Decoding the personality of your canine companion

By Jamie Ellis, 2019 Alumni

Have you ever felt your soulmate exists in the form of a dog? If 30,000 years of history has taught us anything, it is that we humans cannot live without man’s best friend. From the day you bring your puppy home, your life is changed; the impact these animals can have in our lives is undeniable. And the first philosophical question I faced when considering my dog’s existence was: did I really pick her, or did she choose me?

It is not uncommon to hear of stories of puppies choosing their owners, and one could put it down to the fact of a simple coincidence.


But what if it wasn’t?


My dog is better than your dog…

Each and every doggo personality is unique, and some might even say, a perfect match for their human counterpart. Everyone thinks their dog is funnier, smarter, and more beautiful than anyone else’s – sounds like bias to me. But is it bias for the love you feel, or because you see a little bit of you in your dog? To be honest, it’s probably a little bit of both.

Most people actually do see their personality reflected in their dog’s behaviour. Many also feel a kismet connection, a past-life familiarity with their furry friend.

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The age-old question of nature vs. nurture pops up at this point – would my relationship with my dog be the same if I’d picked another puppy? Would my dog have the same personality if she’d grown up in a different home? There may just be something inherent connecting us to certain breeds of dogs we like, similar to the way we can be drawn to particular types of humans. After all, the heart wants what the heart wants.

Then again, the extent to which you train your dog, and the methods you use, may be the only thing needed to imprint your idiosyncrasies onto your pet.

A clear example of nurture prevailing is often seen in the case of rescue dogs, where a complete personality transplant seems to occur. Once timid, afraid dogs transform into loyal and loving besties despite past traumas, because of how we treat them.


Old dog, new tricks

Which brings me to my 549th philosophical question for the day – if our dogs resemble some of our own personality traits, is it because we are naturally attracted to that type of dog, or because we raised them in a certain way?

recent study aimed to answer this question.

The researchers discovered that, in many instances, there was a great deal of compatibility between the personalities of the human participants and their canine friends. The extroverts of the group had very excitable dogs, whilst easygoing people owned dogs that were found to be particularly non-aggressive. The reliability of these results were deepened by surveying people removed from the dog-owner relationship, who confirmed the trends that were seen. The researchers suggest that these personality similarities could be brought about by the Selection effect, or Socialisation effect.

Selection effect basically explores our natural attraction to the dogs that will most likely fit into our lifestyle and could explain why an active person feels a kinship with the energetic Kelpie. Socialisation effect suggests that the shared environment and the activities we undertake with our pets explains the mirrored personalities.

All things considered, once again, it’s probably a little bit of both.

Whether our paths align with our dogs by chance, or by miracle, it is hard to ignore the personality-sharing seen between different species. And whether or not our dogs grow up to resemble us because of how we treat them, because we decided to own a dog with those known traits, or whether it is something else entirely written in the starts, it sure makes the experience of loving them very rewarding.

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