Your Dog's Personality Is Changing Over Time as Your Pet Ages, New Study Shows
Dogs aren't so different from humans after all.
According to a new study published Wednesday in Scientific Reports, dogs' personalities change over time with age, just like humans, and each trait follows a distinct age trajectory.
"Similar to humans, dog personality is both stable and malleable," said the study's lead author, Borbála Turcsán, a research fellow at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary. "Dogs that are active and curious when young will remain active and curious when they get old, but only compared to other dogs. A dog's personality changes over time, and, on average, every dog becomes less active and less curious as they age."
According to the study, Turcsán and her colleagues initially investigated the personality of 217 Border collies with an age range of six months to 15 years using the Vienna Dog Personality Test. Four years later, 37 of the dogs still alive were brought back, along with their owners, to be retested.
The studies conducted on the dogs included an exploration test, a frustration test, a novel object test, a ball playing test, an obedience test, and a problem-solving test.
Using the test results, the researchers found that the dogs' attentiveness and problem-solving skills improved until about 6 years of age and then stabilized. The novelty-seeking trait, meaning the dogs' excitement and enjoyment for new situations, declined after they turned 3.
The dogs' ability to tolerate frustration and desire to socialize both remained the same over the four years, but their activity levels unsurprisingly decreased as they aged, the study found.
Dr. Katherine Houpt, professor emeritus at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, told NBC News that the study's findings may not apply equally to all dog breeds.
"They used the smartest breed to study, and [the downward trends], when it comes to diminution and novelty-seeking, might be different with beagles, for example," she said.
Houpt also pointed out the good news from the study for dog owners: "Dogs get less active with age, and that should give hope to the people who have puppies that are too active," she said, adding that as the dogs get older, "they remain obedient and social, which is probably the most important thing for owners."