Thursday, July 5, 2012

Does Your Dog Reflect Your Personality?

By Linda Cole

We know it's important to make sure to pick the right dog for our lifestyle. The other thing that goes along with lifestyle is our own personality. A new study shows more dog owners are picking dogs that reflect their own personality, which does indicate people are choosing dogs that fit their lifestyle. It's possible this study could be developed into a kind of questionnaire that could help dog owners make that all important decision and ensure they have picked the right dog for them. But just how accurate is the research?

I'm always a bit dubious when it comes to research that claims to answer how dog owners pick their dogs. Maybe some people do fall into a specific category based on their preference in dog breeds, but maybe not. According to a study done by researchers at Bath Spa University and presented at the 2012 British Psychological Society's yearly conference in London, they concluded dog owners pick out their dogs subconsciously, based on the dog owner's personality.

Scientists had 1,000 purebred dog owners fill out an online questionnaire and asked them about their own personality traits and which dog breed they owned. According to the researchers, the answers showed a link between personality and the dog breed they decided to bring into their homes. Researchers measured the results of the questionnaire by using the ‘Big Five’ personality traits in humans and dividing dog breeds into seven categories: gun dogs, pastoral breeds (dog breeds used to guard or herd livestock), hounds, terriers, toy breeds, working breeds and utility breeds (breeds that don't fit into one of the other groups, like the bulldog, Boston terrier, Chow Chow or Shar Pei).

Personality types

A person who is an extrovert is likely to gravitate towards pastoral or utility dog breeds. The agreeable personality likes to make other people feel at ease and cares about their feelings; they choose gun dogs and toy breeds. The conscientious person is someone who is self-disciplined and likes schedules and order in their life; their  dogs are typically chosen from the utility breeds. The laid back and more emotionally stable dog owner goes with hounds. The open personality is smart, imaginative and loves art; they tend to own dogs from the toy group. The agreeable and open person likes the terrier breeds.

The researchers believe this study may show that dog owners are picking their canine friends based on their personality and lifestyle. The information may help first time dog owners pick out the right dog for them from the start. However, there is more to getting the right pet for your lifestyle besides personality. As long as the questionnaire covered all considerations to picking a pet, then it might be a worthwhile tool for potential dog owners to fill out and for shelter workers to help prospective owners find the right pet. The questionnaire would need to be adapted to include mixed breed dogs, as well.

These kinds of studies have a tendency to be incomplete, however. I found no mention of a personality that would pick a dog from the working group, and there are a lot of dog owners with breeds from this group. Studies are usually always done on purebreds and never consider mixed breed dogs. I've always been curious about dog owners, like me, who’ve had multiple mixed breed and purebred dogs. What does that say about us?

Choosing a dog is a personal choice, there's no doubt in that, and it is so important to make sure the dog you pick is the right one for you. No dog deserves to be cast aside by an owner who made a bad choice. It would be nice if one day, researchers can develop a test or questionnaire that would say definitively at the end, “This dog breed is the perfect one for you” and will cover all dogs, not just purebreds.

I think for most of us, we don't need a personality study to tell us which dog is right for us. Maybe we do pick subconsciously based on our personality, but I don't believe it's the only factor in how we make a decision on dog breed.

Photo by Duncan Brown

Read more articles by Linda Cole


  1. Those are all great suggestions. I have always gotten puppies and pick the runt of the litter or the shy one. And I have always loved Australian Shepherds.

  2. I Picked my PEEPS... beclaws they like to DIG in the GARDEN and I (Frankie Furter) , being a dachshund, LOVE to DIG.

  3. I think most mixed breed owners associate their dogs with two or more purebred type traits and I'll guess that those are the personalities that still fit the survey pattern. Very interesting subject. Thanks Linda for writing about this.

  4. I do think it is neat how all pets have personalities. My cats do, Lady did when she was alive.


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