Do You And Your Dog Share The Same Personality Traits?
“Dogs have got personality. Personality goes a long way.” — Quentin Tarantino
Dog lovers will agree — like people, each individual dog has their own unique (often quirky) personality. Some owners even claim that their beloved dog’s personality matches their own, which has not become a hot research topic.
Could a dog’s personality develop based on learned behavior, or is there more to this intriguing story? Is it possible that you and your four-legged pal share similar personality traits?
Study Finds That Dog Personalities May Change Over Time
Although research on dog personality is relatively new, studies are beginning to uncover some fascinating discoveries. A recent study, published in the Journal of Research in Personality, studied 1681 dogs, including 50 different breeds. Of these dogs, 50 percent were purebred and 46.2 percent were female. Ages ranged from just a few week old to 15 years old.
Overall, it was found that:
- Age differences affect personality- Dogs, aged 6-8 years old, have the highest amount of aggression towards humans and other animals, and also are the most responsive to training.
- A dog’s personality is impacted by key variables, like biting history, chronic health conditions, and human-dog relationships. This means that a dog’s personality may predict life outcomes, including how close they feel to their owner.
- A dog’s environment may gradually shape a dog’s personality, which is similar in humans. For example, when humans experience major life changes, their personality traits can change — which also holds true for dogs.
Correlation Between a Dog and Their Owner’s Personality Traits
While focusing on human-to-dog personality similarities, the above research shows that dogs and their owners may actually share certain traits. For example, extroverted humans reported that their dogs were more active and excitable. Whereas, owners who display more negative emotions, reported that their dogs were more fearful — and less responsive to training.
Similarly, owners who rated themselves as agreeable, also reported that their dogs were less aggressive and less fearful of other humans and animals. The researchers concluded that owners can influence their dog’s personality, and although some traits are tied to biology and are more resistant to change, there is an element of “nature vs nurture” here.
It was found that traits, such as fear and anxiety, do not change over time, and that variables, such as aggression and anxiety, did not have a large impact. This was done while focusing on how happy the owners’ and their dogs’ relationships were. Overall, the owners who felt happiest about their human-to-dog relationship were those who reported having excitable, active dogs, who were most responsive to training.
Next, the researchers are interested in studying the environmental variables that may influence dog behavior across time. The goal is to understand why dogs act the way they do, and what specifically causes their personality traits to change.
This Concept Is Backed By Research
Although this study was the largest of its kind, previous research supports this theory as well. A 2012 study, published in Applied Animal Behavior Science, researchers focused on the five personality dimensions — openness, neuroticism, conscientiousness, agreeableness, and extraversion.
While testing 518 dogs and 389 owners, the owners were asked to rate the personality of their dogs. The strongest dog-owner association was found between the owner’s level of neuroticism and their degree of extraversion.
Neuroticism describes how nervous and sensitive someone is, in comparison to how secure and confident they are. Think of this trait more as emotional stability. Extraversion is how sociable and outgoing an individual is, opposite of someone who is reserved and solitary.
Since the researchers were concerned the owners rating their dogs’ personality traits may result in a bias, they also surveyed a subset of family members. The results showed while using four out of the five personality dimensions, excluding openness, these family members observed the same traits between dogs and their owners.
While this study was fairly complex, the researchers concluded that an owner’s lifestyle and their interactions, alter the dog’s personality traits across time.
It is also possible that when selecting a canine companion, owners choose a dog that is similar to themselves. For example, they may select a breed or a specific dog that appears to be active and extroverted, much like themselves.
Comparing Personality Traits Among “Cat People” and “Dog People”
Taking this one step further, it appears that personality traits may differ between dog and cat owners.
Based on a 2014 study, it was reported that “dog people” tend to be more outgoing and energetic. They also tended to follow rules more closely. In comparison, “cat people” were rated as more open-minded, introverted, and sensitive, in comparison to dog lovers. On average, they were also more likely to be non-conformists.
One theory behind these personality differences are the types of environments each group of people prefer. Dogs often prefer to be outside, enjoying lively walks, often with a social element. In contrast, cats do not need to go outside for walks, and their owners may be happier at home, reading or enjoying other more introverted activities.
This study was based on 600 college students. Approximately, 60 percent of the sample identified as dog people, compared to the 11 percent who said they were cat people. The remaining participants either stated that they liked both animals, or neither.
Once again, this study showcases the relationship between an owner’s personality and the type of pet they’re drawn to. For example, an introverted person will appreciate the fact that cats tend to be independent and cautious, which more closely matches their mindset.
Protect Those You Love the Most
Pets are part of the family — and there’s no denying the special relationship you have with them. Unfortunately, just like certain personality traits, pets can be unpredictable — especially when it comes to accidents and illness.
If you seek greater peace-of-mind, there are a number of pet protection plans available.
About the Author
Krista graduated from the University of Guelph where she studied psychology and neuroscience. Still active in her research, she now focuses on all aspects of health — both mental and physical. Based on her strong research skills, she is confident in a wide range of topics. Her specialties are health, nutrition, neuroscience, and business. She also owns a small business, which is most certainly her creative outlet!