Is your dog an “Aristocrat,” “Rebel, or “Commando?” Or perhaps he’s one of the other nine identified personality types as measured by the “Canine Behavioral Type Index” (CBTI), coincidentally similar in concept and acronym to the oft-used personality type index for humans, the Myers-Briggs Type Index, or MBTI, an index of sixteen defined personality types, across four different interacting dimensions.
This index divides dog behavioral (or personality) attributes into 12 types based on three dimensions of interactive factors:
1) Environmental (is your dog more “Organized” – i.e., a team player, like a herding type of dog, or perhaps a dog that likes to systematically organize his toys, or is he “Spontaneous” – truly living in the moment, focusing on whatever may capture his interest at the time?),
2) Social (Alpha: confident and controlling, Beta: a “social climber” type, or Gamma: classic followers, following the lead of others as well as the rules of good social conduct),
3) Motivational (also known as energy: how playful and/or focused is your dog?).
I came across the concept of measurable canine personality type in the fascinating book, “Through a Dog’s Eyes” by Jennifer Arnold (Spiegel & Grau, 2010). Jennifer is founder and executive director of Canine Assistants, a nonprofit service-dog training facility that helps to train and then match service dogs with disabled persons. After being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at age 16, Arnold started an organization devoted to training and matching service dogs for people with physical disabilities. This book is a memoir of sorts, including many dog behavior anecdotes and uncanny examples of canine intelligence, sensitivity, language comprehension, and prescience bordering on telepathy that she’s witnessed in her 20 years of dog training. Arnold also writes about the heroic feats that service dogs complete, from anticipating seizures to resetting a ventilator switch, which brought me to tears more than once. This book could also be used and referred to as a dog training (though Arnold prefers the term “teaching”) manual: she provides oodles of evidence for and examples of solely choice-based, positive-reinforcement-only teaching methods, which every dog lover could benefit from.
One of the most interesting parts of Arnold’s book is the chapter in which she talks about the measurable nature and differences between of dogs’ personalities. She proposes that the key component to a happy, loving, and strong bond between person and dog, as with any strong human relationship, is a close personality match. She explains the importance of matching personality types between dog and person; specifically, she has found that the best matches between people and dogs occur when the two have similar personalities. In contrast, she explains how many people tend to choose their dogs with a heavy emphasis on appareance and not enough focus on personality, which, often, can result in a behavior or lifestyle mismatch at best, and, tragically, a surrender to an animal shelter at worst. In her words: “Personality is, by far, the most important characteristic in making a strong owner-dog bond. It determines behavior, and behavior is critical to a successful relationship between man and dog.”
Apparently, for relationship longevity, opposites do NOT, actually attract. A study published in Evolutionary Psychology in 2009 revealed that most of us are in fact attracted to people who possess personality traits similar to our own. And the same holds true for the way we feel about dogs. In fact, the results are even stronger with dogs: “we feel the easiest and deepest connection to dogs whose personalities are just like ours.”
After taking a 26-item test that involves choosing between two or three statements that most closely match your dog’s behavior or personality, the combined levels of these three dimensions yields one of twelve canine personality profiles:
You can test your dog(s) yourself on the CBTI and find out your dog’s personality profile, and even learn how to best relate to your dog, based on the results. See if you agree… and see if you see yourself in the profile as well (after all, if your dog is a good personality match to you, there very well may be, or even should be, a good amount of overlap!) Check it out at: www.petconnectgame.com.
…As for my two dogs?
Apparently, I’ve got a Diplomat [Your dog is an Organised, Gamma and Medium Activity type which we call the Diplomat. The Diplomat is a task focused, submissive character employing passive, medium energy techniques. It strives to keep order in a small but meaningful area and do the leader’s bidding in a passive, sometimes underhanded manner. The combination of Submissive (Gamma or G) and Medium (M) energy factors make the Diplomat a soft, loving, easy care character.]
and an Aristocrat [ Your dog is a Spontaneous, Alpha and Medium Activity type which we call the Aristocrat. The Aristocrat’s composure causes people to feel privileged to be in its company. It has an air of greatness with high chin carriage and sometimes looking down its nose at others. The Aristocrat enjoys a highly ordered social system and needs strong leadership. It attends mainly to what interests it and does not work well in a group.]
Though I would never predict ours to be such a “political” household, amazingly, the descriptions are about right. (For $10 AU I could receive the full 15 page report, but for now, I’m happy with the short (free) summaries). Even with these short descriptions, it makes even more sense to me as to why my two dogs get along so well together: Their opposing leanings on the Environmental (Organized vs Spontaneous) and Social (Alpha vs Gamma) dimensions balance each other out, yet both enjoy similar activities and levels of exercise, focus, and mental challenges, due to their similar “Medium” level of energy (or motivation).
It’s also true that my Aristocrat loves to lead: though regal in carriage, she does love to bestow kisses upon other dogs and demands their affection in return: in fact, she will stand her ground and won’t move until she receives an admiring word or pat from a human, or a responding sniff or lick from another dog. She is the undisputed leader between the two dogs in our household, and expects others’ affections (and deference!). On the flip side, my Diplomat loves to follow her wherever she goes, thrilled to have attention diverted from himself: he’s content to stay “behind the scenes” in her shadow; uncomfortable with attention from strangers, he is most relaxed watching from the background. And though he follows her canine lead, he is very attentive to his “humans” and our needs and desires: never letting us out of his sight, he looks to us first and foremost for leadership, always quick to bestow affection upon us.
What is your dog’s personality type? Do you agree with the test results? Share with us!