In news that surprises no one, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says a third of us don’t get enough sleep. It’s easy to see why: We work too much, stress too much, and the final season of Game of Thrones has us all on edge (bend the knee!). If you’re having to endure too many sleepless nights, keep reading for the 11 best dog breeds for people who don’t get deep sleep.
I never would have thought that a dog could help you sleep better, considering my own pup’s gas issue that can wake me up from the most peaceful slumber. They’re bed hogs, they bark at every noise (or, you know, nothing at all), and at 5 a.m., they are wide awake and ready to play with their favorite squeaky toy.
It might not be that simple, though. One study published in Anthrozoös found that dogs make better cuddle buddies, compared to cats and even humans. Further research published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings said that 41% of pet owners polled find that their furry friend doesn’t hurt their sleep, and even sometimes benefits it.
All of this is to say that if you’re struggling with a lack of deep sleep, a pupper might be the perfect next step. Here are 11 breeds to consider.
1. Bernese Mountain Dog
The American Kennel Club lists this as one of the calmest dog breeds. They’re also large and incredibly floofy, leading me to believe they make ideal cuddle buddies. Originally bred to drive dairy cattle (moo) and be loyal companions to their farmer friends, they’re gentle and easygoing.
Boxers are that kind of dog that forget how enormous they are. Although they do indeed have energy and love to be silly and playful, Rover says they also want to be close to their owners 24/7. They’re true guardians, grow very close to their family, and want nothing more than to be your little spoon.
Newfoundlands might be the perfect dog to help you get your beauty sleep. Dogtimenotes that not only are they generally quiet doggos, but they’re also known for their sweet disposition. Look at that face and tell me you wouldn’t love to snuggle with that fluffball at night. Go on.
4. Great Dane
Yes, they grow to be the size of small horses, but according to Bark Post, great danes are also some of the most affectionate dogs. They’re excellent companions, full of unconditional love, and will be perfectly content having Netflix marathons with you at night.
5. Golden Retriever
Can we please talk about how perfect golden retrievers are in every single way? This might be an especially perfect breed for you if it’s anxiety keeping you up at night, according to K9 of Mine. Plus, as the United Kennel Club says, they’re friendly, calm, they get along with most people and dogs, and they’re eager to learn — meaning they’re typically fairly easy to train.
6. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
These puppers are the best of both worlds. They have just enough energy to go for a walk or play at the park, but as Rover says, they’re also very calm and simply love to be your companion. They’re outgoing and even pretty chill around strangers, so just don’t expect them to be your guard dog.
Dogtime describes this breed as “barkless.” They’re typically friendly, straightforward to train, and can adapt to almost any environment. If sleeping problems are bugging you and you want a companion to help you relax at night, a basenji might be a great fit.
Imagine waking up to that beautiful face every morning. K9 of Mine reminds us that they do have a good deal of energy, but they’re also affectionate, devoted, friendly, smart, easy to train, and therapeutic. A corgi friend will be certain you get the sleep you need.
If you don’t mind having zero personal space, a collie is perfect for you. Bark Postsays this breed is all about giving you affection and unconditional love. They might be a bit of a blanket hog, but really, collies just want to give you all the snuggles at night.
You’ve never met a bigger pile of love than the bulldog. American Kennel Club points out how calm and easygoing they are, and they tend to form strong bonds with kids, too. Clearly, a bulldog would make your nights so much more restful.
11. Shih Tzu
iHeartDogs says that shih tzus love to sleep, so maybe some of that will rub off on you. To make things even better, they’re hypoallergenic and quite the smarty-pants.
You could argue that all dogs are intelligent, in their own special way, thanks to the bond they share with us humans, and their adorable desire to impress us. But experts say some dog breeds are extra smart. Take poodles and golden retrievers, for instance, which are known for having a good rapport with people, without even having to try. And then there are the dogs that have been bred to be highly trainable, and stand out in that way.
It really boils down to how you want to measure intelligence. “Is it a comparison to other dogs, species, aspects, speed, precision, [or] accuracy? Oftentimes what is most important in what we commonly believe is ‘intelligence’ is motivation,” Russell Hartstein, CDBC, CPDT-KA, founder of Fun Paw Care, tells Bustle. Some dogs are motivated by their owner, and can learn to do pretty much anything when encouraged.
But there are other signs of intelligence to look for, including being alert and aware of their surroundings, making eye contact, pausing before acting, and paying attention, small animal veterinarian Laura Seabolt, tells Bustle.
With that in mind, read on below for some of the smartest dog breeds, in no particular order, as well as the unique traits that make them stand out.
“It doesn’t matter what size of poodle it is — standard, toy, klein, miniature, or teacup — they are all hyper-intelligent,” Robert Cabral, dog trainer and member of the Wag!advisory board, tells Bustle. “[Poodles are great] at retrieving and learning new commands in minutes.”
And that stylish haircut? It’s actually a sign of their sporting abilities. “This intelligent dog was originally bred in Germany for bird hunting and water retrieving,” the pet experts at Rover, tell Bustle. Shaving their hair in that “fancy” way actually helped them stay warm yet buoyant, as they dove into lakes to fetch animals. Pretty interesting, right?
2. Border Collies
“Border Collies are a herding breed that is very sensitive to the commands of their owner,” Seabolt says. “Often, owners simply make a sound or use a single word to direct their dog.” And just like that, they know what’s up.
“They are also very intuitive, especially when it comes to working with their herding animals,” she says. Border Collies don’t need much attention or direction from their person, in order to get the job done.
But this dog breed also does well outside of herding situations, such as in obedience and agility classes, where they’re known for being one of the smartest dogs around.
3. Jack Russell Terriers
“The Jack Russell breed are feisty and energetic pups that love to be busy,” Cabral says. “They are surprisingly fast on their feet considering their size, and are super responsive to training and voice commands.” If you meet one, you’ll know that they’ve got a lot going on.
4. Golden Retievers
“This is one of the main breed of dogs that is used as seeing eye dogs,” Sara Ochoa, DVM, a veterinary advisor for doglab, tells Bustle. And for good reason.
“They have to be a very intelligent breed to be used for this purpose,” she says. “They can lead blind people across busy streets and around town, [and they can be] trained to fetch certain items in a person’s house, open and close doors, and help with everyday tasks.”
While other breeds can be taught these skills as well, it’s a golden retriever’s natural intelligence and desire to please that makes them up for the job.
5. Labrador Retrievers
Labradors are also super smart, just like other retriever breeds. “Labs have been known for their intelligence for many years,” Dr. Ochoa says. “This is a common dog used for hunting, [since] they learn very quickly how to retrieve.”
Of course, they’re still incredibly smart, even when they’re not in the woods. Labs are adored for their obedience, which is yet another way to measure intelligence, as well as how loving they are with family.
6. Australian Shepherds
As Dr. Ochoa says, Australian Shepherds are very smart and energetic dogs. They’re often spotted in agility classes where they listen and respond quickly to commands.
7. Australian Cattle Dogs
“This is one dog breed that is very smart when it comes to herding animals,” Dr. Ocha says, which is where their intelligence truly shines.
“Most of these dogs don’t even have to be taught to herd,” she says, “they are just genetically inclined when there is a group of animals or people to herd them.”
It all goes back to what they were bred for. Some dogs are simply good at certain skills, without needing a human to tell them what to do.
8. Doberman Pinschers
Dobermans tend to make great guard dogs since they are always on alert, Dr. Ochoa says, which is one surefire way to measure intelligence. They also learn quickly, and can be quite impressive when it comes to learning commands.
This breed is active and intelligent, Rover says, as well as companionable and highly trainable. Experts tend to agree they’re one of the smartest of the toy dog breeds out there.
10. German Shepherds
German Shepherds are incredibly loyal dogs. “They are eager to learn and please their owner, and they have a superb ability to control their impulses,” Seabolt says.
That’s why they’re often seen in high-pressure situations, such as working alongside law enforcement. “However, they are also wonderful family pets” Seabolt says, “and very sensitive to the emotions of their human family.”
While this breed may appear to be droopy and lazy, they actually “have a natural capacity to sniff out scents and track them down,” Cabral says, “and they don’t give in until they find what they’re searching for.”
Whether it’s learning commands, bonding with family, or impressing everyone with their natural instincts, experts say these dogs are some of the smartest around.
It is a cocktail party and the room is filled with people engaged in many different conversations. Suddenly you think that you hear someone mention your name. You don’t recognize the voice of the speaker, but your attentionhas been caught and you focus in on that particular conversation, screening out all other sounds from your brain while you follow what is being said.
Names have that power for people, especially your first name. They have such a strong psychological pull that first responders in crisis situations (such as paramedics and firemen) are trained to find out the name of a person who appears to be wavering on the brink of unconsciousness so that they can use it when speaking to the injured person in order to see if there is any response. If there is even a flicker of consciousness, a person hearing their name (even spoken by an unfamiliar voice) will try to turn their head, or at least their eyes, in the direction of whoever is speaking their given name.
Does a dog’s name have the same power to attract and focus the animal’s attention? Dog trainers and canine behaviorists are divided on this issue. When I was first learning the basics of dog training I was always instructed to begin each command with the dog’s name. Therefore, the correct grammar when addressing a dog would be “Lassie come,” “Lassie sit,” or “Lassie down.” The rationale was that saying the dog’s name caught its attention and informed it that the next sound that came from your mouth was directed toward him. In beginners’ dog classes, especially if the room is noisy and there is a lot of activity, you can often observe the effects of not following that grammatical principle. When the novice trainer says “Down Lassie” instead of “Lassie down,” the dog often looks at the trainer’s face in confusion. You get the impression that the command (in this instance “down”) has gone unnoticed by the dog, but when it hears its name it catches the dog’s attention, and now he is looking at the human’s face. He is not responding to the “down” command, however: What seems to be running through the dog’s mind is something like, “Okay, you have my full focused attention. So what is it that you want me to do?”
However, many contemporary dog trainers would disagree. Their argument is that there is nothing special about a dog’s name. If the dog is already focused on you, then, they say, there is no need to use the name: Simply giving the command should suffice. They agree that saying a dog’s name will often capture the dog’s attention, but they disagree that there is something special about the name itself. They believe that the name is simply a bit of sound which alerts the dog to the fact that their trainer is uttering something. The importance of the spoken name is just that it is in the trainer’s familiar voice and that means it’s a sound that demands attention. According to this principle, any arbitrary sound preceding the command, even if it is meaningless and has no relationship to the dog’s name, would work just as well, as long as the utterance was produced in the trainer’s familiar voice. Thus you might as well say “Refrigerator come” or “Refrigerator down.”
Further, these trainers suggest that a dog’s name, spoken by a completely unfamiliar voice, should have little or no effect in capturing the dog’s attention.
A team of researchers led by Amritha Mallikarjun of the University of Maryland-College Park decided to test whether there really is an attention-getting power in a dog’s name, much as there is in a human’s name. They chose canine test subjects who averaged a bit over four years of age and had, therefore, heard their name continuously for a substantial amount of time.
To create the target stimulus, prior to the test visit, each dog owner was asked the name or nickname that their dog was most commonly called by. This name was then recorded, and repeated 15 times, by a female native English speaker from Eastern Pennsylvania. The idea was that the dog would hear either its own name or the name of another dog in the study spoken by the same unfamiliar female voice. In addition, as a background distractor, the researchers mimicked the sounds of a noisy party by having nine different women recording passages read from nine different text sources, all of which could be mixed together to form a backdrop drone of human voices.
The test situation consisted of a small booth in which the dog and its owner sat. On either side, there was a speaker through which the various sounds could be played. The notion was simple: If the dog’s attention was caught by a particular sound it was presumed to be highly likely that the dog would turn its head in the direction of that sound. A video camera mounted in the booth monitored the dog’s responses, and the videos were scored to determine how long the dog paid attention to a particular sound stream played on either of the speakers.
The dogs were presented with sound streams containing either their own name or the name of another dog repeated over a 22-second period. This was repeated for several blocks of trials. Contrary to the expectations of some trainers, even though the voice saying their name was completely unfamiliar, the dogs paid more attention to their own name sounds than to the sound of an unfamiliar name. Furthermore, even when the sounds of the dogs’ names were superimposed on a medium-level distractor stream of conversational sounds, the dogs would focus more on the speaker voicing their own name. In a follow-up experiment, the researchers made the sound level of the dog’s name and the sound level of the distracting background conversations the same, and even under those difficult conditions, the sound of the dog’s name had a strong enough psychological pull to cause the animal to focus most of its attention on the speaker producing it.
The results seem quite clear: A dog’s name has psychological power. It attracts the dog’s attention even when the name is spoken by a voice unfamiliar to the animal, and even when their name is competing with an environment filled with other human voices saying a variety of irrelevant things. This seems to suggest that the practice of preceding a command with a dog’s name is, in fact, a sensible and effective way of capturing the dog’s attention, especially in a noisy environment. The investigators conclude:
“Our study shows that generally, dogs will behaviorally respond to their name even if a sound source is not immediately clear. This has practical implications for working dogs, like search-and-rescue dogs that may need to take commands from someone other than their handler in emergency situations, and may need to do so at a distance, when the speaker is out of view….even in the context of multitalker background babble.”
Copyright SC Psychological Enterprises Ltd. May not be reprinted or reposted without permission
Those who own dogs are also happier than those who don’t, showing that dogs really do bring great joy to their owners’ lives. With over half of pet owners falling in love with their dogs in just 30 minutes, it’s no surprise that those with dogs are happier than those without pets.
Why are dog owners happier?
The study concluded that:
• Dog owners are more likely to form friendships with people in their neighbourhoods, especially when they’re out walking their pets.
• Dog owners are more likely to engage in outdoor physical activity.
• Dog owners tended to be more agreeable, more extroverted and less neuroticthan cat owners
• Dog owners are more likely to seek comfort from their pets in times of stress.
• 93% are also more likely to call their dog a member of the family, compared to just 83% of cat owners
• It also shows that a greater bond with their dog means they have a greater sense of well-being.
Elsewhere, a 2013 study showed that dog owners are also far more likely to engage in outdoor activities than those who own cats.
Dogs not only bring great happiness to their owners, but also help them to keep an active lifestyle. It’s just another reason to adopt a pup of your own today.
Radley London’s new collection is a dog-lover’s dream
For people who experience the world intensely, adding the responsibility of a dog into the mix can be tough. However, studies show pets—especially canines—can actually reduce stress and lower blood pressure, sometimes simply by gazing into a person’s eyes. Dogs have even been known to ease homesickness! The key? Picking the right breed. Here’s a list of the ten best dogs for highly sensitive people.
Let’s start small, with the Chihuahua. These tiny (most never weigh more than six pounds) pups pack in a ton of personality. Shedding is minimal, and firm training early solidifies good habits. Like most dogs, Chihuahuas need daily activity to stay fit and happy, but unlike larger breeds, indoor playtime suffices (translation: no crazy dog parks). They live 14 to 16 years and will enjoy most of that time snuggling on laps.
More commonly referred to as Yorkies, these dogs are super affectionate, energetic and friendly. They are also hypoallergenic, which is a plus whether you let their coats grow floor-length or not (specialty grooming is a must if a Yorkie’s coat is long, so keeping it trimmed is a less daunting choice). Short, daily walks are enough to keep these pups happy and they can live up to 15 years.
CAVALIER KING CHARLES SPANIEL
The Cavalier King Charles spaniel is a gentle breed. This dog is incredibly adaptive to its owner’s lifestyle (meaning they’re cool with going out or staying in, depending on what you feel like doing). They love nothing more than pleasing their human and really only require daily walks to stay active. Side note: Going for walks is known to relieve stress, so any dog that requires leisurely strolls is a smart investment.
Medium-sized dogs attentive to their humans, Shiba Inus weigh anywhere from 17 to 23 pounds and are the most popular choices for canine companionship in Japan. Yes, they need a lot of exercise, but once they’ve had time to run around a bit, they know how and when to relax at home. They also love lavishing their humans with attention, though they can be a bit reserved with strangers. So, perfect for introverts!
This dog is a stellar choice for very low-key people or anyone who lives alone. Basset hounds are loyal to the bone and very patient. Walks are nice, but then they are content to sleep and snuggle until the cows come home. If you’re someone who needs a little more space, these dogs are ideal because they show love without being smothering.
As anyone who’s ever heard of Lassie knows, Collies are dedicated family dogs who excel when surrounded by loving people. They can live up to 14 years, too. During that time, these graceful pups ideally will have a yard to run in, though regular walks and visits to a dog park feel just as good.
OLD ENGLISH SHEEPDOG
Talk about a mellow dog! Old English sheepdogs are fluffy house dogs with an adaptable nature. They deal well with children (patient and gentle) and adults (smart and obedient). After a waltz around the block, they’re ready to snuggle up inside for a nap or a grooming sesh (brushing their coat is a must).
Possibly the most sensitive of all breeds, greyhounds are noble, quiet creatures who prefer calm people and zen environments. They are independent dogs, so they don’t need too much attention, but they are also very loving and provide a lot of comfort to their owners. Pro tip: Many rescue greyhounds are former racing dogs who have spent their lives in crates between races and seek mutual companionship.
Golden retrievers are literally rays of sunshine in dog form. These friendly dogs love life and are often top choices for seeing-eye-dog and therapy work. To strengthen the bond between human and dog, owners should go through obedience training with their goldens. This builds trust and establishes routine, two things that can ease anxiety in humans.
Now, the biggest dog on our list. Newfoundlands are 120 pounds of pure devotion and even-tempered friendship. They are super sweet, highly trainable and rarely aggressive. Sensitive owners who enjoy hiking and swimming will find a perfect companion in Newfoundlands. These gentle giants have a lot of love to give. Remember Nana in Peter Pan? Newfie.
(Here’s one thing to remember about large canines: They don’t live as long as smaller pups. The life expectancy of a Newfoundland is nine to ten years, which is still a good chunk, but know thyself when picking a dog and veer smaller for longer life expectancy.)
We can thank our dogs for many things – laughs, companionship and muddy paw prints on the carpet included. But do you ever stop and think about the more long-term impacts that owning a dog can have on your physical and mental health?
This National Love Your Pet Day (20th February), we are thanking our pets for the health benefits they bring to our lives, from exercise to increasing confidence.
8 mental and physical health benefits of owning a dog
1. You might visit the doctor less
An Australian survey found that dog owners make fewer visits to the GP in a year and are less likely to be on medication for heart problems or sleep issues.
2. You could be less anxious
Veterinarian Dr Jo Gale, Mars Petcare Scientific Advisor, says: “Several studies have found that interacting with pet dogs or therapy dogs is associated with reductions in the stress hormone cortisol and reductions in self-reported anxiety.”
2. You could have lower risk of cardiovascular disease
A nationwide 2017 study in Sweden found that owning a dog could be beneficial in reducing the risk of the owner developing cardiovascular disease, thanks to having increased motivation to exercise and a non-human social support network. Interestingly, the study found that owning hunting breeds lowered the risk the most.
3. You are more sociable
An American study, which looked at three factors of being sociable – getting to know people, friendship formation and social support networks – found that dog owners are five times more likely to know people in their community. They found that dogs, acting as companions, helped owners be more sociable on every level, from one-off interactions to the development of deep friendships.
4. You might live longer
In the Waltham Pocket Book of Human-Animal Interactions there is a wealth of evidence to suggest that the physical benefits of having a dog can lead to a longer, healthier life. Section 8 reads: “The many health benefits of regular physical activity are well documented, and include lower rates of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, depression and certain types of cancer.”
5. You have higher self-esteem
A 2017 study by the University of Liverpool found that growing up with a dog can increase self-esteem in children. It also found young people with pets to be less lonely and have enhanced social skills. Lead author, Rebecca Purewal, states: “Critical ages for the impact of pet ownership on self-esteem, appear to be greatest for children under 6, and preadolescents and adolescents over 10.”
6. You exercise more
A 2019 study by Lintbells found the average dog owner walks 870 miles every 12 months with their pets. That equates to just four miles less than the distance between John o’Groats in Scotland and Land’s End in Cornwall. Just over half of the 2,000 British adults surveyed owned a dog, and they walk, on average, more than 21 miles a week – 17 of which are with their pet. That’s around seven miles more than non dog owners who only clock up 14 miles a week.
7. Children miss less school
Veterinarian Dr Jo Gale says: “Having pets in the home has been linked to enhanced immune function in children, as evidenced by better school attendance rates due to fewer illness-related absences. The effect was particularly strong for younger children (five to eight-years-old) and, in some cases amounted to nearly three extra weeks of school attendance for children with pets.”
8. You are less likely to be lonely
Studies have shown that, out of any other pet, dogs have the strongest connection to loneliness, mainly because they are on show a lot more. Over 80% 0f people who took part in Mars Petcare’s 2018 research said that, just one month after getting a dog, they felt a lot less lonely.
We’re often amused when dogs and their owners seem to look alike—both have lanky limbs or shaggy locks, say. A recent study has found that dogs resemble their owners in an entirely different way: their personalities actually tend to be similar.
William J. Chopik, a social psychologist at Michigan State University and the study’s lead author, studies how human relationships change over time. Intrigued by the bond that people share with their pet dogs, he set out to examine those relationships and the dynamics within.
His study had the owners of 1,681 dogs evaluate their own personalities, and their dogs’ personalities, on standardized questionnaires. He found that dogs and their owners share personality traits. A highly agreeable person is twice as likely to have a dog who is highly active and excitable—and less aggressive—than someone who is less agreeable. The study also found that conscientious owners rated their dogs as more responsive to training and neurotic owners rated their dogs as more fearful. By contrast, “if someone is chill, their dog is chill,” says Chopik.
Chopik points out the obvious challenge in doing this study: you can ask people questions about themselves, but with a dog, you can only rely on owners’ observations of their pets’ behavior. But owner biases—the idea that owners may project their own personalities onto their dogs—don’t seem to come into play. Similar studies have found that acquaintances (strangers, friends, dog walkers) tend to rate a dog’s personality in the same way as its owner. (Does your dog prefer you over anyone else? It’s complicated.)
Why do these similarities exist? The study doesn’t address causes, but Chopik has a hypothesis. “Part of it is the dog you pick, and part of it is the dog it ultimately becomes because of you,” he says.
Chopik says that when adopting a dog, people tend to gravitate towards one that will naturally fit into their daily rhythms. “Do you want a rambunctious dog that needs a lot of interaction, or one that’s more chill for a more sedentary lifestyle?” he says. “We tend to choose dogs that match us.”
Then, whether through conscious training or just day-to day interactions, we shape their behavior—and they change as we change. “Our lifestyle changes trickle down,” he says.
Behaviorist Zazie Todd, author of the website Companion Animal Psychology, says it’s important to note that the five main traits widely used for evaluating people’s personalities (extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, negative emotionality, and open-mindedness) are not the same as the five personality factors used for dogs (fearfulness, aggression toward people, aggression toward animals, activity/excitability, and responsiveness to training). “But there are some really interesting links” between human and dog traits, she says, and qualities tend to match up.
“Even though you measure things in different ways, you find correlations,” Chopik says. “That makes similarities harder to detect, but we found them anyway.”
For example, while “extraversion” isn’t a trait that maps cleanly onto an animal’s personality, extraverted people are typically more outgoing and energetic, so a dog being highly active and excitable is a close parallel.
Future research could potentially tease apart the two possible causes for the personality links. In other words, that chicken-and-egg factor. For example, are friendly, outgoing owners more likely to choose a less fearful-seeming dog? Or is their outgoing lifestyle more likely to rub off on a dog over time? “People who are more agreeable may take their dogs out and about more so that the dog is better socialized and more used to different things,” Todd says. “It could be that people are shaping their dog’s personalities, and this is the most interesting possibility for me.”
Dogs apparently do become like their owners — and now there’s research to prove it.
A new study by psychologists at Michigan State University (MSU) found that dog personalities change over time and their owners play a part.
“When humans go through big changes in life, their personality traits can change. We found that this also happens with dogs — and to a surprisingly large degree,” William Chopik, a professor of psychology at MSU and the study’s lead author, said in a statement.
“We expected the dogs’ personalities to be fairly stable because they don’t have the wild lifestyle changes 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,” he continued.
The study, which was published in the Journal of Research in Personality, is one of the first — and the largest — of its kind that looks at changes in dogs’ personalities.
Chopik and his colleagues surveyed owners of 1,681 dogs, including 50 breeds that ranged in age from a few weeks old to 15 years old.
Owners were asked to evaluate their dog’s personalities, answer questions about their dog’s behavioral history and describe their own personalities.
The three main findings from the study were: a correlation of the dog’s age to its personality, a correlation of the owner’s personality to their dog’s personality and the influence a dog’s personality has on its relationship to its owner, Chopik said.
Chopik’s research found that people who were extroverted scored their dog as being more excitable and active, while owners who felt more negatively about their pets rated them as being more fearful, less active and less responsive to training.
People who ranked themselves as agreeable also rated their canines as less fearful and aggressive to other people and animals, the survey found.
The research also found the best time to train a dog is around the age of six.
“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,” Chopik said.
Owners whose dogs were better trained, more active and more excitable reported feeling happiest about their relationships with their canines, as well.
“There are a lot of things we can do with dogs — like obedience classes and training — that we can’t do with people,” Chopik said.
“Exposure to obedience classes was associated with more positive personality traits across the dog’s lifespan. This gives us exciting opportunities to examine why personality changes in all sorts of animals,” he added.
We like to imagine that all dogs are good dogs — and the vast majority of them never give us a reason to question that belief — but just how good they are is something that can change over time. A new study suggests that canine personalities aren’t set in stone and, just like humans, they can go through dramatic personality changes based on life events.
The research, which was published in Journal of Research in Personality, is the largest study of dog personality ever conducted. Over 1,600 dogs spanning 50 different breeds were included in the work, which surveyed pet owners and attempted to draw links between life events and changes in the behavior of the animals and their caretakers.
“When humans go through big changes in life, their personality traits can change. We found that this also happens with dogs—and to a surprisingly large degree,” William Chopik, lead author of the study, said in a statement.
“We expected the dogs’ personalities to be fairly stable because they don’t have wild lifestyle changes 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 researchers found that the old adage that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks does have some basis in reality, with older animals being harder to train once they are set in their ways. But what was particularly interesting to the scientists was how the personalities of dogs tended to follow that of their owners.
Active and outgoing individuals tended to be matched with dogs that were the same, while dogs that were anxious or hostile had owners that were more negative. Pets that were more excitable and happy were also shown to be easier to train, while the fearful and anxious animals didn’t respond as well to direction.
“There are a lot of things we can do with dogs—like obedience classes and training—that we can’t do with people,” Chopik explains. “Exposure to obedience classes was associated with more positive personality traits across the dog’s lifespan. This gives us exciting opportunities to examine why personality changes in all sorts of animals.”