Why grumpy dogs are cleverer than cheerful canines

Grumpy dogs on the couch looking grumpy
(Image credit: Getty)

You may not think it at first glance but grumpy dogs are smarter than their bouncy, happy-go-lucky pooch pals.

A recent Hungarian study found that those often categorised as being “grumpy” – the shy and misunderstood ones that ignore their owners, are quick to bark, and angrily guard their food – had the capability to learn from strangers a lot better than the easygoing canines.

Peter Pongracz, who studies dog-human interaction at Budapest’s Eotvos Lorand University, noticed that dominant and submissive pooches, who lived in multi-dog homes, learnt in different ways.

To test this further, a favourite toy or treat was placed in full view behind a V-shaped wire fence. Naturally, the canine would attempt to go straight towards the reward to try to reach it. 

To a dog, the thought of moving away from the desired item to get it doesn’t make sense – it’s right there!

Pooches are social learners, which means that they often watch what another dog or human does and copies.

Pongracz claims that the dominant dogs were hopeless at learning through watching others. Whereas the submissive dogs were more successful, which may stem from always needing to keep an eye on their dominant four-legged buddies. 

When these results were paired with surveys the owners had completed on their pet’s personalities and characteristics, the “grumpier” dogs were revealed to have come out on top!

That’s because when both types were shown the solution by their owner, they picked it up without issue. Whereas, when the solution was revealed by a stranger, the “grumpy” dogs performed much better since they tended to be more attentive. However, many have argued that what makes the dogs “grumpy” – such as their history and lifestyle – needs to be analysed to get a better understanding. 

Chloe Petrylak

Chloe is a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader, who has more than ten years’ experience in creating animal-focussed content. From National Geographic to Animal Planet, Chloe’s passion for creating fact-filled features all about wildlife and the environment is evident. But it’s not just wild animals that Chloe’s fascinated by. Having written more than 75 articles for PetsRadar - and having her very own four-legged friend by her side - it’s no wonder that her love of dogs (and, of course, cats) has grown exponentially.  

Her website, www.chloemaywrites.com, and social media pages - @ChloeMayWrites on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter - showcase her knowledge through daily facts and trivia tidbits. For example, did you know that snails have teeth?!