Dogs And Their Owners Have Matching Personalities

Lawrence LeBlond for

It is often said that dog owners display an uncanny resemblance to their pets, but a new study goes one step further and suggests that their personalities are similar as well.

In a study of British dog owners, researchers revealed that people tend to choose animals that match their own personality. They suggest that people are subconsciously drawn towards different types of dogs based on their characteristic personalities.

Based on results of the research, such people as the Queen of England, Paris Hilton, and even Sir Isaac Newton, may have all owned dogs that resembled their own personalities.

“We go for dogs that are a bit like us, just as we go for a romantic partner who is a bit like us,” study researcher Lance Workman, a psychologist at Bath Spa University in the United Kingdom, told LiveScience.

Workman and colleagues, interested in how personality traits influence real-world behavior, focused their attention on dog ownership because previous studies have found personality differences between dog owners and non-dog owners.

In one study, the researchers found that people are even able to match purebred dogs with their owners, suggesting that certain breeds of dogs are associated with certain types of people.

Take the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge for example. Their choice of a cocker spaniel, Lupo, suggests intelligence, agreeableness and conscientiousness. And Corgi owners, such as the Queen of England, tend to be extroverted.

The study authors found that agreeable types of people are drawn to Labradors, which are known for their friendliness, while hard-working a responsible people are drawn to bulldogs, which have no-nonsense personalities. And those who have active lifestyles, spending lots of time outdoors, may be attracted to retrievers and greyhounds, they added.

For the study, Workman and colleagues surveyed 1,000 dog owners via an online questionnaire on behalf of the British Kennel Club. The questions tested the so-called “Big Five” traits that govern our personality: extroversion, agreeableness, emotional stability, conscientiousness and intelligence.

To simplify the process, the authors split the dog breeds into seven Kennel Club categories: gun dogs, such as the Lab or golden retriever; hound dogs, such as the greyhound; pastoral breeds, including German shepherds and collies; terriers, such as the Staffordshire bull terrier; toy breeds, including Chihuahuas; utility breeds, such as bulldogs; and working breeds, such as the Doberman.

They found the most extroverted people owned pastoral or utility breeds, while those who were most agreeable owned toy dogs or gun dogs. The most emotionally stable people tended to own hounds. The authors found that toy dog owners were also the most imaginative people. Those who scored higher than average on intelligence usually own working dogs.

One of the most surprising finds, said Workman, was the association between people and toy dogs, which threw the stereotypes of those people right out the window.

“One of the great things was that toy dog owners, who are often seen as airheads, came out pretty much on top when it came to openness, creativity and intelligence,” he told LiveScience. As an example, he noted that “Isaac Newton had what we´d today call a toy dog, a Pomeranian. He could take it around with him. It was easy to handle and left his mind free for other things.”

He said that some people may be surprised to find that owning a cairn terrier makes Simon Cowell agreeable. “TV personalities often play a role,” added Workman. “I don´t know Simon Cowell but it may be that if you know him personally that he is a nice chap to have around.”

Workman said there was a definite link between a dog´s temperament and their owner´s personality. “I think when you look for a dog at some level, largely subconsciously, you look for something that is a bit like you,” he explained. “It´s a bit like a romantic partner. If they fit in they will probably last, and contrary to popular opinion with romantic partners opposites don´t attract – you need to have a lot in common if it´s going to last.”

He noted that someone´s choice of dog could also reveal hidden personality traits that do not immediately come across from watching them or listening to them speak. The Queen´s fondness for corgis, for example, may signal that she is more extrovert than she appears to be.

“It takes a lot to get up and stand up in front of the number of people she does as often as she does, and give a good talk, and at the same time she has to be controlled as the head of state,” he said. “Whereas the minor royals can party she´s never been able to do that, so I think the personality that we see appears less extrovert than she actually is.”

Workman said the information from the study may also be helpful for people who are just starting to pick out a new pet. The questionnaire could be developed to include not only personality concerns, but also practical ones such as living space. This could result in a new database that offers new ways to choose appropriate breeds — which could lead to fewer dogs ending up in shelters because of owners who pick the wrong breed, he added.

Results of Workman´s study, which have yet to be peer-reviewed, were presented this week at the British Psychological Society´s annual conference in London.