If you suspect that you and your dog have a lot in common, you’re right! A new study reveals that humans and their dogs share similar personality traits.
People sometimes say that dogs and their people start to look alike after a while, but is the same true of the way they act? A new study suggests it is. Recent research from Michigan State University reveals that a dog’s personality evolves over time as a result of “nurture”. In other words, how a dog is raised, and the person he shares his life, with can have an effect on his character, ultimately shaping the dog he becomes – and that can include sharing personality traits with his human guardian.
This fascinating study, published in the Journal of Research in Personality, is the largest of its kind to examine changes in dogs’ personalities. Lead researcher William Chopik surveyed the guardians of more than 1,600 dogs, both males and females, and including 50 different breeds. The canine participants covered a wide range of ages. The human participants were asked to evaluate their dogs’ personalities as well as their own by answering a series of survey questions pertaining to behavior, likes, dislikes and other qualities.
The results revealed that humans and their canine companions often have personality traits in common. For instance, dogs rated as more excitable and active tended to have extroverted guardians, while dogs that were more fearful and less responsive to training were often raised by people claiming to have a high rate of negative emotions.
The research proves how much influence we have on our dogs, and demonstrates that, much like children, dogs are “sponges” and internalize the things we say and do. It also shows how fluid dogs’ personalities can be.
“When humans go through big changes in life, their personality traits can change,” says Chopik. “We found this also happens with dogs – and to a surprisingly large degree. We expected the dogs’ personalities to be fairly stable because they don’t experience the wild lifestyle changes humans do, but they actually change a lot.”
Chopik plans to expand on these findings to learn more about how a dog’s environment can change his behavior. He hopes the results will influence the way we approach dogs with behavioral issues – specifically rescue dogs.
“Say you adopt a dog from a shelter,” he says. “Some traits are likely tied to biology and are resistant to change, but you then put him in a new environment where he’s loved, walked and entertained. The dog may then become a little more relaxed and sociable.”