Everyone always says that dog guardians look like their dogs, but research suggests that it goes a lot deeper than this.
Like children dogs develop their own personality at an early age, around the 3-16 weeks mark, and like children this has a massive effect on the way they behave and respond to other dogs and people.
Generally we have 5 personality type that most people fall into,
1) Neuroticism (a tendency towards feelings like anxiety and fear),
2) Extraversion (everyone is their friend, outwardly thinking)
3) Conscientiousness (hard workers, good concentration)
4) Agreeableness (always pleasing and saying yes)
5) Openness (creative, curiosity and being open to new challenges)
But study’s have shown that your dog’s personality may well be linked to your own in some way? When pet parents were asked to answer a survey about their own personality and then about their dogs behavioural tendencies they found that an overwhelming number shared all 5 of the personality characteristic tested for?
Why is a dogs personality linked to our personality?
One explanation why dog behavior and personality is so intertwined with that of their guardians is a tendency for people to select animals who complement their own lives.
If we are extroverted we are attracted the that out going little puppy that jumps all over us the first time we see them.
Likewise I can certainly say that clients with more neurotic tendencies tend to pick the more higher energy dogs like the Weimaraners, Viszlas and the herding dogs? Not sure what that says about me having 5 Border Collies? These dogs seem to feed off the revved up energy of their owners.
When we choose a breed maybe we should be looking at our overall personality first for a good match rather than look of the dogs?
Is there a connection between the guardians emotions and their dogs
Dogs have been our best friend for many thousands of years now and have co-evolved with us. So it’s not to far fetched to think that this special relationship we share may well impact on the personality of our dogs.
During Behavioural consultations, I’ve seen many times, that if a guardian is having a stressful time at home or work then their dog tends to reflect that emotional state right back at them?
There has even been a study showing that the level of stress hormones in a dog can mirror the guardians in stressful situations. The behaviours that I see are generally the inappropriate urination or defication problems, the destructve chewing, barking and sometimes aggression issues.
Often modification of the dogs behaviours is not enough and work to help the owner control their emotional state is needed to help the situation. This was the very idea that Mindfulness4dogs was based on at the start.
But dogs are amazing and in their own special way they often try to comfort and calm upset guardians. They can detect subtle changes in there guardians physiology (body chemistry) that indicate something is wrong.
They may come and lay down with us for no reason or they might start barking at us constantly to try and snap us out of our negative state. Lets face it they can detect insulin levels, covid-19, cancers so emotions should be easy?
Does it work both ways?
Can a dogs personality effect their guardians personality?
An anxious dog who is stressed out all the time when on a walk, or cannot settle when in the house, can certainly make for a stressful life. In time, the owners can feel powerless to help their anxious dog and this makes them feel really uncomfortable and anxious themselves. I’ve seen a few partnerships where both guardian and dog have been prescribed anti anxiety drugs, go figure?
But thankfully we also have dogs that actually calm their owners as well – the therapy dogs. Numerous studies have shown that a reduction in anxiety, slowing of the heart rate, lowering of blood pressure, and increased release of calming and loving hormones (dopamine and oxytocin) are typical after stroking a pet.
Birds of a feather flock together? Perceived personality matching in owner–dog dyads, BorbálaTurcsán, FriederikeRange, ZsófiaVirány, ÁdámMiklós, EnikőKubi, Applied Animal Behaviour Science, Volume 140, Issues 3–4, September 2012, Pages 154-160