A new study led by the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History has found that dogs and humans who have the strongest relationships have similar personalities, matching on features such as levels of warmth, enjoyment of spending time outdoors, and selflessness with their possessions. However, according to the experts, owners who are overly attached to their pups may give rise to dysfunctional human-animal relationships.
The scientists reviewed 29 published articles on dog-owner relationships to clarify what personality traits lead to positive interspecies connections.
The analysis revealed that canine personality traits associated with functional and fulfilling dog-owner relationships included energy, affection, openness, intelligence, agreeableness, and responsiveness to training. By contrast, antisocial, territorial, and destructive dogs were linked to problematic relationships with their owners.
“Openness and agreeableness of the dog could represent traits which enable them to facilitate these social interactions especially well. Particularly in cases where the owners do not possess these traits, they might benefit greatly from their presence in their dogs,” the authors explained.
Moreover, the researchers discovered that functional dog-owner relationships tend to be “complementary” – with both humans and animals being similarly friendly, but opposite in dominance/submissiveness traits. However, the combination of a dominant dog and a submissive owner was found to be challenging in practical ownership.
Finally, the investigation provided evidence that highly attached owners characterized by a “humanistic orientation towards the dog” could often give rise to mental issues in their pet, such as increased separation anxiety.
“That highly attached owners often owned dogs with separation related problems might be because the owners themselves are very worried about the imminent spatial separation, which in turn creates a negative feeling in the dogs,” the authors wrote.
“While many studies have reported that cuteness and general appearance are among the most important purchase motives of owners, this review suggests that future owners should focus more on personality and attachment aspects in the acquisition process instead. Compatibility between owners and their dogs may help unfold advantages of dog ownership, and prevent canine behavioral problems and their adverse consequences,” they concluded.
The study is published in the journal Applied Animal Behavior Science.
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