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the dog house neuroticism, agreeableness and openness) were. This involved specifying the kinds of behaviours that are characteristics of each personality trait that can be objectively observed in dogs. In the canine version of personality, extroversion becomes energy level, emotional stability becomes anxiety level, openness becomes intelligence, and agreeableness become affection and sociability. Gosling’s research involved 78 dogs and their owners, plus 78 other people who knew the dogs and a set of strangers who did not know the dogs but would observe them. In the first stage of the research, owners and the people who knew the dog described his or her personality. In human psychology, researchers sometimes use descriptions provided by friends, relatives or a variety of ‘significant others’ who know a person, in order to gain some insight into an individual’s personality. Judgements of the dogs’ personality were collected with a standard questionnaire that researchers often use when testing humans. Obviously, some items had to be adapted slightly so that they applied to the dogs. Thus, an item like ‘Is original, comes us with new ideas’ would be changed to ‘Is original, comes up with new ways of doing things’. Only one item in the entire inventory designed for measuring human personality could not be reasonably translated to a canine form, namely ‘Has few artistic interests’, so it was omitted from the test. The dogs’ owners and other people who knew the dog judged how well each item in the questionnaire described the dog by using a five-point scale ranging from strongly agreeing to strongly disagreeing that the dog had each particular characteristic. A typical item for extroversion/energy would be ‘Is full of energy’. Agreeableness/sociability was measured with items like

‘Is cooperative’. Neuroticism/emotional reactivity was judged with descriptions like ‘Can be tense’, while openness/intelligence was determined using descriptions such as ‘Is curious about many different things’. None of the people reported any difficulty describing the ‘typical behaviours’ of the dogs, which suggests that, in their experience, each dog acted as if it had a personality and predictable behaviour patterns that distinguished it from other dogs. In the last stage of testing, three strangers observed the dogs as they were being tested in a fenced region of a park. The idea was to get the animals to perform a number of different activities to see if the personality judgements made by the people who knew the dogs actually predicted what the dogs would do. Gosling confirmed that dogs had reliable, predictable personalities for the four personality traits he measured. Furthermore, there was a lot of agreement between the way that the owners described their dogs’ behaviours and the descriptions from both sets of observers, those familiar with the dog and those who met the dog for the first time when the test began. This suggests that global assessments of a dog’s personality work pretty much the same way they do with people: dogs seem to project their personality through their behaviours in a manner that others can read and respond to.

The personalities of dog breeds Every dog breed is different, in not only size, colour and shape, but also in their instinctive, inherited behavioural tendencies, which includes a personality profile that is specific to each breed. Most people recognise certain aspects of these breed differences. Several scientific studies have used the opinions of people who

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Your Pet Magazine issue 10  

YPM issue 10 2007. Devoted to pets and their owners.

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