Chances are, even if you’re not one yourself, you know a dog person. They’re the ones jogging around the park with their black lab or pushing their Bichon Frise down the street in a stroller. And while being a dog person or a cat person doesn’t necessarily fit a particular formula, there is some science that helps define and explain the differences between these two personality types. “I hate to pigeonhole people and personalities, but sometimes you’re just clearly a canine lover or feline lover!” says Somyr Perry, retired veterinary nurse and eHow Now Pets expert. Her many years as a vet (as well as a dog owner) have given her special insight into exactly what makes dog people tick -- figuratively, of course. Read on to find out if your personality matches up.
1. Everyone You Meet Is Your New Best Friend
Just like your pup, if you’re a dog person, you crave being around other people and other dogs, and socializing is a huge part of your daily routine. “In my experience, ‘dog people’ tend to be a tad more social and outgoing, which is important when you have an especially active dog,” says retired veterinarian Somyr Perry. And a 2010 study published in the journal Anthrozoos confirms this. When rated on five different personality traits (extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism and openness), self-identified dog people scored higher on extraversion, agreeableness and conscientiousness.
2. You Love a Nice Long Walk
Whether you're taking him to the dog park, on your weekly hikes or just around the corner to the coffeeshop, dogs are perfect excuses to get out of the house. If you're a dog person, you're perfectly fine taking breaks to stop and enjoy the scenery --and with a dog in tow, you may have no choice. If you tend to be more active, which many dog people are, having one can be a wonderful motivation to get outdoors, since you know you’ll have to take him for a walk at least once or twice a day, depending on the breed.
3. You're Loyal and Expect it in Return
One of the most often-cited traits of both dogs and their owners is their unquestioned loyalty. “Dogs give us unconditional love even better than people do,” says retired veterinarian Somyr Perry. Your friends and family are your tribe, and even if their loyalty falters, you’ll stand by their side and defend them no matter what. Because of this, you’re an excellent friend and protector, but it also means you need to be on guard for people who aren’t worthy of your intense loyalty.
4. Your Dog Is Your Baby
A dog-owner's over-the-top pet spoiling rivals that of the so-called “crazy cat ladies.” “Crazy dog people (like me!) tend to treat their dogs as if they were their own children,” says retired veterinarian Somyr Perry. “And they accessorize their dog to death -- outfits for every season, collars for every occasion, pretty food and water bowl sets and fancy beds.” And why shouldn’t you spoil Fido? He provides you with unconditional love, and, in return, you treat him like one of the family. You’re not alone. In a 2011 Harris Poll survey, 92 percent of dog owners said they felt like their dog was a member of the family and treated them as such.
5. You Understand the Motivational Power of Treats
You know that food can be the ultimate reward, whether it's looking forward to a cheat day at the end of a long week or treating a friend to dinner for doing you a favor. “Most dogs are highly motivated by food and would eat a whole bag of chips (like I would) if you let them!” says Perry. While you may want to indulge every now and then, you recognize that an occasional reward for a job well done is perfectly acceptable.
Related: The Art and Science of “Cheat Meals”
6. You Kind of Look Like Your Dog
In fact, sometimes owners even pick up the habits and behaviors of their canines. But usually it’s the other way around, with a dog mimicking his owner’s behavior, according to Perry. So if you notice an intense urge to start gnawing on the bones from your baby back ribs or your dog suddenly favors your afternoon napping spot, it might mean you need to include some other people in the mix.
7. You Can Read the Room
“Dogs really pay attention to social cues -- how people are moving, talking, voice tone -- and they are uncannily good at interpreting human behavior, which is why they’ve been our close companions for so long,” says veterinarian Somyr Perry. And many dog owners pick up on this trait, becoming adept at reading and interpreting other people’s verbal and nonverbal communication. In other words, you know the difference between a snarl from a co-worker who means “back off!” versus a proverbial wagging of the tail as an invitation to grab a cup of coffee and chat.
8. You Follow the Rules
While being a dog person doesn’t necessarily mean you drop everything to sit, stay and roll over, it does make you more likely to be obedient. “One study showed that dog people tend to be (in general) rule-followers, happy to go with the flow,” says Perry, referencing a 2014 study presented at the Association for Psychological Science meeting. So is it nature or nurture? The lead researcher from the study, Denise Guastello, Ph.D., does mention environment as being a strong influencer of this trait, but whether dog people are obedient or obedient people love dogs is a little more complicated to sort out.
What Do YOU Think?
Do you consider yourself a dog person? Do you exhibit any of the personality traits on this list? What do you think are some defining qualities of dog people? What would you add to this list? Share your thoughts, suggestions and stories in the comments section below!
Rachel Grice is a contributing fitness editor for Livestrong.com and a certified yoga instructor. Previously, she was the science section editor and titling associate for several other sections of Demand Media Studios, including fitness, nutrition and technology. She completed her undergrad education at the University of Southern California and has worked for Men's Health, FitPregnancy and People magazines.