Animal Owners’ personality traits resemble their Pets’

Maneka Gandhi

Maneka GandhiI have 13 dogs but the two that follow me around everywhere are Rani and Mili. Rani is feisty, determined, loyal and a complete nuisance. She will not give in until she gets what she wants. Mili is gentle, graceful,patient and very intelligent. She is also murderous in her own quiet way – she attacks other dogs at night ,  birds and mice. Which one of them has taken on my character, I wonder. All my dogs are fat – that’s one trait that they probably got from me.

Prof. Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire is the author of a number of books on curious subjects such as what characteristics attract luck . In a survey, Richard Wiseman asked 2,500 people to complete questionnaires about their characters and those of their pets. The survey found that many dog and cat owners and even reptile keepers said they shared many of the same traits - such as happiness, intelligence, independence and sense of humour-as their pets and they often behaved alike.

Wiseman also discovered that the longer an animal had been with its owner, the more likely it was to have picked up his/her characteristics. The species difference did not matter. Like a married couple , the “pet” and its “owner” adopted each other’s traits.

Wiseman found about 20% of pet owners rated their own personality and that of their animals as alike. In those who had owned their animal for seven years or more, the rating increased to 40%.

One person believed that he and his dog were growing more grumpy,less tolerant and fussier about their food.  Another said that she and her cat both enjoy harassing her husband, biting his toes and attacking him when he was trying to do something. A lizard keeper said their personalities change to become more like his. “"I've had them calmly sitting and watching the television with me . If you've got lots of energy they pick up on that, and if you are fearful they're fearful too.  Generally because I'm calm they tend to calm down themselves." One parrot owner said she talked and bobbed her head like a parrot and her parrot had picked up her more eccentric traits. Owners that were happy and cheery had dogs always wagging their tails.

Not just personality , dogs look like their owners, a U.S. study suggests.Researchers from the University of California, San Diego reported their findings in the May issue of Psychological Science showing that people choose purebred dogs that resemble them. Researchers explored the myth that owners look like their dogs by seeing if judges could match photographs of dogs with their owners.
They photographed 45 dogs  and their owners, separately and showed 28 judges pictures of the owners, their dogs, and one other dog and asked to pick the true match. In most of the cases , the judges found the correct match.  Some pairs were more obvious than others. "There was a goofy guy, smiling with slightly shaggy hair and a golden retriever with a goofy smile, the same hair - everyone said 'these two go together'."

There are two explanations for this : either the resemblance had developed while the person had owned the dog, in the same way that a 1987 report suggested the facial appearance of married couples converged over time.  Or that owners selected dogs at the outset that looked like them. The researchers found that people with a friendly outlook on life were more likely to choose friendly-looking dogs. They note: "It does appear that, as in the case of selecting a spouse, people want a creature like themselves."

Which means that all animals have not just intelligence but personality. A  U.S. study  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 revealing that dogs have personalities, and that these character traits can be identified as accurately as personality attributes in humans.

The dog research consisted of three studies on evaluation of the human dog owner and the dog, using criteria common to human personality studies: extroversion, agreeableness, neuroticism and openness. 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. There was a similar pattern of consistency, which the researchers were able to chart mathematically. 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.

Psychology Professor James King, at the University of Arizona and an expert on primates, said that research on chimpanzees and orangutans supported Gosling's work. King said, "Tool using, culture, and language have 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 perhaps all animals."

In modern times we humans see ourselves as separate from the evolutionary chain. But are we any different ? If our looks, our personalities are the same , what makes us different ? Just our violence, greed and weapons ?


To join the animal welfare movement contact :

previous articles...

Human Propensities of Goat

Animal sacrifice at the altar of religion

Animal as foster parent

Animal feed from rendering plant

Trade in WildLife

Human Intelligence of Birds

Human Propensities of Cow