Out of the dogs surveyed, the canines with the happiest owners were the most active and agreeable

By Kelli Bender
February 25, 2019 03:12 PM
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Ever feel like your dog has a personality, full of its own likes and dislikes, that is unique to them? Michigan State University agrees.

New research, published in Journal of Research in Personality, out the East Lansing, Michigan, school has found that canines have personalities, which are gradually shaped, for better or for worse, by how their owners treat them.

“When humans go through big changes in life, their personality traits can change. We found that this also happens with dogs – and to a surprisingly large degree,” said William Chopik, professor of psychology and lead author, in statement from the school. “We expected the dogs’ personalities to be fairly stable because they don’t have wild lifestyle changes humans do, but they actually change a lot. We uncovered similarities to their owners, the optimal time for training and even a time in their lives that they can get more aggressive toward other animals.”

For this research Chopik and his team surveyed over 1,600 dogs from over 50 different breeds. The canines ranged in age from just a few weeks old to 15 years, and were split closely between male and female. The owners of these dogs, answered questions about their pooch’s personality and their own personality.

“We found correlations in three main areas: age and personality, human-to-dog personality similarities and in the influence a dog’s personality has on the quality of its relationship with its owner,” Chopik said.

Based on owner surveys, the research team found that a dog’s personality often mimic their human’s. Extroverted people usually raised excitable and active dogs, while more pessimistic owners raised canines that tended to be more anxious and fearful. Overall, the more agreeable the owner, the less aggressive their dog appeared to be.

This research suggests that owners have a strong influence on how their pets feel and how their personalities develop and change.

Aside from the human factor, Copik found that obedience training can also play a large role on a pooch’s personality.

“There are a lot of things we can do with dogs – like obedience classes and training – that we can’t do with people,” he said. “Exposure to obedience classes was associated with more positive personality traits across the dog’s lifespan. This gives us exciting opportunities to examine why personality changes in all sorts of animals.”

But humans can have an effect on how their dog reacts to training as well. The owners who reported have happy relationships with their dogs, also had the dogs who were the most susceptible to training based on the canines surveyed.