Do Dogs Look Like Their Owners?

Could you flip through a photo album and guess exactly what breed dog that person probably owns? According to researchers in the United Kingdom, the answer is, “Yes.” At Bath Spa University, a study conducted by psychologists resulted in dog owners being accurately matched with the breed of dog they owned more than 50% of the time. Meanwhile, a University of California study reported that purebred dogs especially looked like their owners. In fact, the latter psychological study concluded people who owned purebred dogs actually decided on the breed of their dog based on the breed’s similarity to them whether consciously or subconsciously.

As you might have noticed we mentioned dogs looking like their owners is all psychology. The parallels are not limited to physical appearance either but apparently in a large part due to personal quirks that affect how we look. For example, if you like to frequently hit the gym, you are most likely to pair with breed of dog similarly active. On the other hand, if leisure is your life’s priority, you will most likely choose a Poodle, a breed that also loves the easy, relaxed life. Of course, the dog breed characteristics are more cultural perceptions rather than scientific definitions.

Incidentally, the Bath study used non-dog owners to guess dog owner to dog breed. The results showed that these non-dog owners relied heavily on stereotypes as their main point of reference to make matches. All in all, the non-dog owners were actually comparing the dog owners’ personalities to the personality traits our culture instil in certain dog breeds. For example, who has not heard petite Paris Hilton compared to her tiny Chihuahua Tinkerbell?


At first, the Bath study seems to be supported by the UCSD study that says dog owners pick the dogs that matches their personality and lifestyle. Unfortunately, this is purely based on first impressions by the non-dog owners doing the matching. Further study revealed no actual scientific connection between dog owner and the breed of dog they owned apart from that superficial first impression as the dog owner often displayed contrary traits.

Why then the accurate guesses? What was ruled out was the theory owners and their dogs start to resemble each other over time as is said of married couples.

As for why purebreds were more accurately matched with owners, as mentioned, our culture and media has defined specific dog breeds with specific characteristics like Saint Bernard’s being ready to help and Poodles being fussy.  Not being dog owners themselves with more complex definitions of dog personalities, the judges only drew from this biased experience. On the other hand, that dog owners chose dogs that matched their temperament and lifestyle might be a larger factor in making a match easy.  Much like how we choose our mates based on common personalities and shared backgrounds, dog owners probably do choose their canine companions in an analogous way, making it easy to pick up subtle clues as to what dog breed they own.

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