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People and Their Pets: Do They Resemble One Another?

Melissa Chapman
Jan. 3, 2011

Eleven years ago I got a sweet, gentle, barely four-pound, three-month-old furbaby, a Shih Tzu I named Mellie. I chose her because when I saw her face, I felt an instant infatuation and deep seated connection. She was destined to live with me. Now looking back all these years later I am mystified at just how strikingly similar she is to me. She's still tiny, barely nine pounds and everything about her, down to her little paws, seem miniaturized.

But it wasn't until I began to take notice of the faces of pet owners for their uncanny resemblances to their pets that I realized I too, had chosen a furbaby who resembled me. No, I don't have a face covered in fur, but her petite stature (I clock in at just four feet 11 inches tall), her large expressive eyes and her feisty bark are all staunch hallmarks of my own personality.

I know I'm not alone in feeling that so many people end up- whether consciously or unconsciously - choosing to share their life with a pet that both physically and personality-wise resembles them. So I put the question out there into the stratosphere - Do we resemble our pets? And got some very interesting responses.

Pets tend to speak to the very best of who we are, and who we want to become

What I've learned being in the dog industry, says Janice Costa co-owner/founder of Canine Club Getaway is that we choose pets that mirror our personalities, instinctively, and partly because we work to develop and/or encourage the traits we most value.

"The traits people tend to reward in their pets - whether it's being successful in competitive dog sports, being the family goofball or comedian, being super social and making friends everywhere, being "top of the class" in obedience or being a gentle and empathetic Therapy Dog visiting hospitals and nursing homes -- are generally the traits they possess or aspire to possess," says Ms. Costa.

People look for like minded companions when choosing pets - animals that fit into their lifestyle (i.e. a neat freak is unlikely to choose a perpetually drooling Great Dane, while an athlete is unlikely to choose a sedentary chow-chow), but probably equally important, they look for perceived personality or temperament traits that reflect who they are.

"That's why tough guys tend to have protection breeds with names like King or Charger or Killer, super outgoing people seek out extremely social dogs like Golden Retrievers and Labs, and quiet, sensitive people choose quiet, sensitive dogs, and jokesters often love Jack Russell Terriers for their humor, and bounce, says Ms. Costa.  "People want to feel that kinship, because it helps build the bond - and without words, we need to find other ways to find commonalities with our furry best friends."

People DO pick pets based on their shared physical characteristics

Ms. Costa says that because people often make judgments based on appearance you often get a pet who "looks like" the owner.  For example a very feminine woman may get a long-haired female cat and assume that the cat is also very feminine in personality.  Or a very style conscious woman will choose a Standard Poodle because she perceives the dog as being classy, elegant and refined - even though the dog may actually be more of a roll-in-the-dirt kind of dog by instinct.

"People often assume personality traits based on appearances.  And just as studies show we tend to gravitate to people who resemble us, so, too, do people often pick pets that resemble them," says Ms. Costa. 

Pets are a window into our soul

Blanca (www.blancadance.com), a naturally introverted person who chose, of all professions, that of a belly dancer believes her Shih Tzu Lola brought out a part of her she might not otherwise have had the courage to display.

After her husband told her he was moving out, she brought home her vivacious Lola whose presence and personality helped to keep Blanca afloat during a traumatic period

"Breakups can be devastating and Lola kept me going through my darkest days," says Blanca.  "Lola is that part of me that would love to run to every stranger and start a conversation. She is so enthusiastic one of my neighbors nicknamed her 'crazy.' The furry thing is more popular than me in my neighborhood."

Bottom line: Do people like and act like their pets?

"Well, I don't have polka dots, I don't think I am much of a social butterfly, I don't sidle up to people, I don't  show off my pink belly, nor do I do lick feet like my four-year-old dalbull, Dalmatian and pit bull mix cutie Cici does,"  says CeliaSue Hecht (celiasue.wordpress.com).  "But like her, I am persistent!"

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