‘Self control depletion’ is a well known concept in people – once a person’s capacity for self-control is exhausted, they are more likely to engage in ‘compensatory’ unsafe behaviour. Now it appears the same is true for dogs:
‘The researchers recruited ten dogs and trained them to sit still for ten minutes, thereby exerting self-control; or not, by putting them in a cage where they were free to move around. Afterwards, the dogs were walked into a room in which a barking, growling dog was caged. The dogs spent a total of four minutes in the room but were free to choose where in the room they spent their time. Although approaching the other dog was the natural response for the dogs, it was also the riskier choice.
Those dogs who had exerted self-control by sitting still beforehand spent more time in close proximity to the aggressive dog compared with those dogs who had not exerted self-control (i.e. the caged dogs) – 59 percent compared to 42 percent. These results show that initial self-control exertion results in riskier and more impulsive decision making by dogs.’
The message is the same for dogs as it is for you and I: exercise your self-control to stay away from trouble! If it’s helping ‘Fluffy’ imagine what it can do for you!