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What makes a good dog-owner match? Here’s what science says

March 2, 2023

By Katie Chan, Alison Bert, DMA

playful dog

What traits should you look for in a canine companion? That depends on your own attachment style and personality, researchers find

Picking a long-term life partner is an important choice, and a dog is no exception. As with humans, however, appearance and “cuteness” — while common motivators — may not be the best predictors of a successful relationship. Scientists have come up with advice to help make sure your canine companion will be a good match.

A new study published by Elsevier in Applied Animal Behaviour Scienceopens in new tab/window investigated what canine traits owners should look for based on their own attachment style and personality.

Researchers in Germany reviewed 29 case studies with the aim of identifying the perfect dog-owner relationship matches and how to improve relationships with our furry friends. The results found that both dogs’ and owners’ personalities and attachment styles impact the relationship and behavioral outcomes of dogs. An owner who is open, agreeable, empathetic and conscientious paired with a dog who is energetic, affectionate, intelligent, open, agreeable and responds well to training are more likely to have a successful functioning relationship.

To achieve the best relationship, researchers recommended that owners select dogs who express the same warmth, outlook on sharing possessions, and enjoyment of running outside, as well as higher expressions of openness, agreeableness and neuroticism, than themselves.

The researchers also highlighted that those who are highly attached to their dog are more likely to be divorced, widowed or living without children, which can resort in an overly high attachment, leading to a dysfunctional ownership.

As with human relationships, the emphasis should therefore be on healthy balance!

Read the article in Applied Animal Behaviour Science

Yana Bender et al: What makes a good dog-owner team? – A systematic review about compatibility in personality and attachmentopens in new tab/windowApplied Animal Behaviour Science (March 2023)

Applied Animal Behaviour Scienceopens in new tab/window is an international journal reporting on the application of ethology to animals managed by humans. It's the official Journal of the International Society for Applied Ethology (ISAE)opens in new tab/window.