The Nature and Nurture of Dog Personality

Dog personality is very important when it comes to choosing a breed that's appropriate for you and your family. The personalities of dogs can be measured, even though they don't have as many dimensions as human personalities.

The Nature of Dog Personality Types

The "nature" of a dog's personality is how a dog behaves naturally, without any training. Over the course of centuries, dogs have been bred for specific purposes, making each breed have a specific personality type. For example, golden retrievers are known to be very playful, while Rottweilers are known to be more aggressive and territorial. Researchers have found that canine personalities depend not only on dog breeds, but also on genetic variability.

A dog's personality can be described as being curious, playful, social or outgoing, a need to chase, or aggressive.

Sociable, outgoing dogs are friendly and love to play. The temperaments of these dogs are laid back as long as they are engaged in physical activities and have positive human interactions. A sociable dog is curious, will look to his owner for direction and will be more submissive than dogs that are more independent in nature. Dogs with sociable temperaments are good family dogs, because they can adapt well to new situations.

Dogs with an insecure personality do not do well with change. They easily submit to their owners and tend to feel a close bond to their human companions. If this personality is not nurtured, an insecure dog will be more fearful during his adult years.

Dogs with an aggressive personality are more dominant and easily upset. Aggressive dogs are more independent and often don't mind their owner's commands. They also tend to be more territorial, and are sometimes more likely to chase other animals or humans. However, dogs with this personality type are trainable and can make good guard dogs.

The Nurture of Dog Personality Types

The "nurture" of a dog's personality has to do with what a dog has experienced, what he was taught and how he was trained to behave. Selective breeding makes dogs act the way they do. It is important for a dog owner, or anyone that's considering owning a dog, to think about the natural tendencies for the specific breed he wants.

Knowing what a dog inherently likes to do, like herd or fetch, will help you get along with him better. A critical time to work with a dog in terms of his personality is during the socialization period, when he's a puppy.

Dog Personality Test

Dog owners are able to test puppies as young as 7 weeks old, when fearfulness has developed, to see what type of temperament they'll have. Young dogs are tested again at 10 to 12 weeks of age.

There are several ways to test a dog's personality, but the results will almost all focus on the following traits:

  • Confidence
  • Dominance
  • Fearfulness
  • Sociability
  • Reactivity
  • Sensitivity

Personality tests can also be performed on an adult dog. The differences in dog personality types are all dependent upon the breed of a dog and his experiences.