What Your Pet of Choice Says About Your Personality

We, humans, are a complex bunch. Our pet of choice is another layer that adds to this complexity. Why do you think your friend prefers cats while you would choose dogs in a heartbeat? Or why do some people like to keep reptiles at home? Do we even see ourselves in our pets?

For this visual case study, we sought and reviewed data from multiple surveys to find out! We also examined why we keep pets (it seems like we’re the only animals in the animal kingdom who keep pets and build long-term attachments with them).

The first infographic takes a quick look at pet ownership statistics around the world, while the second infographic uncovers what being a dog, cat, or even fish person reveals about you. Before you howl (or meow!) in objection as you go over our data and findings, take note that these surveys were more informal rather than scientific!

The idea that dogs look like their owners really does have some merit: Research has shown that people tend to choose pups that share their physical characteristics, in ways both obvious and subtle.

Overweight people are more likely to have plumper dogs, for example, but even something as small as the shape of the eyes can be a factor. We’re drawn, in other words, to pets that remind us of ourselves.

And new research shows that appearance isn’t the only thing we share with our canine pals. Animal behavior researchers (and pet owners, for that matter) have long known that dogs pick up what we’re putting down — they can sense when things in their home are tense, or when their humans are unhappy. But according to a study that sensitivity means that dogs often take on elements of our personalities, too.

The authors recruited 132 dogs and their owners, monitoring the stress of each member of the pair using both behavioral tests (observing how they reacted to perceived threats in the lab) and physical markers (like heart rate and saliva samples to detect the stress hormone cortisol).

Each of the human volunteers also filled out a survey to measure their levels of the Big Five personality traits — agreeableness, neuroticism, extraversion, conscientiousness, and openness — and filled out a similar questionnaire about their pets’ personalities.

The results: The more anxious and neurotic the owner, the researchers discovered, the more likely the dog was to share those same traits. On the flip side, chiller dogs were more likely to belong to more relaxed owners.

“Owners and dogs are social dyads [a group of two], and they influence each other’s stress coping,” lead author Iris Schoberl, an animal behavior researcher at the University of Vienna.

The study authors argued that the human half of the pair was likely more influential than the dog. In other words, we’re likelier to pass on our own traits to our dogs than we are to adopt theirs. Something to think about when you’re training your dog, or just trying to ease their nerves: The best way to have a calm, happy-go-lucky pet may be to lead by example.

Your pet doesn’t actually share your genetics, but if you selected your pet it’s possible your dog or cat is a lot like you. Are you and your pet alike? This is one of those nature vs. nurture questions, with a twist.

Your pet doesn’t actually share your genetics, but if you selected your pet (rather than acquiring him through random circumstance) it’s possible you consciously or subconsciously selected a dog or cat that’s a lot like you. It’s also possible, that no matter how you acquired your pet, the two of you have become more alike in personality over the years. You share some personality traits.

By Olga Bejuà / 2020 ART D&F Magazine

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