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How Much of Your Dog’s Personality is Nature vs Nurture?

It is a simple truth that dogs have different personalities and dispositions which influence their daily behavior based on their current environment. There are significant benefits of understanding and recognizing the differences of your dog’s temperament as it helps to explain why most owners have a strong bond with their family’s best friend. Some experts say that a dog’s temperament is inherited while others say it is derived from socialization and motherly treatment during the first six weeks after birth.

Although it doesn’t end with looks or appearances, there are many instances where dogs act like their owners. This raises the question as to whether a dog’s personality is influenced by nature or the way they are nurtured. Is there a correct answer? This article gives detailed information about the origin of your dog’s temperament and what experts say about dogs and their owners’ personality.

1: Genetics

The word 'personality' is used by psychologists to mean those characteristics that allow us to predict how one behaves, feels, and reacts in various situations. Scientific research indicates that a large proportion of a dog's personality or temperament is influenced by their inherited genes. Most dog breeds are named after their places of origin or the person who created the breed. Different dog breeds have a different temperament which is derived from the genetic history of their biological parents.
For example, sporting breeds are energetic dogs that tend to be active and have a strong desire to please their owners. It is quite difficult to distract the Scent hounds because they focus on the scent trails to help people solve a problem or current situation. A Scent hound is a type of dog breed that always seems independent and in their own world when out on a hunt.
Terriers on the other side are intense and persistent and always strive to do their best when given a function to perform. As you can see from the above examples, all these dog breeds have personalities that tend to originate from their bloodlines or inherited genes.

2. Socialization

A dog's personality is not purely determined by its genetics or breed line. There is some merit in the idea that dogs typically look like their owners. Most people choose dogs that blend well with their physical appearance in both obvious and subtle ways. For instance, people who are overweight are more likely to choose plumper dogs while muscular individuals tend to own dogs that have a fierce temperament like the Bulldog.
Research also shows that a dog's personality can be influenced by the way they are nurtured. A dog's confidence, the stability of mood and sociability can only develop by being raised properly. A dog that has constant positive interactions with other people and raised alongside its litter mates will be more stable and obedient. They are quite different from dogs that have been isolated in a cage for a long time like battery chicken.
Optimal neuronal development is influenced by regular handling and grooming of pets by their owners. This means that a pup who was raised in a loving family environment is more likely to be friendly, tolerant and a better problem solver.

3. Training

lead dog training

Your dog's personality can also be influenced by the method used in training. Some dogs have no understanding of humans' expressions of disappointment, anger, depression, sadness, or frustration. However, a dog that is mentally sensitive can get anxious or upset when we are. Careful training can help nurture your dog's personality so that they respond positively to their owner's commands when necessary. For example, electronic remote training collars produce more fear and distress in dogs trained for police work.
On the other hand, dogs that have behavioral problems are taken through professional training to inhibit a positive behavior towards their owners, people, and other animals. However, there are a few things you need to observe when training your dog. Most importantly, never take out your anger or frustration on your dog during training. They may view you as arbitrary and frightening and would always neglect the close friendship anytime you are home. Proper training requires you to consider the degree to which your emotions can affect your dog's behavior.

Tests That Evaluate Personality Traits

The Five Factor Model is one of the most popular tests used to evaluate personality traits. It measures five dimensions of personality which are neuroticism, extraversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness.

It is a dimension of personality traits that measures the inclination of people to experience negative emotions such as anger, depression, and anxiety.

It measures the likelihood of people to socialize and be friendly to one another. Such individuals are full of energy and enjoy being with people.

Openness measures the willingness of people to try new things and their ability to engage in intellectual activities. 

This dimension measures the inclination of people to have an optimistic view of human nature and cope well with others.

Conscientiousness is the tendency for people to seek high achievement by being self-disciplined and persistent.

What Do Experts Say About Dogs and Their Owners' Personality?

dog owner personality

Researchers used the five-factor model to examine the relationship between dogs and their owners. Dog owners with a high level of openness and neuroticism use more verbal commands and gestures when asking their dogs to execute simple tasks. On the other side, extroverts tend to spend more time playing with their dogs and engage in different outdoor activities. Animal researchers have long known that dogs imitate the behavior of their owners and can always tell when you are angry, sad, jovial or in a relaxed mood.

It was also discovered that you are more likely to share similar traits with your dog based on the five major personality traits. If you aren't certain whether people can share similar behavioral characteristics with their dog, you can always learn more by attending dog shows. People can always tell the connection between a dog and their owner by observing how they act and the strong connection they have in public.

Does A Dog Temperament Really Matter?

Dog Temperament

Some people always want to have dogs that can provide protection any time they come across danger. Does it matter whether your dog is friendly or not, especially to strangers? The fact is a dog's temperament does matter and there is a lot you can do to influence their behavior towards family members and strangers.
For safety purposes, it is important for your dog to go through extensive training at some point in their life. This instills good behavior as they learn how and when to protect their owner from harm. If your dog happens to bite someone while offering protection or guarding your home, they could put you in serious trouble. Although there are instances where real danger may be lurking in your home, it is still possible for your dog to run into a friendly, causing a mistaken identity.

If you own an aggressive dog, you will have to take him through professional training to learn how to put down intruders without causing harm to the society. Since nature makes some dogs aggressive towards people, you can always instill good personality or temperament through socialization and training.

How Do You Select the Best Dog or Puppy?

smiling dog

When selecting a new puppy, you would probably want one that has a good personality and can blend well with your family's lifestyle. If you have been looking for a dog that is calm and confident, you can always nurture them to be socially appropriate and mentally sensitive. Whether you are looking for a small puppy or a dog that is more muscular and energetic, it is always important to have a good idea of why you seek such traits and how well you can coordinate with each other.

Although you can predict some rudimentary aspects that exhibit a dog's personality, it is nearly impossible to provide accurate forecasts about a specific breed. If you believe in temperament testing, then it is important to carry out the test seven weeks after birth. This is the earliest time to determine and appreciate the fearfulness in your little puppies.
Since a dog's personality is not entirely dependent on genetics, you can always provide them with extensive care and proper training throughout their lifetime. This means that a dog can be selected according to individual preferences but can also learn through experience by imitating the owner's personality. The best way to have a calm and loving pet is leading by example.


In summary, a dog's personality is not all about genes but can also be influenced by socialization and proper training. Selecting the right dog is only the beginning since what matters most is how well they can be nurtured. Besides your personality, essential activities such as regular grooming, good nutrition, veterinary care, and proper training are all part of ensuring you and your dog live together happily.

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