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A Doggie Myers-Briggs?

Cheeks, Jimi Happy and Karate Kitten

By Kim Everson, DVM

I spent last evening blissfully entwined in the tiny tender arms of Cheeks, my highly affectionate female farm cat. She sneaked into the house somehow and did not have the good sense to stay hidden like her colleagues, the twin orange boys, would have. Or probably she didn’t care about the possible repercussions of being caught inside. The first time I met Cheeks she wrapped her little white paws around my neck and began to nuzzle and purr. She is so loving she even allows my toddler to cuddle her (and you can imagine how pleasant that is). While I love the orange brothers and enjoy their antics, they are far more aloof than Cheeks. But even between them there are noticeable differences in personality with Karate Kitten being more tolerant of being held and snuggled.

It’s no surprise to modern animal lovers that pets have personality. The topic of animal personality may seem like mere cocktail party chit chat, but it is actually a legitimately debated, scientifically studied issue–at least for dogs.* Jennifer Arnold, founder of Canine Assistants, discusses research on dog personality and how understanding a dog’s personality relates to successful training in her book, Through a Dog’s Eyes.

Currently, the kids and I are listening to a library copy of Through a Dog’s Eyes in the car. It is such an inspiring true story of canine devotion and assistance that my son has developed a sudden interest in dog training. Luckily for our yellow lab EdGrrr that involves simple tasks like sitting and lots and lots of Pupcorn treats.

In one chapter of her book, Arnold explains how the personality types of assistance dogs and their human recipients are assessed with standardized measures. Her organization has found that dogs and humans which score similarly in certain areas are more likely to form strong bonds and work better together. In essence, people adore dogs most like themselves. Amazingly, the same is true of dogs! Intrigued about personality typing canines, I visited a website for a dog personality test mentioned in the book: www.petconnectgame.com.

First, I tested EdGrrr. Fiercely protective, attentive, trainable and enthusiastic, EdGrrr’s behavior type index is “Deputy.” That means he is high activity, organized (an organized dog!?), submissive and moldable, happily does the leader’s bidding, and is everyone’s friend. I have to agree with the assessment —  once he gets over his instinctive “law enforcement” duties he is truly a loyal friend to everyone.

If this isn’t personality, I don’t know what it is…
GrrrD (right) with foster brother Rudy

Next I tested GrrrD, our 13-year-old English Springer Spaniel. If you know GrrrD you won’t be surprised she is classified as “Aristocrat.” Prim and proper yet horribly bossy with other dogs, GrrrD sports facial expressions Jim Carrey would admire. Apparently an aristocratic dog “causes people to feel privileged to be its company” and has an “air of greatness.” Oh, boy. Don’t tell GrrrD, or she’ll be even more impossible to live with!

Knowing your dog’s personality type is fun.But it can also be a useful tool in behavior management. Understanding your dog’s unique temperament and motivations allows you to solve training problems, increase your enjoyment of your dog and help improve your dog’s lifestyle.

* Cats get the raw end of the stick in many scientific endeavors, with most medication being developed for pooches and then being used cautiously in felines until we know they work safely! Also, when commercial pet foods were developed decades ago, dogs and cats were fed the same formula until it was recognized–sadly after many cats became afflicted with strange diseases resulting from dietary deficiencies–that cats had entirely different dietary needs from dogs.

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