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Puppy see puppy do — the perils of setting a bad example

Janet Storm.jpg

Janet Storm

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By Janet Storm

Sunday, March 3, 2019

I have always figured that one of the joys of academia is the ability to conduct studies.

I can think of any number of interesting topics that need answers — why do people in front of me at the mall shuffle along so slowly, how can anyone refuse a second slice of pizza and where do some folks get the unshakable confidence that they are always right?

But at least one burning question has been answered by researchers at Michigan State University: How much influence do owners have on the way their dogs behave?

The answer, apparently, is a lot.

A study, published last month in the Journal of Research in Personality, found that canines' personalities are shaped by their owners. The research was conducted by William Chopik and Jonathan Weaver, assistant professors from the department of psychology.

According to an article in the Detroit Free Press, Chopik said he came up with the idea for the study after noticing the different personalities dogs possess, such as being friendly or anxious.

Research was conducted in two months, where the professor and his team surveyed over 1,600 dogs from over 50 breeds. The owners answered questions about their pets' personalities along with their own, the Free Press reported.

Chopik said that he saw correlations between the dogs and their owners in three areas: human-to-dog personality similarities, age and personality, and the quality of an owner's relationship to their dog having an influence on the dog's personality.

What does that mean?

On plain terms, if you would rather lie on the couch and watch TV than go for a run, its is likely you will have a dog who also is a couch potato. Extroverts often have outgoing, active dogs and pessimists often have dogs that are more fearful and less likely to respond to training.

This led me to wonder: What sort of example am I setting for my own two little dogs?

I must admit that I am rather fond of sitting on the couch and Ollie and Einstein enjoy joining me there. On the other hand, we do go walking for an hour every morning, so perhaps my influence isn’t too terrible.

All three of us enjoy snacking, which is a point against me. But the boys are overwhelmingly friendly and cheerful, which I like to think is a point in my favor.

Einstein is brave and protective, barking warnings about squirrel invasions, and Ollie is cuddly and loveable. Surely these are traits they learned from their human mommy?

Or perhaps not. I am reminded that I adopted the boys as adult rescue dogs and their fosters may have helped them acquire these admirable traits.

Still, they have been living with me for years. This leads me to hope that their overall wonderfulness can be traced back to me, at least in part.

Perhaps some academic would like to study how I continually manage to acquire the best dogs on earth.

Until then, Ollie, Einstein and I will be right here on the couch, having a snack and waiting for the call.

Contact Janet Storm at jstorm@reflector.com or 252-329-9587.

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