Understanding Your Dog’s Personality and Behavior

September 21, 2019
You can use a number of criteria and variables to analyze a dog's personality. This allows owners to choose the pet that best suits their lifestyle.

The topic of dog personalities has been the subject of many scientific and veterinary studies around the world. Today, you can actually use a number of criteria and variables to analyze a dog’s personality. This allows owners to choose the pet that best suits their lifestyle and needs.

Canine personalities

To date, one of the most widely accepted theories states that up to around 50% of a dog’s personality is made up of innate characteristics, i.e. traits that the animal is simply born with. These include inherited genetic characteristics that are common to that particular breed or bloodline.

The other 50% is made up of a dog’s individual experiences. It is here that factors such as their environment, owners, culture, diet, and care come into play.

Which breed to choose?

Animal experts underline the importance of choosing a breed in accordance with what you expect of your pet, and what you can offer it in return.

A Yorkshire Terrier in a garden.

For example, someone who lives in a small city apartment should choose a dog that can adapt well to this kind of environment. This means looking for smaller, more laid-back breeds which are less prone to obesity. Breeds such as the Pinscher, Chihuahua, Poodle, Dachshund or Yorkshire terrier are all good choices.

If you have a little more space and enjoy doing getting out in the fresh air, you have the option of going for more active dogs, while still looking for those with a calm temperament. Golden Retrievers, Papillons, Labradors, or Cocker Spaniels are good options for those who have enough space.

If you have lots of space and a large yard, there are many breeds you can choose from. These include typically rural breeds such as Border Collies, Bernese Mountain dogs, German Shepherds, Australian Cattle Dogs, Rottweilers, and many more.

But understanding typical genetic tendencies isn’t enough to guarantee that a puppy will be ideal for its owners or its environment. If it were, there would be no such thing as an aggressive poodle or a nervous Pit Bull. When it comes to a dog’s personality, training and upbringing can actually have the biggest impact.

Is it possible to shape your dog’s personality?

The best way to influence your dog’s personality and control how it reacts to external stimuli is to make sure it is well-socialized. Socializing your pet teaches it how to get along with both animals and people.

Ideally, you should begin socializing your dog from a young age, within the first 6 or 7 months of its life. However, by gradually introducing them to other dogs, it’s also possible to socialize adult dogs.

It’s important for owners to show their dogs which behavior is considered good, and which is bad. This helps establish clear boundaries, helping the animal understand what’s acceptable, and what isn’t.

These days, professional training is in high demand. It’s often the ideal solution for those who don’t have either the time or the knowledge to train their pets properly.

Understanding your dog’s personality

The first step to understanding your dog’s personality is to pay close attention to its everyday behavior, both at home, and outside the house. This is the best way to identify good and bad behavior.

Positive reinforcement is very important when it comes to praising good behavior.

When it comes to scolding bad behavior or disobedience, you must never resort to violence. Abuse can traumatize an animal, and have a significant impact on learning and development. Use your tone of voice, hand signals, or take away toys and treats. But never shout at or hit your dog.

Breed and lineage can be useful indicators when it comes to understanding a dog’s personality. As such, it’s important to research your dog’s specific genetic characteristics.

The Volhard test

One of the best ways to fully understand your dog’s personality is to use the Volhard puppy aptitude test. This test involves giving the dog with different exercises to analyze the way in which it expresses itself. The results will reveal different aspects of your dog’s personality.

A dog and its owner.

The puppies are given 10 different tests, each of which tests a different aspect of their personality:

  1. Social attraction – how well the puppy connects to people
  2. Following – its willingness to follow people
  3. Restraint – how easy a puppy is to handle
  4. Social dominance – how the puppy reacts to being dominated
  5. Elevation dominance – how well it accepts dominance when vulnerable
  6. Retrieving – its willingness to do things for its owner
  7. Touch sensitivity – how sensitive it is to handling and discomfort
  8. Sound sensitivity – how sensitive it is to loud noises
  9. Sight sensitivity – how it responds to moving objects
  10. Stability – how a puppy responds to unexpected events or strange objects

The test is scored on a scale of one to six for each of these factors, rating their behavior in terms of how sociable they are, and how they respond to dominance and socialization. The grade they receive overall, and each individual test reveals a lot about a puppy’s personality.