Do Dogs Look and Act Like Their Owners?

By Bonney Brown

Each year as part of the Walk for Animals, Nevada Humane Society hosts a pet look-alike contest. It’s always a lot of fun, but I was surprised to learn that the there may be some truth to the idea that we tend to select a dog that looks like us.

Dr. Stanley Coren conducted a study asking women to look at photos of dogs and rate each on appearance, friendliness, loyalty and intelligence. In general, women with hair styles that covered their ears preferred dogs with floppy ears while women with shorter hair preferred dogs with pricked ears, rating them not only as better looking, but also attributing them with other positive traits.

“There is a psychological mechanism which explains why a person might choose a dog that looks similar to themselves, “ says Coren. “Simply put, we like things that are familiar.”

Psychologists Michael Roy and Nicholas Christenfeld from the University of California at San Diego showed photographs of dogs and owners to people, asking them to match them. Interestingly, two-thirds of the time, the matches were accurate.

It turns out that the similarities may be more than skin deep. A recent report published in the journal, Applied Animal Behaviour Science, showed that dog owners’ personalities tend to be similar to their dogs in four of the five major areas they measured: emotional stability, sociability, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. The lone exception was the area of openness.

Researchers wondered if the reason for these similarities could be due to the impact of the owner on the dog. It’s easy to imagine how a dog may become more neurotic from living with a neurotic person. If owner impact was the primary reason for personality similarities, one would surmise that they would be stronger the longer the dog lived with the person; however, the data does not support this conclusion. Instead, it seems that most people choose a dog that shares their personality traits.

Interestingly, the similarities only seem to hold true for single-dog households. Where people owned multiple dogs, it was typical for the dogs’ personalities to vary significantly, both from each other and from their person.

One thing is for sure—whether you are ready to find your one-and-only canine soul mate or add to your furry family, you can’t go wrong when you adopt from a local shelter.


Our Community’s Cats

Free-roaming (aka feral) cats are an issue nationally and around the world. In every community—large, small, rural, urban—these wild versions of our domesticated feline friends roam the alleys and backwaters. Love or hate them, feral cats are a part of life and they aren’t going anywhere—unless we follow science and nationally-accepted population control best practices. There is only one way to control, mitigate and eventually abate feral cat populations and that is the studied and substantiated intervention we know as Trap, Neuter, Return (TNR).

For decades, organizations charged with addressing the issue of free-roaming animals have struggled to address the problem. The simple, albeit heart-breaking, fact is that the widely accepted approach was to round up stray animals and dispose of them. As a matter of fact, Nevada Humane Society was founded in 1932 by two women who were tired of seeing homeless and wild animals alike rounded up, stored in a “big pen in the woods” to await euthanasia.

We, as a nation and as a community, have come a long way since then. As you have heard me say before, Washoe County is one of the safest places in the nation to be a lost or forgotten pet. A major reason for this distinction is the more than 14 years that this community has embraced TNR—which involves humanely trapping cats living in feral colonies, spaying or neutering them, then returning the animals to their habitats.

TNR is the only humane method of managing and reducing free-roaming cat populations. Moreover, it is the only effective method of controlling this population. Whether you sit on the side of treating these animals humanely or you simply want fewer community cats, TNR is the solution. Washoe County spent decades trying to euthanize our way out of the problem. It didn’t work and it won’t work. TNR seeks to manage cat colonies to extinction. It works.

The trap and kill approach is not only inhumane; it is unnecessary and terribly expensive. Estimates for temporarily housing and then killing community cats is $250 per cat (according to The Fiscal Impact of Trap, Neuter and Return Policies in Controlling Feral Cat Populations in the United States conducted by John Dunham and Associates); all at taxpayers’ expense. And it doesn’t solve the problem.

The TNR program implemented communitywide has proven to be effective and it does not cost taxpayers (NHS is supported by donations). TNR is one of many NHS initiatives that support our no-kill mission. If you have free-roaming cats in your neighborhood, please call our Animal Help Desk (775-856-2000, ext. 200) to learn more about TNR. If you would like to help save cats who are currently at risk, please contact us about adopting a Barn Cat. If you would like more information about TNR, visit

It Takes a Village

by Diane Blankenburg

I am currently co-teaching a shelter management certificate program through the University of the Pacific. The last module of the Community Programs course was called Community Relations—a term that seems very broad and somewhat vague. According to Gale Encyclopedia of Small Business, “community relations refers to the various methods companies use to establish and maintain a mutually beneficial relationship with the communities in which they operate. The underlying principal of community relations is that when a company accepts its civic responsibility and takes an active interest in the well-being of its community, then it gains a number of long-term benefits in terms of community support, loyalty, and good will.”

Although this definition was directed toward for-profit businesses, the concept is even more important in the non-profit world. Nevada Humane Society (NHS) and other animal shelters exist for the sole purpose of benefiting the community—both humans and animals. But they cannot succeed without a strong community backing and NHS has been blessed with one of the most compassionate and generous group of citizen supporters when it comes to homeless pets.

A great example of this good will can be found at the Rapscallion Seafood House & Bar on S. Wells Ave., a fine-dining mainstay in our community. For the third year in a row, NHS has been selected as one of the restaurant’s charities of the month. When you dine at Rapscallion for lunch or dinner during the month of February, just tell your server that you’re there to support NHS and 20% of your food bill will be donated to help homeless pets. This is just one of so many ways that Reno and Sparks businesses have stepped up to support our lifesaving mission.

NHS is dedicated to saving homeless pets but it is also committed to helping the people who play a key role in accomplishing our mission. We recognize how economically challenging life has been in this part of the country and look for ways to make it easier and more affordable to have pets. As a result, offerings of high-quality, low-cost spay/neuter services have been increased and low-cost vaccinations are now available by appointment at 775-856-2000 (ext. 333 for spay/neuter info and ext. 311 for vaccinations).

These services are in direct response to the overwhelming needs of our community. Charitable donations from businesses such as Rapscallion are the cornerstone for supporting these new programs. Community relations is a two-way street and it truly does take a village to provide a safety net for the homeless pets that depend on us.

Events that Help Animals

Doggie Palooza, February 22, 10 am to 6:30 pm, at the Nevada Humane Society shelter. Dog Marketplace, cool dogs available for adoption, and Hollywood dog trainer Joel Silverman.  Admission is free. 2825 Longley Lane, Reno.

Beat the Heat and have your female cat fixed for just $20 at Nevada Humane Society, Through February 28. Call 775-856-2000 ext. 333 for an appointment. Sponsored by PetSmart Charities.

Coping with the Loss of a Pet

by Bonney Brown

Those of us who have lost a beloved pet know the deep sadness that accompanies that loss. According to an article from the journal Society & Animals, the death of a pet can be “just as devastating as the loss of a human significant other.”

Sometimes people feel guilty that they experience the loss of their pet so intensely. “But when they realize that the pet gave them constant companionship, and there was total dependency, then they start to realize that’s why they’re grieving so intensely,” explains Dr. Sandra Baker, an expert on the human-animal bond.

Washington Post columnist Joe Yonan wrote in an article about the death of his dog: “The fact that our pets are so dependent on us makes it all too easy to second-guess our decisions and descend into a pit of guilt. Shouldn’t I have known? Did I do everything I could? If I had just …”

Talking or writing about your pet and your feelings can help. Doing something to memorialize them can also be helpful. When my cat Butch died, I had my favorite photos of him framed. Others have written poems, composed online memorials, put together a scrapbook, created a burial marker or found a special container for the pet’s ashes, hung wind chimes, or planted a perennial plant in their garden. Some people start volunteering at the animal shelter or send memorial donations to Nevada Humane Society. Whatever you do should be something meaningful to you.

For children, the passing of a pet may be their first experience with death and they can feel guilt or fear in addition to grief. Explanations, such as “put to sleep” or “went away” can be confusing. When a Pet Dies by Fred Rogers and The Tenth Good Thing about Barney by Judith Viorst are two helpful books for children.

Other pets in the household may grieve too–spending extra time with the surviving pet can help both of you.

People often ask how they will know when the time is right to get a new pet. That’s a very personal decision–some people are ready soon, others need more time. Every animal has a unique personality and even one that looks similar will not be a replacement. When that time comes, remember that many animals are waiting in local animal shelters for someone to love them. Perhaps that person is you.

Events that Help Animals

Furry Speed Dating: Meet the most eligible dogs and cats at Nevada Humane Society on February 14 from 12 noon to 3:00 pm.

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