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.


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.

Older Cats Offer Many Rewards

by Bonney Brown

When I first noticed Mogli, he was sleeping on his back on a cushy bed in the “older but wiser” cat colony room which he shared with several other senior cats. I was not looking for a cat to adopt, but I was drawn to this happy gentleman with his old battle scars and charming demeanor.

Mogli, it seems, lived most of his ten years on the streets of Sparks and was, therefore, really enjoying the warmth and generous food supply in the shelter. Many senior pets arrive at a shelter after years of a comfortable life with a person they loved. They may have spent quiet days lounging in the sun and enjoying the company of their special person and find the hustle and bustle of the shelter to be stressful. In some cases, their person has died or can no longer care for them. Your heart goes out to these felines in their loss, but you also cannot miss their hunger to give and receive love again. Cats can live well into their teens and I have known several cats that have lived happily to the ripe old age of 23.

Mogli’s introduction to my home and other pets was the easiest ever. He is calm, well-mannered, affectionate and a delightful companion.  Many people who adopt senior pets report similar experiences. They talk about the gratitude and affection they receive and the benefits of maturity. You know what you are getting when you adopt a mature pet while kittens have a lot of growing to do and may develop into an adult that is very different from what you expected.

In spite of the many benefits of older pets, they can wait in the shelter for many weeks before someone who can appreciate the beauty of a mature soul arrives to take them home.

While mature pets may have known a loving home and the pain of losing it, unlike humans, they do not dwell on the misfortunes of the past. Living in the moment, they take great joy in their new-found human family. Their happiness is part of what makes adopting an older pet so fulfilling, but it is also just plain fun and rewarding to adopt a loving, furry senior companion with which to share your life.

Nevada Humane Society and other shelters in our community have great older cats waiting just for you!

Events that Help Animals

Beat the Heat: Get your female cat spayed for just $20 this February at Nevada Humane Society. Call 775-856-2000 extension 333 for an appointment.

Everyday Miracles

by Bonney Brown

While this is certainly the season for miracles, the Nevada Humane Society (NHS) staff is in the business of creating lifesaving miracles for orphaned pets everyday of the year. The animals’ stories often start out sad, even heartbreaking, but more often than not the results are heartwarming.

For example, there’s Pippin, a sweet little black lab only four months old. He arrived at the NHS shelter thin, covered in dandruff and limping badly—the result of a broken leg.

Pippin received the surgery he needed to save his leg as well as the care and time he needed to grow into a strong and happy pup—creating the promise of a better life ahead. When he was fully recovered, he was adopted and is fulfilling his life’s mission of being a loving best friend.

Jack, a tiny slip of a kitten with a determined spirit, arrived at NHS with a serious cold and eye infections so severe his eyes were sealed shut. He was wandering around outdoors in this vulnerable condition until a kind person brought him to the shelter.

After medical treatment, Jack went into a foster home with a doting and experienced foster mom. One of Jack’s eyes healed beautifully but the other did not. The surgery to remove his damaged eye was performed in the NHS Clinic and he was renamed Captain Jack which seemed to suit this cute, furry, one-eyed pirate. Losing an eye did not slow him down one bit; to the contrary, he continued to grow, becoming even more playful each day and was soon ready for a home of his own.

Pippin and Captain Jack are only two of the nearly 9,200 dogs, cats and other animals this year that relied upon Nevada Humane Society for shelter, lifesaving care, love and a new home.

While the staff and volunteers are incredibly dedicated, each of the thousands of lives saved this year was a miracle made possible by the generosity of individuals like you. (NHS does not receive any government support.) Pippin, Captain Jack and each of the other animals saved would thank you themselves, if they could. But I am please to let you know, on their behalf, that your gifts throughout the year have created a new life and a happy holiday for so many of our community’s furry friends.

Events that Help Animals

Home 4 the Holidays Pet Adoption Drive Adult dogs: $50, adult cats: free. Nevada Humane Society is open 7 days a week for pet adoption, 11 am to 6:30 pm and an hour earlier at 10 am on Saturdays.

Lights of Love Tribute: A $10 contribution lights a white light for each pet you wish to remember or a colored light for each pet you wish to honor. Great gift idea! For more info, call 775-856-2000 or visit

Kindness Prevails

by Bonney Brown

One evening last week, Beata was walking her dog, Loki, along their usual route. When they approached a vacant lot, Loki stopped and began sniffing at the fence of the overgrown property. Loki would not budge so Beata knelt down to see why and spotted a small animal carrier that had been thrown over the high chain link fence.

It was too far to reach so Beata located a long stick and moved the carrier a bit—she heard a soft meow in response. She looked for a larger stick to try to move the carrier closer to the fence, but was unsuccessful, so she flagged down a pickup truck that was driving by. The kind driver agreed to help even though he was on his way to an appointment. He climbed over the fence and got the carrier out. It was a tiny, flat carrier and the young mother cat and two kittens barely fit inside. The driver also allowed Beata to use his cell phone to call Animal Services. They asked that she take them home until an officer could come by to get them.

Beata walked two miles home with the carrier and put the cat and kittens into a dog crate. They hungrily ate the food she offered. Neighbors came out to see what was going on and they decided to adopt one of the kittens on the spot.

When you start to contemplate the cold heart of the individual who put the animals in a carrier and tossed them over the fence dooming them to a horrible fate, well, your view of the human race can become quite dark. But as usual, Beata had a better way of looking at it. She shared a quote from Mister Rogers:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”

This story has many helpers—heroes really. There’s Loki (the dog), and Beata, the man in the pick-up truck, the neighbors who opened their hearts and home to one of the kittens, the animal services officer who took the cat and remaining kitten to the shelter, and the Nevada Humane Society vets and staff who took care of them and will find them loving homes.

The world is full of kind people who do the right thing, and thankfully, they far outnumber the thoughtless people.

Who is That Doggy in the Mirror?

By Bonney Brown

When we humans look into a mirror we immediately recognize ourselves. Most children can recognize themselves in the mirror by their second birthday. Psychologists used to view self-recognition in a mirror as a major feat of consciousness and an important hallmark of self-awareness. Research shows that chimpanzees, orangutans, gorillas, dolphins and magpies also recognize themselves in a mirror. Yet most dogs and cats seem to ignore their images in a mirror. So, does this mean that they have no sense of self?

Dogs’ and cats’ eyes are substantially different from ours and as a result they see the world differently. They also differ from us in the ability to detect scents. A cat’s sense of smell is 14 times better than ours. That’s pretty impressive, but dogs are even more sensitive with a sense of smell that is 1000 times better than ours.

University of Colorado biologist Marc Bekoff recognized that dogs are considerably less affected by visual happenings and more affected by scents than are humans. He set about demonstrating self-awareness in dogs through a five-year experiment with his dogs and their own urine deposited in snow.

Cats mark objects by rubbing their faces against them to leave their scent and anyone who has ever walked a dog knows how eager most dogs are to read “p-mail,” as Dr. Marty Becker calls it. The most important sense for dogs and cats is not sight, as in humans and primates, but smell, so perhaps in scientists were barking up the wrong tree by relying upon a visual test alone to determine self-awareness in animals.

“What is important to us is not the same to them,” wrote James Lautner of the Pussington Post. “When they see themselves in the mirror they don’t say ‘how cute I look, I hope that other cat will fancy me.’ Their image seen by themselves doesn’t have the significance that our image has to us.”

To those of us who live with dogs and cats, it’s really not surprising that dogs and cats recognize themselves (and others) by their scent.

As writer Will Cuppy once observed: “If an animal does something, we call it instinct; if we do the same thing, for the same reason, we call it intelligence.”

Events that Help Animals

Nevada Humane Society’s Blue Jeans Ball on November 16, 5:30 pm, at Atlantis Casino Resort to benefit homeless pets. Mayors Cashell and Martini honored. Festivities include formal dinner, dancing, silent and live auctions, raffles! Live entertainment by Nashville’s country superstars, Whiskey Dawn. More info and tickets available at

Does Your Dog or Cat Talk Too Much?

by Bonney Brown

The wild relatives of our pet dogs and cats—wolves and wild cats—are relatively quiet.  Adults of both species tend to communicate with each other through a combination of body language and scents. They leave scent markers for the next passer-by through urine or by rubbing their body against a surface. Their sensitive noses tell them know who was there and how long ago. We humans fail to notice their subtle body language and our sense of smell is abysmal compared to a dog or a cat.

According to veterinary behaviorist, Dr.  Sophia Yin, some dogs and cats have figured out that the best way to get our attention is by making noise.  Since most of us have a hard time ignoring barking or meowing, it’s a very effective strategy!

Perhaps you have a vocal dog or cat in your life and would like a quieter, more peaceful existence? Behavior experts will tell you that you get more of what you reward. So, if you want your pet to stop barking or meowing, ignore the noise and reward quiet behavior instead.

How would that work? Well, if your dog barks non-stop to get your attention or a treat, you will need to turn away from your pet or withhold the desired treat until the barking stops. When your dog has been quiet for 5 to 10 seconds toss him a little treat or give him some of that sought-after attention. As long as the dog stays quiet, nice things keep happening. Should the barking start up again, you need to withdraw treats and attention and wait it out. You can increase the time in between treats so that you get longer periods of quiet for the same reward.

Old habits die hard for all of us, so you will need to be very consistent with your dog. You want to plant the idea in your pet’s mind that sitting quietly is a great way to get rewards. Cats can be trained to sit quietly too, first for treats or canned food and then for petting.

It’s humbling to learn that sometimes we  have inadvertently encouraged the very behaviors in our pets that annoy us. The simple concept that you get more of what you reward can help us get things back on track!

Events that Help Animals

9 Lives for $9 at Nevada Humane Society. Through 10/23, adopt an adult cat and enjoy all 9 of their lives for only $9! Adult dogs are $50. All are spayed or neutered, vaccinated and microchipped. Shelter located at 2825 Longley Lane, Reno. Open 11:00 am to 6:30 pm daily and 10:00 am to 6:30 pm Saturdays.

%d bloggers like this: