The Five “Personality Types” of Dogs
By Linda Cole
The deeper researchers dig into the animal kingdom, the more we learn about the different personalities and intelligence of animals. For instance, did you know crows can recognise our faces – and remember if they were treated in a positive or negative way by a human? Our personality is one aspect of our character that defines who we are. Understanding who your dog is, based on his personality type, helps you figure out why he acts in a certain way and defines his behaviour characteristics as an individual.
Like us, dogs fall into different personality types, and can show more than one type. We all know someone who’s the life of the party, someone who is quiet and reserved, or one who will do whatever is necessary to get ahead. Our canine friends fit into five types of personalities. Knowing your dog helps you ward off potential behavior issues before they get out of control when you understand how he might act in a certain situation. His development and personality is based on his upbringing, environment, breed and self esteem.
The Confident Dog is a natural born leader of the pack. He’s a team player and more than ready to take charge of a situation. A confident dog can also be dominant. Harsh discipline or training methods with this personality type could cause him to show aggressive tendencies or become more willful. This dog feels secure in his surroundings, and has a self-assuredness that shows in his body language.
The Independent Dog is more standoffish, and may not form a strong bond with an owner he doesn’t see as his leader. Some breeds are independent by nature and capable of developing a very close bond with the family member who takes control as a fair, patient and strong leader. The independent personality is perfectly happy being away from the crowd. He needs to be given space, and trying to force him to do something he doesn’t want to do will backfire. You can easily lose this dog’s trust and respect if you expose him to heavy handed treatment.
The Laid Back, Happy Dog is always ready to greet everyone he meets, whether he knows them or not. He gets along well with other dogs and cats. Dogs with a happy personality that haven’t been taught basic commands, like sit or down, are apt to get into trouble for jumping up on people when they greet them. This dog can become overly excited, especially around children, and a large dog could scare them.
The Shy/Timid Dog needs an owner who can give calm, consistent and patient understanding, with a sensitivity to his needs and feelings. A shy dog doesn’t like being in uncomfortable situations or around sudden or loud noises. Yelling and harsh training methods or discipline can cause this type of personality to shut down, and you risk losing his trust. Heavy handed treatment can push this dog to become more insecure, fearful or aggressive. It’s important to give a shy/timid dog plenty of opportunities to succeed to help boost his self confidence, and daily exercise to stimulate his mind. Reward him with some dog treats and lots of praise for each success. He needs reassurance from the one he loves to feel safe and secure.
The Adaptable Dog is eager to please, and the easiest of the five personalities to train. Not as outgoing as the happy personality, this dog gets along well with other dogs, cats and people. He’s perfectly happy to follow the commands of his owner, who he sees as his leader. This is an easy to control dog – cooperative, gentle and affectionate – that makes a great family pet. The adaptable personality would be a good candidate as a therapy dog.
The dominant personality is actually a misconception. Dominance isn’t a personality type, it’s a term used to describe a relationship between two or more animals who both have access to mates, food, shelter or sleeping areas. The alpha male in a wolf pack isn’t the one that’s the most aggressive. It’s the one who can lead his pack with fairness and a calm confidence to maintain a mutual working relationship that benefits the entire pack. Dogs are far removed from their wolf cousins, and trying to train a dog based on the hierarchy of a wolf pack can cause a dog to become distrustful of his owner. Dogs don’t try to dominate their owner, and heavy handed training techniques or discipline will backfire, causing some dogs to respond with aggression. Training a dog is done with positive reinforcement, not with force.
Understanding who your dog is helps you avoid unnecessary confrontations when training or socialising him. Not all dogs enjoy being around other canines, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Knowing why your dog acts the way he does is one part of building a strong bond and healthy relationship that will last a lifetime.