You and your dog look more alike than you think

You and your dog look more alike than you think

Everyone knows that birds of a feather, flock together. So much so, that physical similarities between dogs and their owners are attracting the attention of researchers.

December 2, 2019 By Louise Dugas

Have you ever seen a picture of a dog with his owner and thought “Wow, they look like two peas in a pod”? British photographer Gerrard Gethings produced an exhibit on this theme, which has travelled the world. And to judge by the number of recent scientific studies, these resemblances have also peeked the curiosity of countless researchers.

A team at the University of California, San Diego, found–all kidding aside–that humans, when selecting a purebred dog, tend to choose dogs that match their own physique. People with curly hair, for example, seem to be most attracted to Poodles and Bichons, while those with long hair prefer pups with droopy ears, and the more heavy-set among us gravitate toward stockier or plumper dogs. Interestingly, they showed that this wasn’t so much the case when people choose “mutts”. A study conducted by Dutch researchers concluded that dogs belonging to overweight people were often on the tubby side themselves.

And a Japanese study showed that the resemblance between a dog and his master is especially striking when it comes to the eyes.

In 2017, researchers at the University of Vienna analyzed the level of cortisol in humans and their dogs, when put in stressful situations. They demonstrated that the more nervous or worried a person became, the more nervous and worried their dog was likely to become as well.

How about between the ears?

It seems that dogs also resemble their owners psychologically. In 2017, researchers at the University of Vienna analyzed the level of cortisol in humans and their dogs, when put in stressful situations. They demonstrated that the more nervous or worried a person became, the more nervous and worried their dog was likely to become as well. A calm and relaxed person who approaches life with confidence tends to have a calm and relaxed animal. Similarly, a social and extroverted person will tend to have a dog who is friendly with strangers and is less timid overall.

This “contagious” phenomenon is more prevalent in one direction than the other. Researchers found that a person is more likely to … turn their dog into a nervous wreck than the other way around! In other words, we are more likely to pass our faults on to our dogs than we are to be afflicted with theirs.

A vicious circle

Gaby Dufresne-Cyr, behaviouralist and author of a book on the master-dog relationship, says she’s not surprised by these findings. In the training workshops she holds at Dogue Shop in Montreal, she often works with anxious owners whose dogs are just as nervous. “These people are usually the type to worry about everything and are constantly thinking. In the training sessions, they’re often asking themselves: ‘What will I do if my dog won’t obey me, or chews on his leash, or barks, or jumps up on me or the trainer?’ They’re preoccupied with a thousand different questions … when really, they should just take a deep breath, be present in the moment and pay attention to what’s actually going on. So, what usually happens? Their dog starts to yap excessively, jumps all over the place and is unable to focus on what is being asked of him.”

How can you contain the mayhem? “You have to make these folks understand that it’s simply not possible to control everything,” says Dufresne-Cyr. “You have to gently let them know that their precious pet is just a dog. A d-o-g! It’s not a baby. It’s not a child. There’s no danger and no one is going to die here. But telling them is the easy part. Actually getting them to calm down is a whole other story.”

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