Science Links Owner-Dog Personality Types

Posted by TF Oren

We've all heard the little piece of conventional wisdom that says that after a while, dogs and their owners start to resemble one another.

Well, now there's more than just anecdotal evidence to support that assertion. According to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Leicester's School of Psychology, there's evidence of a linkage between the personality types of dog owners and their dogs.

Using the quality of "agreeableness" as their metric for assessing the personality types of the study participants, the researchers asked the participants (ranging widely in age) to take personality tests and then identify their favorite types of dogs from a given list.

The dogs on the list were rated according to perceived aggressiveness, with Bull Terriers and Boxers perceived as most aggressive, and Cocker Spaniels and Retrievers perceived as least so.

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The results indicated that people of low agreeableness (defined as having a low level of concern for the needs of others, being hot-tempered, suspicious, competitive, and unfriendly) tended to prefer dogs that were perceived as more aggressive. Moreover, the study revealed that younger people were more likely to indicate a preference for aggressive breeds. Overall, young people of low agreeableness were the most likely to prefer aggressive dogs.

The study found no evidence of a correlation between a person's preference for an aggressive dog and a tendency toward aggressive behavior. Nor was there anything in the results to suggest that the preference for an aggressive dog was a means of conveying status or attracting a mate.

According to lead researcher Dr. Vincent Egan, "We were surprised mating effort did not have an influence here, but think it might be because we looked at a wider age range. A preference for a non-aggressive dog may also make a statement about a person; liking a pedigree Labrador or a clipped poodle may be as much a statement as having a pit bull with a studded collar."

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Interestingly, however, the researchers noted a relationship between a preference for aggressive dogs and a high level of conscientiousness (which the study defined as being rule-oriented, careful, calculated, and thoughtful about one's actions).

This finding runs contrary to the perception that owners of aggressive dogs are, themselves, more inclined to act out.

"This type of study is important, as it shows assumptions are not the whole picture," said Dr. Egan. He noted that further research across broad age ranges will help flesh out any possible connection between high conscientiousness and a preference for aggressive dogs.

This study goes right to the heart of the fact that whether we like it or not, buried somewhere in every stereotype is a kernel of truth. The question is, is that kernel a stubborn Bulldog, a nonchalant Greyhound, or a goofy Lab?

Science Links Owner-Dog Personality Types