It’s Official: Dogs Do Have Personalities

February 8, 2012 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

Note sure that researchers needed to test this hypothesis (as I would have thought it was glaringly obvious that dog’s have personalities!), but I will include an overview of the study below anyway……

The following article was written by Jennifer Viegas (15.12.03), Discovery News:

“Spot the personality (Los Alamos National Laboratory)

Confirming dog owner suspicions, a new U.S. study reveals that dogs have personalities, and that these character traits can be identified as accurately as similar personality attributes in humans.

A team led by psychologist Professor Samuel Gosling of the University of Texas at Austin, reports on the first cross-species personality study between a human and another animal in the current Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Dogs (Canis familiaris) were chosen for the study because of their wide availability, the fact that they safely and naturally exhibit a wide variety of behaviours, are understood well by many humans, and can travel to research sites with ease.

The dog research consisted of three studies. For the first, 78 dog owners were recruited from dog parks to evaluate both themselves and their dogs using criteria common to human personality studies: extroversion, agreeableness, neuroticism and openness. The same evaluation of dog and owner was then carried out by a different person, who happened to be familiar with the dog.

For the second study, independent observers rated owners and dogs in a field-testing enclosure. And for the final study, photographs of human and animal participants were rated by a new set of independent observers.

After the three tests, the researchers determined that the judgments made for the dog personalities were as accurate as those made for the human personalities. While there was not 100% agreement for either human or dog evaluations, the responses of owners, peers, and independent judges all followed a similar pattern of consistency, which the researchers were able to chart mathematically.

The dog studies controlled for breed and appearance-based stereotypes, such as impressions based on size, sex, and age.

Gosling believes that more than half a human or non-human’s personality is inherited. The remaining percentage is formed by upbringing, events in life, and learning from chance happenings in the environment. As a result, animal studies could help to address some long-standing issues in human personality research.

“This includes such issues as understanding the social, biological, and genetic bases of personality and understanding how personality develops,” Gosling told Discovery News.

He said certain characteristics are associated with certain breeds: “So I can use these associations to make public statements to others. For example, if I want to convey a tough image, I will buy a rottweiller rather than a teacup terrier.”

Professor David Funder, chairman of the Department of Psychology at the University of California at Riverside, agrees that animals have personalities, something that “every pet owner knows”.

Funder, however, was “surprised and impressed that Gosling was able to come up with ingenious methods to demonstrate and measure animal personality”.

Psychology Professor James King, at the University of Arizona and an expert on primates, said that research on chimpanzees and orangutans appears to support Gosling’s work, which King described as “elegant and well-executed”.

King said, “Tool using, culture, and language have recently been shown to not be uniquely human. Now, we are seeing that our personality and personality dimensions are also not uniquely human, but shared with non-human primates and even dogs.”


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Yours In Great Health,

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Naturopathic Practitioner, Researcher, Lecturer, Canine Naturopath

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