Just Like Humans, Dogs’ Personalities Change over Time

At long last, there is bonafide research to suggest that all dogs truly are good boys and good girls—or at least, they have the potential to be. A study conducted by Michigan State University and published in the “Journal of Research in Personality” shows that just like humans, dog personalities can change over time.

If you’re a doggo lover, the news likely comes as no surprise to you, considering pet-ownership has the ability to improve people’s emotional and behavioral well-being. Why wouldn’t the converse be true?

“When humans go through big changes in life, their personality traits can change,” lead author and professor William Chopik said in a university release. “We found that this also happens with dogs―and to a surprisingly large degree.”

Just Like Humans, Dogs' Personalities Change over Time

The Study

Researchers surveyed over 1,600 dogs that spanned across 50 different breeds by asking their owners to evaluate their dog’s personality and to describe their behavioral history. Next, dog-parents answered questions about their own personalities.

As it turns out, the old adage—that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks—isn’t too far off base. Researchers found that the older a pupper is, the harder it is to shape their personality. However, researchers did conclude that when dogs are six years old, they’re in their “sweet spot” for learning obedience, responsiveness and other positive behavioral traits.

“Exposure to obedience classes was associated with more positive personality traits across the dog’s lifespan. This gives us exciting opportunities to examine why personality changes in all sorts of animals,” said Chopik.

couple snuggling outside with a small dog

The study has positive implications for owners of dog breeds that are more commonly viewed as aggressive and hostile. Previous research supports the notion that no particular dog breed has an increased risk of aggressive behavior. A dog’s particular personality and individual life experience are the factors that could drive it to act aggressively.

Additionally, the belief that dogs resemble their humans has some basis in reality. Happy and excitable people who believed they had strong relationships with their pups reported having happy, obedient dogs. People who viewed themselves and their relationships with their dogs as more hostile and anxious reported having pets that weren’t as responsive or relaxed.

Ultimately, the study helps substantiate the idea that dogs, being perceptive creatures, pick up on their owners’ habits and adapt to their environments. That means dog owners need to accept that their behavior will directly influence their pets, for better or for worse, before making the decision to adopt.

“Now that we know dogs’ personalities can change, next we want to make strong connection to understand why dogs act—and change—the way they do,” said Chopik. While you wait for the next big doggo study to come out, make sure you give your good boys and girls a belly rub in the meantime.

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All photos courtesy of Unsplash

72 comments

Anna R
Anna R4 days ago

thank you

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Marija M
Marija M12 days ago

tks again

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Glennis W
Glennis W14 days ago

Informative Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis W14 days ago

Great info Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis W14 days ago

Interesting Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis W14 days ago

Adorable dogs Thank you for caring and sharing

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Marija M
Marija M15 days ago

tks

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Richard B
Richard B16 days ago

They do

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Connie O
Connie O18 days ago

Yes, I have seen that firsthand.

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Leo C
Leo C19 days ago

Thank you for sharing!

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