Monday, March 9, 2009

What Does Your Dog Say About You?

You've heard the saying before, that dog owners eventually start to look like their dogs? I was thinking about this after seeing all the different dogs out in the city this weekend. I was trying to figure out if I could gauge anything about a persons' personality by what type of dog they had. I personally think what type of dog you own does say a lot about you, but that's just my opinion. I decided to do some research and see if there was anything behind these theories. It turns out there has been quite a bit of research done on the topic of dog owners looking like their dogs.

What does the research say? Dog owners really do look like their pets! However, this only applies to purebreds, and not the sweet mutts you find at the pound or from back yard breeders (boo!).

Researchers from the
University of California, San Diego found that people choose purebred dogs that resemble them. However, there was no correlation when it came to choosing a mixed breed dog. Psychologists Michael Roy and Professor Nicholas Christenfeld published their findings in the May issue of Psychological Science, which is a journal of the American Psychological Society.

How did the experiment work? Researchers photographed 45 dogs and their owners seperately. 25 of the dogs were purebred, while 22 were mixed breeds (mutts). 28 judges were asked to match the dog to the owner when shown a picture of an owner with several dog options. The judges were able to match 16 of the purebred dogs to their owners, but they showed no ability to match the mutts. Although the judges could not match the dogs to owners perfectly, they could significantly pick them with better probability than chance alone.

Christenfeld: And the finding was with purebred dogs, they could do it above chance. Not perfectly, but significantly better than chance. Whereas with mutts they were just at chance, they couldn't tell better than flipping a coin which mutt went with which owner.

In the study, they also explored whether the resemblence of dog and owner happened over time, or whether loength of owner had any bearing at all. One theory was that owners picked dog breeds which would eventually grow to resemble them. This theory was thrown out when they found that length of ownership had no correlation between how a dog resembeled it's owner and the length of time they owned the dog.

The researchers accounted the resemblance to selection. They said the fact that resemblance was only detectible in purebred dogs, compared to a mixed breed, supported that theory. Purebreds have a more predictable appearance than a mutt. They also stated that people who buy purebreds most often spend more time deciding on a breed and choosing a puppy, whereas those who adopt and rescue mutts tend to do so on impulse, or through friends.

Obviously, there are a few holes in the research, but it is still quite interesting. Are dog owners drawn to dogs that look and act like they do? I would say personality wise it's quite obvious owners pick dogs who will match their personality. If you are an active person, you are going to want an active dog. If you live on a farm, you are going to want to have a dog who likes the farm life and working. If you are a couch potatoe, than a lazy dog will most likely be your choice!

The researchers did find however that people with a friendly outlook on life chose friendly looking dogs. Trendy people tended to have trendy looking dogs, and they claimed they could spot a hound owner a mile away. The study found judges didn’t use any one characteristic to make the matches. There were no significant correlation between dogs and owners on the basis of size, attractiveness, friendliness and energy level when considered separately.

“People are attracted to looks and temperaments that reflect themselves or how they perceive themselves,” said Gail Miller, a spokeswoman for the American Kennel Club. Miller.

It's hard to say whether I look like Schaeffer, I have 4 other dogs on my parents farm, I think I resemble Gwen the most.


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