Müller, C. A., Riemer, S., Rosam, C. M. et al. 2012. Brief owner absence does not induce negative judgement bias in pet dogs. Animal Cognition 15(5), 1031–1035.

Humans in a negative emotional state are more likely to judge ambiguous stimuli as negative. In recent years, similar judgement biases have been found in some non-human animals that were exposed to long-term or short-term treatments aimed at influencing their affective states. Here we tested pet dogs in the presence and absence of their owners in a judgement bias test with an established go/no-go procedure. Even though owner absence is thought to induce a state of anxiety in dogs that have formed an attachment bond with their primary caretakers, we found no difference between the dogs’ responses to ambiguous stimuli in the presence or absence of their owners. This result may be explained by the absence of anxiety in dogs that are accustomed to brief periods of separation from their owners, or by a sensitivity limit of the customary judgement bias tests in non-human animals when only a moderate, short-term state of anxiety is induced. In addition, we found significant differences between individuals and populations in the responses to ambiguous stimuli, which give impetus for further research.

Animal Type