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.



One Response to “Do Dogs Look and Act Like Their Owners?”

  1. tmillett2013 Says:

    Do studies show that dogs mimic their owners’ behavior? Like children, animals learn from those around them so it might prove to be true that animals actually mimic the main characteristics of their owners, making it seem like they have similar personalities.

    Furthermore, do you think that if shelters offered help finding your “perfect match” that it would help increase the amount of adoptions?

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