Remember the classic scene in Disney’s animated version of 101 Dalmatians? There were a slew of people and their pets are walking through St. James Park in London, and each dog that passed was the spitting-image animal version of their master. This hits a humorous truth, as many people have witnessed dogs prancing next to owners that look just like them. Let’s consider if this is just a coincidence, or if there are reasons why people often resemble their pets.
Physical Resemblance: Humans are drawn to things that they feel positive about. Whether it is a specific aesthetic, an art piece, a style, or certain kind of physique, most people chose things that they appreciate the appearance of. When there is a quality about ourselves that we esteem we may subconsciously be drawn to the same kinds of characteristics in those around us. A woman who is proud of her svelte figure and sophisticated attire, might be less likely to choose a sloppy, chubby dog that drools, or one that over-eats and lazily waddles around. Similarly, an older man who hasn’t used a nose-hair trimmer in years will probably not be inclined towards uppity Poodle-pampering.
Personality Similarities: Most of us prefer a dog that enjoys the same activities as we do, and has the same pace of life. It makes sense! Why would a middle-aged academic want to buy a vigorous young pup that wants to romp around in the sun, when he could have a steady hound snoozing by his desk all day? We are inclined to dog personalities that match our natural inclinations and lifestyles. Avid runners would probably opt for an energetic and adventurous dogs, while homebodies will want a lap-puppy to snuggle with at the end of a long day.
In both instances, humans prefer to surround themselves with reflections of either their own appearance, or their preferred lifestyles.
What does science say?
Psychologist Nicholas Christenfeld (University of California, San Diego) concurs that one’s inclination is to often purchase a dog that resemble them. He conducted a study in 2009 that showed people tend to match their dogs if they are purebreds (which required more planning, and style selection than mutts that usually are adopted on a whim). He found that matching owners to their dogs was generally more successfully accomplished by those that chose purebreds, since they dogs tended to resemble their owners more. This supports the concept that when people carefully plan what kind of dog to choose, that they are more likely to pick one that looks like themselves.
This theory which has been discussed for decades has also been given scientific support through the recent study of Japanese psychologist Sadahiko Nakajima conducted in 2013. His findings showed a stark correlation between the appearance of dog-owners’ eyes and the eyes of their dogs. He used images of 20 real life dog owners and their pets, as well as those that had been randomly matched. Test participants were more successful at guessing the correct dog-owner/pet combinations when they were able to compare and observe the similarities in both pairs of eyes. Nakajima also found that volunteer participants for the test, would pair dog-owners with the correct pet most often if only the eyes were visible in the picture. When the eyes in the picture were blacked out, participants could not identify which owner was paired with which dog, but when the eyes were both isolated in the picture, the participants were often correct in their pairings. Something about the similarity of expression between the pets and their owners caused people to couple them together.
As to the dogs who have a physique that resembles their owners, one might surmise that there is a bit of subconscious narcissism, or that the owner is simply drawn to the same positive characteristics in a dog that they like about themselves. A man might like his thick compact stature and muscles, causing him to choose a Pit bull or English Bulldog; while a twenty-something girl who is proud of her dainty features and long hair, might choose a Shih Tzu or Yorkie.
Though this theory is not universally true, it does encourage us to glance at our pets and wonder in what ways we resemble our precious pooches!