Dogs are a man’s best friend. And this truism is apparently now proven by a study showing dogs’ personalities mimic their owners’ traits. For when it comes to personality, it seems canines can continue making progress throughout their lifetime.
The landmark study has shown that dogs’ personalities evolve with age and likely line-up to match their masters’.
The findings overturn long-held assumptions that dogs’ personalities are static due to the overall stability of their lives.
The study suggests a pooch’s personality changes in a similar way to how humans do over their lives.
“When humans go through big chances in life, their personality traits can change,’ said lead author, Professor William Chopik at Michigan State University.
“We found that this also happens with dogs – and to a surprisingly large degree.
“We expected the dogs’ personalities to be fairly stable because they don’t have wild lifestyle changes like 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.”
The study surveyed owners of more than 1,500 dogs.
The researchers examined 50 different breeds of dog, with both sexes, with ages ranging from mere months to 15 years-old.
And the pets’ owners filled out questionnaires about their own personalities as well as their dogs’.
And, this revealed some similarities, Professor Chopik believes: “We found correlations in three main areas: age and personality, in human-to-dog personality similarities and in the influence a dog’s personality has on the quality of its relationship with its owner.
“Older dogs are much harder to train; we found that the ‘sweet spot’ for teaching a dog obedience is around the age of six, when it outgrows its excitable puppy stage but before it’s too set in its ways.”
Humans with extroverted personalities tended to rate their dogs as excitable and active, while dog owners with higher rates of negative emotions were more likely to rate their dogs as fearful and less responsive to training.
Agreeable dog owners were often found to have dogs that were less aggressive towards both animals and people.
According to the researcher, the findings tap into the idea of ‘nature versus nurture’ – a concept commonly used in the discussion of human personality.
Professor Chopik next intends to focus on the effect a dog’s home environment can have on its behaviour.