Brief Report

Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 535-540

First online:

Too dog tired to avoid danger: Self-control depletion in canines increases behavioral approach toward an aggressive threat

  • Holly C. MillerAffiliated withUniversité de Lille, Nord de France Email author 
  • , C. Nathan DeWallAffiliated withUniversity of Kentucky
  • , Kristina PattisonAffiliated withUniversity of Kentucky
  • , Mikaël MoletAffiliated withUniversité de Lille, Nord de France
  • , Thomas R. ZentallAffiliated withUniversity of Kentucky


This study investigated whether initial self-control exertion by dogs would affect behavioral approach toward an aggressive threat. Dogs were initially required to exert self-control (sit still for 10 min) or not (caged for 10 min) before they were walked into a room in which a barking, growling dog was caged. Subject dogs spent 4 min in this room but were free to choose where in the room they spent their time. Approaching the unfamiliar conspecific was the predisposed response, but it was also the riskier choice (Lindsay, 2005). We found that following the exertion of self-control (in comparison with the control condition), dogs spent greater time in proximity to the aggressor. This pattern of behavior suggests that initial self-control exertion results in riskier and more impulsive decision making by dogs.


Self-regulation Dogs Decision making Risk taking Impulsivity