When you see someone walking their dog, you probably think that you can make some pretty solid guesses about their personality based on the breed of their dog, right? For example, if you saw a guy walking a Pit Bull with a studded collar, you might assume the owner is a tough guy. Well, a recent study suggests you should hold your judgment.
Researchers at the University of Leicester were interested to know if the breed of dog you choose says anything about your personality. To test this, they gave personality tests to 235 participants ranging from teenagers to seniors.
In addition to the test, participants were asked to rate how aggressive they considered different breeds of dogs and which breeds they would most like to own.
When the results were compiled, researchers determined a few things, starting with the type of breeds that were identified as “mean”. German Shepherds, Boxers, and Staffordshire Bull Terriers were perceived as more aggressive, where as Labs, Cocker Spaniels, Border Collies, and West Highland White Terriers were perceived as relatively non-aggressive.
Depending on how you perceive people, it may not surprise you that of the human participants, the youngest and least friendly of them—according to their personality test—said they preferred the breeds rated as mean. What is surprising, though, is that’s where the commonalities ended.
Going into the study, the researchers presumed that people who wanted to assert their dominance or had a past history of delinquency would be more inclined to choose the “mean” breeds. What the results actually showed was that this was not the case.
What they found was that it wasn’t just the young and unfriendly participants who showed interest in the “mean” breeds. The vast majority of “mean” breed lovers actually scored higher for conscientiousness on their personality tests than those who preferred the “friendly” breeds.
Conscientiousness is seen in people who are rule-oriented, careful, and organized. Interestingly, these are the perfect candidates for dog training classes, meaning if these people did get a dog, their dog may be better behaved than the more “friendly” breeds on the list.
If we learn anything from this study, it’s that someone’s choice of dog says little about his or her personality. The belief that a person or dog can be judged by appearance is rarely accurate and highly influenced by selective perception of media.
It also shows that just because a dog is stereotyped as “mean” doesn’t necessarily mean that they will be untrained or aggressive. In fact, if we look at the science of this study, there’s a pretty good chance that they will be better trained than the average Lab you pass on the street.