A new study has confirmed what many people who share their lives with dogs have suspected: Humans actually shape their dogs’ personalities by the way they consistently interact with those animals. More specifically, when dog-caretakers spend extra time scratching their dogs’ bellies, take their dogs out for long walks and games of fetch, or even when they feel constant frustration over their dogs’ naughty chewing habits, they are gradually shaping their dogs’ personalities. Dogs, like people, have moods and personality traits that shape how they react in certain situations. New findings from Michigan State University reveal that like humans, dogs’ personalities likely change over time.
The research, published in Journal of Research in Personality, is one of the first — and is the largest — studies of its kind to examine changes in dogs’ personalities. The scientists surveyed owners of more than 1,600 dogs, including 50 different breeds. Dogs ranged from just a few weeks old to 15 years, and were split closely between male and female. The extensive survey had owners evaluate their dog’s personalities and answered questions about the dog’s behavioral history. The owners also answered a survey about their own personalities.
–Dogs’ personalities can predict many important life outcomes. For example, canines’ personalities will influence how close they feel to their owners, biting behavior and even chronic illness.
-Correlations appeared in three main areas: (1) age and personality; (2) human-to-dog personality similarities; and (3) the influence a dog’s personality has on the quality of its relationship with its owner.
-Older dogs are much harder to train; the ‘sweet spot’ for teaching a dog obedience is around the age of six.
-Traits that rarely change with age with dogs: fear and anxiety.
-Dogs’ personalities resemble their owners…dogs and owners share specific personality traits.
Journal Reference: William J. Chopik, Jonathan R. Weaver. Old dog, new tricks: Age differences in dog personality traits, associations with human personality traits, and links to important outcomes. Journal of Research in Personality, 2019; DOI: 10.1016/j.jrp.2019.01.005