of using six matched pairs of beagles, as the team reported in the journal Animal Cognition.

Each of the dozen dogs was trained to use three of six different pieces of equipment that ranged from a "dog piano" to a lever that would make a bell ring, the Mail reported. The other dog in each pair, meanwhile, was trained to use the other three pieces of equipment.

'They became much more excited'

All of the dogs were then taken to an "arena" that contained all six experiments. At the entrance to the arena, the dogs were held behind a gate; inside was a ramp leading to one of three rewards: someone to pet him, an actual dog treat or another dog.

As reported by the Mail:

Each of the dogs in the pair took turns being the control and then the experimental dog.

The experimental dogs were only given access to the treat on the ramp when they successfully manipulated the three pieces of equipment they had been trained to use.

The control dogs, meanwhile, were given access to the reward when the puzzles were solved by their partner in the other arena, irrespective of how they used the equipment.

The dogs in the pairs were then tasked with performing the same run several times, and also played both roles of experimental and control dog.

Researchers found that the experimental dogs became much more excited to actually get in the arena and solve their pieces of equipment. They repeatedly showed visible, measurable excitement like wagging their tails vigorously when they were led to the entrance to solve their problems once more.

On the other hand, the control dogs were much more reluctant to go in and pick up their treat without having to solve any of the "puzzles." This means, according to the research team, that dogs enjoy problem-solving, just like humans, and that they would rather be rewarded for that than rewarded for nothing.

Humans happier too when they earn

"Animals may experience positive affective states in response to their own achievements," the team wrote in their journal paper. "Differences between the two situations could be attributed to experimental dogs having the opportunity to learn to control access to the reward."

Continuing, the team said, as quoted by the Mail, "Experimental dogs showed signs of excitement (for example, increased tail wagging and activity) in response to their achievements, whereas controls showed signs of frustration (for example chewing of the operant device) in response to the unpredictability of the situation.

"Our results suggest that dogs react emotionally to problem-solving opportunities and that tail wagging may be a useful indicator of positive affective states in dogs."

The team's findings reflect another societal reality, at least in the U.S., where government assistance programs number no less than 70. Based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau and elsewhere, work requirements that were included in the welfare reform act of 1996, which was signed by Bill Clinton, not only ended poverty for more than 3 million Americans but provided incentives to find and get better jobs.


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