Behavior Bytes | May 2012
by Dr Stefanie Schwartz, Board Certified Veterinary Behaviorist
11:52 PM, Wednesday, May 16
Have you ever wondered what your dog’s breed says about you?

A recent survey of 1000 dog owners in the UK reports that dog breeds may reflect aspects of their guardians’ personalities. Although this survey was not done scientifically, as it must be to make any reliable conclusions, and there are many overlapping categories, it is fun to think about.

Years ago, in my early years of small animal practice, I saw a sight that I will never forget. There in the waiting room was a massive, rugged man wearing a leather vest with huge muscular tattooed arms. He wore leather pants and motorcycle boots. His head was shaved save for a handlebar moustache. And in his beefy hands he cradled the tiniest white toy poodle with toenails painted pink. Yes, really.

What did his dog say about him? Or are you, like I was, afraid to ask?

According to the UK survey, owners of toy breeds are the most open to new experiences. They are creative, intelligent, lovers of art. Fashion designer Valentino has several Pugs; actress Natalie Portman loves her Yorkies.

If you are a keeper of pastoral working dogs (sheepdogs, collies, poodles) and utility breeds such as Schnauzers and others, then you are a true extrovert, like to talk and be the center of attention, according to this survey. Adam Sandler and Winston Churchill have English Bulldogs in common. The Queen of England strolls the palace grounds with her Pembroke Welsh Corgis. If you carry your Chihuahua in a designer bag surely you must like attention? Sir Isaac Newton had a Pomeranian. Did Albert Einstein have a dog? He would have looked perfect with an Old English Sheepdog.

Folks who have gundogs (spaniels, retrievers, pointers) and toy dogs (again) rated highest in agreeableness. These dog breeds apparently belong to people who are easy to get along with and try to make other people feel at ease. If I had asked my macho client “Why did you paint your dog’s nails pink and not red?” would he have responded “agreeably”?

People who are conscientious (dutiful, disciplined, like schedules) have working dogs like Dalmatians, Bulldogs, Chows and Boston Terriers. Helen Keller had a Boston Terrier; so do I (my gorgeous BT Georgyanna was my ex-husband’s dog but I made a great trade).

Actually, I’m a sight hound person (my other two dogs are Salukis), which according to the survey means that I am extremely emotionally stable, free of neurosis, calm and collected. I’m so relieved to know this. But if you ask my kids, when I’m turning purple waiting for them to clean their rooms, they might not agree. Apparently, if you live with Afghans, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Foxhounds, Dachshunds, Beagles and beyond, you are the calm at the center of the storm. Just ask George Washington, who had a foxhound, or Lyndon B. Johnson, who loved his Beagle.

Finally, if you love terriers in their many forms and sizes, you are in good company. Here again, the survey describes ambiguous categories. Terrier people also rank high in agreeableness and openness, make you feel at ease, are open to new experiences and appreciate art. The same was found for people who have working dogs like Rotties, Danes, St. Bernards and Boxers. The late Steve Irwin (the Australian conservationist) and actor Vin Diesel loved their Pitbulls (American Staffordshire terriers); Jim Carey has a Great Dane.

­So what does your dog’s breed say about you? Maybe it says that you chose a dog that makes you feel powerful, or safe, or attractive. Maybe it says that you don’t care if there’s dog hair on your sofa or business suit, or drool on the walls. Maybe it says that you fell in love with a divine mutt whose gaze entranced you at the shelter. Maybe your healthy, happy, loving dog says that you are among the chosen to be so blessed. Be happy, you have a dog.

Or maybe you love cats (my three cats rule) or prefer unique pets like snakes, spiders or rats? What does George Clooney’s Vietnamese potbellied pig say about him? Call me George; we can discuss it over a cappuccino in Italy.

­­­­Dr. Stefanie Schwartz is a board certified veterinary behaviorist based in Southern California. She sees patients at California Veterinary Specialists in Carlsbad and at The Veterinary Neurology Center in Tustin, CA. For more information, please call (949) 342-6644 or visit

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