BY CHERESE COBB, FREELANCE WRITER
Until the end of the 20th Century, most scientists believed that animals didn’t have personality traits, emotions, or thoughts—at least in the same way that humans do. Then Dr. Samuel Gosling, a professor of psychology at the University of Texas, began digging deeper into the animal kingdom, finding that even introverted octopuses will stay in their dens during feeding and attempt to hide by changing colors.
The findings confirm what dog owners have known for roughly 15,000 years: Dogs fall into seven different personality types, often showing more than one type. From the fearless Adventurer to the sensitive Loner, knowing your dog’s personality type can help you create an environment that he’ll thrive in, as well as ward off any behavioral issues—so you’ll never have to take him to the pound.
Thousands of years ago, when our canine and human ancestors began their interspecies relationship, there was something about Adventurers that separated them from the rest of the pack. Although an Adventurer is able to solve problems on his own, he has no problem turning to his owner when he needs help. Slightly less standoffish than the Loner personality, he’ll only form bonds with an owner that he deems as fair, patient and strong. Independent and strong-willed, the Adventurer is interested in everything, and he's happiest when the whole pack is together, be it in a car or on foot.” “I particularly get a kick when I walk Munster, [an 80lb Husky-Shepherd-Retriever Mix], in a nearby meadow—he'll leap around in the tall grass like he's jumping hurdles,” says Kelly Meister-Yetter, the Crazy Critter Lady.
Curiosity might have killed the cat, but it’s turned some dogs into the side-splitting jesters of the canine world. Only slightly less intelligent than Philosophers, Clowns have an elephant-like memory. And they usually try to solve problems, whether they’ve seen them before or not, on their own. “[Clown personality] Maddox Fresh is always getting himself into funny situations, whether he’s chasing seagulls or getting his nose stuck in a crab’s hole,” says owner Angie Torres. Brimming with energy, a Clown will somersault, bunny hop, and kidney bean dance on a regular basis. A forever puppy, he also keeps going and going until he collapses like a toddler. “Maddox is usually in the back of the pack, but he shows off his goofiness when he gets so excited he just flops over and smiles,” she says. Easier to train than the Loner personality type, a Clown is headstrong and stubborn, often digging his paws into the ground when he doesn’t want to go somewhere or do something. Bored clowns might “redecorate” an owner’s living room, counter surf, or sneak into the swimming pool, one of the major reasons this personality type is surrendered to shelters. So, tucker your Clown out with exercise—for his body and his brain.
The Lover is a smooth operator, who relies on a secret weapon—his social skills! Able to read the body language of people and other animals like the back of his paw, he’s ready to greet everyone he meets, whether he knows them or not. He’s also deeply in tune with his owner and isn’t above using his person’s social information to get his own way, making him slightly less mischievous than the Clown and Philosopher personalities. Easygoing, lovable, and extremely excitable, especially around small children, the lover needs basic training to prevent him from jumping up on guests as if he had springs in his feet. “My Lover is a complete ham when it comes to the ladies,” laughs Lynn Hobson, the owner of Muff, a 3-year-old Pomeranian-Shih Tzu Mix. “At the sight of someone gushing over him, Muff stands up on his hind legs and uses his front paws to gesture that he is completely open to love and affection. He wins people over by doing this—every time!”
The Philosopher is the rocket scientist of the dog world. He has a keen understanding of physics—which is why he can solve puzzle-feeders at warp-speed or open refrigerator doors. A canine Einstein, the Philosopher can also make inferences, solving problems that he’s never encountered before. Shiloh, 9, takes his time when making decisions. For example, "I’ve seen him judge the distance from where he puts his dog bed to the door, making sure the door can’t hit him when it’s opened,” says owner Beth Adan. Philosophers also make an effort to communicate with their owners, politely and patiently barking for things like a water refill or to go outside. Don’t be fooled: intelligent doesn’t always mean well-behaved. A bored Philosopher is as impish as the Clown personality type, from chewing on shoes to placing his owner’s stuffed animal collection in the yard. So, stimulate his big brain with complicated tricks, puzzle toys, or a quickie game of hide-and-seek.
A Loner is sensitive, timid, and sometimes a little stubborn. Self-reliant with a wild, wolf-like side, she’s the ideal companion for a wanderluster. Harder to train than the other seven personality types, she also needs an owner who is calm, patient and consistent—heavy-handed training methods will cause her to completely shut down. “A Loner can make things like trips to the dog park or having friends over a little less than ideal,” says Amber Fallon, the owner of Harley, a 3-year-old French Bulldog. “But when Harley loves you, you know it's for real and not just general canine friendliness. It means a special bond has formed. She's your buddy for life.”
The easiest of the seven personalities to train, the Peacemaker is cooperative, gentle and affectionate. She’s eager to please, happily following the commands of her owner, who she views as her leader. While she’s not as outgoing as a Lover, she gets along with other dogs, cats and people—making her an ideal family pet or therapy dog. In order to get what she wants, she gracefully interacts with the humans in her pack. She also quickly adapts to nearly every situation. “When you’re at home watching TV, a peacemaker snuggles up next to you and watches as well. When it's time for bed, she lays like a human under your armpit,” says Sydney Cooper, the owner of Audrey, a 6-year-old Terrier Mix. “She's happiest being held and she never runs out of kisses— really, she’ll lick you for hours if you let her.”
The Athletes have it all—brains, brawn, and more often than not, beauty. Natural-born leaders, an athlete is ready to take charge of nearly any situation. She is a pro at reading people and other animals. And just like the Clown and Philosopher personalities, she may be too smart for her own good. Relying on a soulful gaze or wet nuzzle, she’ll occasionally try to pull a fast one on her owner. She can also easily solve problems on her own, whether it’s stuffing a three-foot stick through the door or using a frisbee to bat a ball to her owner. An Athlete can also be a chatter box. When two-and-a-half pound Fox-Terrier Little Mouse, who’s completely naked minus a mohawk of peach fuzz, wants to play she squawks like a chicken and whirls her tongue around. “She’ll play fetch incessantly—literally until you seriously can't stand it any longer,” says Jamie Thomas, the executive director of Motley Animal Rescue. “She also knows warmer and colder when seeking toys in the yard if she didn't see where it landed.”
What’s your dog’s personality type? Tell us firstname.lastname@example.org!
Quiz: What’s Your Dog’s Personality Type? Peg down your pup’s personality with our quick, ten question quiz.
1. My dog’s favorite toy is:
A. any flying object.
B. anything with a squeaker.
C. a puzzle stuffed with treats.
D. no time for toys—gotta sleep!
2. When I take my dog for a walk:
A. they pull me at full-speed.
B. they want to greet every person and animal that we pass.
C. they insist on sniffing everything.
D. they do their business and pull me back home.
3. During training sessions, my dog:
A. sprints around the room in excitement.
B. is at the head of the class.
C. takes their sweet time responding to my commands.
D. crouches behind me.
4. My dog sleeps:
A. smack dab in the middle of my bed.
B. on top of me—of course!
C. anytime, anywhere.
D. in their dog beds.
5. My dog is scared of:
A. loud noises like thunder and fireworks.
B. unfriendly dogs at the dog park.
C. being put in their kennels.
D. when I leave them alone.
6. My dog seems happiest:
A. running after tennis balls.
B. meeting new people and dogs at the park.
C. wallowing around in the backyard.
D. spending time with me.
7. When I come home, my dog:
A. wags tail with ball in their mouth.
B. repeatedly jumps up and down.
C. greets me with barking & playfully pounces.
D. tenderly brushes my legs, making puppy-dog eyes.
8. When I’m watching TV, my dog is:
A. wrestling with their toys somewhere.
B. curled up by my side watching TV.
C. sitting on the couch like a person.
D. lying down, heads tucked to block the TV’s strange noises.
9. When I bring home guests, my dog:
A. excitedly zooms around the house.
B. wags their tails and gives out “kisses”.
C. curiously sniffs them and their belongings.
D. watches from a distance before cautiously approaching.
10. My dog’s best trick is:
A. playing fetch.
B. making new friends.
C. finding their toys by name.
D. stubbornly lying down.
If you answered mostly A’s: your dog is an adventurer and/or athlete.
If you answered mostly B’s: your dog is a lover and/or peacemaker.
If you answered mostly C’s: your dog is a philosopher and/or clown.
If you answered mostly D’s: your dog is a loner.