We have sometimes heard people say jokingly that dogs and their owners look alike. But did you know that your dog may share some of your personality traits? If you are joyful, outgoing, and trusting, chances are your dog may be as well. Likewise, people who are quieter, more withdrawn, or less open to the outside world may have a dog who displays similar traits.
But why do dogs and their owners share similar personality traits? Scientists and psychologists believe that we tend to be drawn to those who seem familiar to us. Therefore, people often adopt types of dogs or breeds that reflect their own personalities. Additionally, as with many longtime married couples who become more alike over the years, dogs and their owners can adapt to each other in similar ways.
Scientific Studies of Dogs and their Owners
Just like people, dogs have personality traits and moods that influence their behavior and interface with other animals and humans. And, as it turns out, dogs and their owners greatly influence one another over a period of time.
To prove this, a huge study, the first of its kind, was done in 2009, which revealed amazing evidence of how much dogs and owners are similar. According to Michigan State University’s newsletter MSU Today, owners were asked to report on the personality and behavior of their dogs spanning a 15-year period of time.
The study was first published by sciencedirect.com and included 1600 dogs and their owners spanning 50 different breeds. The lead author of the study, William Chopik, a professor of psychology, surveyed owners regarding the personality traits of their dogs. The survey also included questions regarding the owners’ personality types. Friends and family members were also included in the study to confirm owners’ self-described traits.
This extensive study demonstrated that dogs and owners shared many similar traits. According to the MSU article, “Honing in on the saying, “dogs resemble their owners,” Chopik’s research showed dogs and owners share specific personality traits. Extroverted humans rated their dogs as more excitable and active, while owners high in negative emotions rated their dogs as more fearful, active and less responsive to training. Owners who rated themselves as agreeable rated their dogs as less fearful and less aggressive to people and animals.”
How Dogs Adapt to their Owners’ Personality Types
Chopik’s research included how dogs were raised and whether or not they were taken to obedience training classes. He was able to demonstrate that dogs could be significantly influenced by their interaction and treatment by their owners. Dogs’ personalities would change over time and those who had more interaction with owners and more training were usually happier and less fearful. Likewise, their owners were more outgoing and more trusting of others.
Dogs adopted from shelters who were given a second chance in a loving environment grew to be much more content, less aggressive, and more trainable. A dog who may have been a problem in a shelter could later have positive personality changes as a result of nurture over nature.
“Say you adopt a dog from a shelter. Some traits are likely tied to biology and resistant to change, but you then put it in a new environment where it’s loved, walked, and entertained often. The dog then might become a little more relaxed and sociable.” Chopik said.
People Often Adopt Dogs Who Match Their Lifestyles
When people search shelters or breeds for the ideal type of dog, they usually have some specific things in mind. Some people want an outgoing, athletic dog. Others may want a very quiet, lap dog to hold while they read. According to Readers Digest (RD.com), the UK Kennel Club recently did a study of over 1,500 hundred dogs and their owners and 16 different breeds.
The study revealed that people tend to pick breeds that reflect their own traits and lifestyle needs. Golden Retrievers were often selected by people who were positive and happy. Staffordshire bull terriers and Jack Russell terriers were often selected due to their affectionate and friendly natures.
They also noted, however, that people who projected what they thought they wanted or failed to do their research, sometimes ended up with a mismatch.
Like Old Married Couples, Dog and Owner Can Influence Each Other
I am one of those people who had a slight mismatch. When I adopted my two Pug/Cattle Dog mixed breed, 6-year-old female siblings, I discovered that I was in for a wild ride. I loved their exuberance and playfulness. And, they reminded me a little of the two Beagle sisters I owned years ago. But I had no idea how much energy they had! It was a huge struggle to keep up with them. However, I am adapting! You can see more of our story on our About Us page.
As a result of having two rather demanding dogs with pent-up energy, I have become much more of an avid walker. Additionally, I am a lot more hyper-alert due to their Cattle Dog-infused tendency to be super vigilante and always on guard.
Yet, we do have our Zen moments. I love when their Pug DNA emerges on chilly mornings. That is a special time when we all snuggle up together to stay warm in the recliner as I sip my morning coffee.
Still, I have found that I am a bit more agitated than I used to be due to one of my dog’s incessant barking. I have worked with three trainers regarding her barking. As a result, I can better manage her tendency to bark at everyone who dares to pass by our house. We have both learned to compromise with the help of training, Kong toys, and a lot of peanut butter!
Dogs and Owners Can Also Look Like Each Other!
We jokingly say that dogs and their owners look alike, but there is some truth to this. Stanley Coren PhD., DSc, FRSC wrote an article, Do Dogs Look Like Their Owners?; Psychology Today. which highlights a study he did to prove this theory. He tested 104 women and their dogs by finding out the women’s preferences for hairstyles. He found that in most cases their preferred hairstyles were similar to the appearance of their dogs. Women who liked longer styles that covered their ears preferred dogs with long, hanging ears. Beagles and Irish Springers were two of their favorites. Women with shorter hair exposing their ears preferred dogs with tall, pointy ears sticking up like Siberian Huskies.
Coren also pointed to a study done at the University of California, San Diego. Photos were taken of 45 dogs and their owners. The photos were then mixed up and given to a panel of judges. The judges had the task of matching the photos of dogs to their owners. Amazingly, they got 2/3 of them matched correctly.
Also, be sure to go to demilked.com to see 10 amazing photos by Gerrard Gethings of people and their dogs. Gethings photos are beautiful, bizarre, and amazing!
I find it not too surprising that we act, feel, and even look like our dogs. After all, we usually live together and interact closely for many years. So, it makes sense that we will eventually rub off on one another!