We all know people who bear an uncanny resemblance to their dogs.
There is some interesting science to back up the theory behind people looking like their dogs. According to a study conducted by psychologist Sadahiko Nakajima, it comes down to similar facial features, particularly the eyes.
“A major reason of the dog-owner facial resemblance is the so-called ‘mere exposure effect,” says Nakajima, which is simply the idea that dog-owners will choose a dog with similar features to themselves due to an innate preference for the familiar.
But did you know that the close bond between dogs and their owners means the two can have a profound influence on each’s general temperament as well?
Dr. Gonzalez-Ramirez conducted a study out of Mexico that had researchers looking at the relationship between pet and owner, and comparing it with the behaviours exhibited by each.
Unsurprisingly, owners who reported higher levels of stress were less likely to spend relaxed quality time with their pets, which in turn caused elevated levels of anxiety and stress (and associated undesirable behaviours) in their dogs. Inversely, happier owners tended to have happier pets.
The effect is compounded because when stressed pets act out, stressed and unhappy owners are more likely to respond poorly to their dogs’ misbehaviour. And of course, coming home regularly to poop on the carpet and chewed furniture is likely to cause elevated stress and unhappiness in pet owners.
“Owners with higher levels of stress may not have a relaxed relationship with their dogs, which can contribute to their annoyance about their dogs’ behavior, so they spend less time with them, increasing the anxiety in the dogs. In turn, a dog’s behaviors may annoy the owner and may be a source of stress for him or her, which affects his or her perceived happiness.” (Ramirez)
Unfortunately, this means all the research stating pet owners are happier, healthier people is largely dependent on the owners’ baseline temperament. Happy, relaxed people tend to have more relaxed interactions with their pets, and generally enjoy the time spent with their dogs; their dogs respond by being happier and more well-behaved. If you’re a stress ball to begin with, it’s more likely that your dog will respond by acting out, in turn increasing your stress and decreasing your overall experience of happiness.
On the other hand, if you’re generally a happy, relaxed person, your dog will likely mirror your temperament, and happiness levels will increase for both you and your pet.