The inability to ACT RESPONSIBLE when tired, is not just a human failing, tired dogs also put their paw in it, according to the findings of researchers from the University of Lille Nord de France.
You may be thinking, tired dogs ? Where would you find such a thing ?
Sleep deprived dogs are a rare phenomenon
If Jozie, my resident psychotic dalmation, is anything to go by, sleep is not something the average suburban canine is running short on.
Jozie’s very busy days, consist of sleeping pretty much all day, with brief interludes to eat or campaign for food, her special gift, is begging. This routine is periodically interrupted by an episode of frenzied dashing, at the speed of light, repeatedly round the garden – hence the psychotic descriptor.
Her sleep issue focuses on “quality” not quantity. First prize is to be able to sleep, inside the house on her soft cushy mat. Last prize, is to sleep on the grass in the sun. There is nothing in between – happiness is inside on mat, misery is outside.
Not sleep deprived, but tapped out of self-control
The team defined “tired” dogs, as animals who had spent a period of time working hard at acting “nice” i.e. self-controlled, not sleep deprived.
The research team recruited ten dogs and taught them to practice being nice / self-controlled. The authors definition of nice/self-controlled was sitting still, for ten minutes, in an enclosure.
NOTE : Sitting still can be quite a challenge for any canine when it is not sleeping. Ten minutes can feel like a life time.
Facing the test
The dogs were then given a real life opportunity, to exhibit their self-control abilities, when they re-entered the enclosure, which now included a very vocal, aggressive , unhappy canine locked up in a tiny cage.
The ordeal only lasted 4 minutes, but the dog got to decide what to do…..
- Say hello to the clearly ticked off canine, the socially acceptable thing to do, but an inherently DANGEROUS thing to do
- Or stay as far away as possible from the barking beast
Being tapped out of self-control was risky business
If the dog had just spent 10 minutes sitting on its tail being all self-controlled, it threw caution to the wind and headed for the belligerent hair ball in the cage.
Dogs who had not been put to the “test” prior to the encounter, were a lot more cautious. Spending significantly less time in the vicinity of the DANGEROUS caged canine.
The experiment suggests dogs can only be self-controlled for a finite period of time. Mentally fatigued dogs, do not think straight, and are more likely to inadvertently subject themselves to risks that may result in physical harm.
Not just a dog thing
Humans do it too – we can act all grown-up and responsible for so long and then …………..we snap.
We suffer self-control depletion when we are mentally fatigued.
We snap and..
- say what we think, to that irritating annoying little man, that is responsible for paying our salary,
- we shovel an entire slab of chocolate down, in 5 minutes flat because chocolate is a physiological necessity.
- we drive like a maniac, weaving from one lane to another and pulling zap signs at the other road uses.
IN SHORT – we forget to act responsibly.
Acting grown up is hard work
Sometimes we get away with those moments of indiscretion, but more often than not there is a price to pay. A pink slip, an extra layer of fat on our hips, a traffic fine.
In humans, being dog tired definitely increases the odds of suffering a moment of self-control depletion. Avoid paying the price, by making getting enough R&R a priority.Too dog tired to avoid danger: Self-control depletion in canines increases behavioral approach toward an aggressive threat. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review (2012) 19(3):535-540. Holly C. Miller, C. Nathan DeWall, Kristina Pattison, Mikaël Molet, Thomas R. Zentall.
Interested in learning more about the chemistry behind self-control ?
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