How are dogs influenced by our personality and behavior?

How are dogs influenced by our personality and behavior? All dogs have a different set of personality traits that can be directly and indirectly influenced by our own personalities and behavior. Aside from regular feeding, potty, and attention, all dogs require their natural personality needs to be met. Depending on how well your personalities ‘mesh’ – meeting these needs can either come naturally or feel challenging.

Understanding your pet’s personality type is arguably the most important step in forming a positive, healthy (and let’s not forget fun) relationship.

Forget breed, size, age, think personality

We all have a natural tendency to think of breed characteristics when considering a dog’s personality, but that often leads us astray. Let’s put it this way… inheriting an athletic build from your father, doesn’t mean you’ll be an athlete (or even like sports). There is a big difference between genetic disposition and personality traits. And, if you have a mixed breed mutt, then all bets are off. For more on breed vs personality, check-out “Every dog is unique“. Let’s consider examples of core canine personality types:

The Low-Focus (Squirrel!) Dog:

A dog that is quick to distract, lively and always loves investigating their surroundings. These types of personalities always need to have something going on, and they usually need above average levels of mental and physical stimuli. Which is why they can be ideal for households with young kids. Agility training helps hone their senses and keeping them on their toes!

The Low-Energy (Lap) Dog:

Dogs that only need moderate to low amounts of exercise, both mental and physical, enjoy social banter, but more than anything, love to cuddle and relax. They are perfect for people with moderately active lifestyles, or families that enjoy frequent, close contact with their pup.


Why is this understanding of personality so important?

When we understand our dog’s personality, we can communicate and interact with them in ways that are more effective.  Being aware of our own traits as pet parents – we can adjust our communication and approach. Often referred to in training as “direct Influence”, a dog’s behavior can be directly influenced by our interaction style, situational awareness, and the technique we choose for discipline, and learning.

Interestingly, a dog’s behavior can equally be “indirectly influenced”; affected by observing us, our habits, and our reactions. For example, if someone you know has a dramatic personality, chances are that they’re going to “rub off” on their dog, and the dog will exhibit dramatic traits in conjunction with their own personality. If it’s a family dog, then the dog’s behavior will most likely be closer to the person they spend most of their time with.

How can you influence your dog’s behaviors?

When interacting with your dog, keep Fido’s personality in mind. Is he easily distracted? Is that why he pulls merrily on the leash when you’re trying to have a stress-free walk? Try a direct influence – bring along favorite treats to motivate him, and a clicker to hold his focus. Praise frequently when he looks to you instead of getting distracted.

Consider indirect influences: Are you meandering along, or walking purposefully? Exemplify the behavior you aim to reinforce. Adjust your mood – are you fun to be around or a downright bore? Your mood can boost or lessen his distractive state, and therefore shouldn’t be ignored.

Dogs naturally look to us as examples, so it’s important that we stay tuned-in to their personality and adjust our own to encourage the behaviors we seek. The second you start feeling frustrated or overwhelmed, stop. Go do something else, take a deep breath and ask yourself: How am I influencing the situation?

Bottom line – it really does take two to tango, and you are leading this dance, like it or not!


If you’re interested in an in-depth personality assessment, PawsLikeMe’s Lifestyle App is designed to evaluate your dog’s personality alongside your pet parenting style. Offering clues to help you and Fido sync-up for a successful journey – together. The app is currently available on iTunes and Google Play