6 min read


Can Dogs Tell a Person's Character?



6 min read


Can Dogs Tell a Person's Character?


According to Chinese astrology, 2018 is the year of the Earth Dog. In this tradition, the Dog personality is described as simple, upright, straightforward, honest, modest, friendly, and one who makes others feel safe. In general, the person born in the Year of the Dog is faithful to friends, goes all out to do things, values morality and justice,  is compassionate, and would rather suffer losses than bother others.  

The Dog personality is also known as having highly accurate intuition, and a strong predictive and judgment ability. These are all very strong and desirable personality traits. These are the very traits that we love about our pet dogs. It's no wonder they have the capacity to judge character, both good and bad.


Signs Your Dog can Judge a Person's Character

Your dog may not have the ability to sit down and have a conversation with you using words, but is probably still the best communicator in your household. The dog is responsive to human cues, always friendly and responsive to the emotions of others.

If you pay close attention to your dog, you can learn all kinds of things about what they are thinking and feeling. Just consider the context, your dog's disposition and watch for body signals and you will have a good read on your dog's thoughts. Dog body signals range from their general posture to positions, from nose to tail, all that help the dog to communicate.

When you have a good relationship with your dog, you will recognize your dog's responsiveness by a high and positive energy level. The dog may smile at you and invite you to play with a play bow. The dog may be bowing, with the front legs extended and the hind legs up. The dog may wag their tail at you as if to say, "Come Here". 

Did you ever notice that your dog reacts differently with different people? We would like to think of our dogs as friendly with everyone, but that is not necessarily true. Dogs can avoid someone if they are sending signals that are not friendly to the dog. 

For example, dogs do not like it when someone they are not comfortable with looks directly into their eyes. Instead, they prefer sideways glancing and blinking, what we call "soft eyes", which signals respect and deference in the language of "dog". 

Dogs also do not like it if someone approaches them straight on, hugging or waving their arms. These gestures are intimidating to the dog. You will see the dog react by becoming withdrawn and defensive. The dog will recoil, lower themself to the ground, and put their tail down. The ears will be drawn back. 

Depending on the threat level that the dog is experiencing, the dog may become aggressive in self-defense, nipping or biting. With a little knowledge of "dog", both from the perspective of how we come across to the dog and how the dog is communicating with us, we can find ways for respectful interactions.

Body Language

Some signs that your dog may be figuring out someone's character include:

  • Alert
  • Wag Tail
  • Sniffing
  • Licking
  • Play Bowing

Other Signs

More indications that your dog is judging someone's character are:

  • Avoiding
  • Not Making Eye Contact
  • Running Away
  • Submissive Behavior

The History of Dogs Judging Character


While we are thinking about character, let us consider the disposition of the dog. It has been long believed that the relationship between human and canine was forged due to the social and friendly disposition of the dog. There are many breeds of dogs that have evolved to meet human purposes. Along with those breeds come dispositions, which, in a sense, represents the character of the dog. 

A disposition is a temperament that is innate. Socialization and other experiences will also shape the personality of the dog to be more or less adaptable. When you are picking a dog for your home, there is going to be more to it than adoring the sweetest face or most beautiful coat. It is important to think about the members of your family, what you want to do with your dog and the breed that will have the disposition that is a match for your situation. 

For example, if you have small children, you will want a dog that is affectionate and docile. If you want to hunt, there are breeds of dog that will match the game you seek. If you are picking a comfort dog, you will want to find a highly social and calm dog. Here are some examples of ways to consider the character you want in a dog:

Happy Go Lucky - This dog personality is gregarious and fun. Breeds that fit this disposition include Beagles, the Bichon Frise, and the Bernese Mountain Dog. They are friendly, playful, tolerant with children, and cuddly. Think of Snoopy!

Loyal and Protective - There are breeds of dogs known for their intelligence and disposition to be protective of their family members. The German Shepherd is smart and makes a great guardian to their family, as does the Doberman Pincher and Rottweiler.

Energetic - If you are an athletic and outdoorsy type, then you will want a dog that can keep up with you and relish a high energy lifestyle. Breeds that are a match for you may include the Weimaraner,  Dalmatian, or Parson Russell Terrier 

Affectionate and Quiet - These dogs were bred to be companions to humans and are known to be very sweet and loving. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Shih Tzus, and Greyhounds are quiet companions who prefer to be in the house snuggled up with you, relishing in your attention and affection.

The human-canine bond is a relationship, which means that the judgement in character is not just human to dog. The dog has abilities to make judgments about us as well.

The Science of Dogs Judging Character


There has been quite a bit of puzzlement about how dogs make their judgements on the character of humans. Unfortunately, there are dogs who are mistreated by humans. Dogs also are social creatures who, while living with us, pick up on cues that make them more or less responsive to us. 

It seems that dogs can be good judges of character and responsive to human emotions. One notion is that dogs can smell hormonal changes that occur when people are in different emotional states. For example, we release adrenaline when we are anxious. 

Scientists have proven that dogs do attend to human facial cues. In studies in which dogs were presented with faces and voices in different emotional states, the dogs were able to discriminate when the vocalizations matched the facial expressions. The findings suggested that dogs have cognitive structures for understanding human emotion.

In another study, the researchers were interested in knowing if dogs can tell the character of humans. They set up the experiment with the owner. The dog observed the owner trying to open a container. 

In one scenario, two researchers were present. When the owner asked for help, one researcher helped while the other researcher stood and watched. In the second scenario, when the owner asked for help, one researcher would actively refuse to help while the other researcher observed. 

The researchers then offered the dog a treat. The dogs would accept the treat from the helping researcher. The dogs would not accept the treat from the researcher who refused to help. The findings were interpreted as evidence that dogs are good judges of character in humans.

Training Your Dog to be a Good Judge of Character


Enjoy your pet and family as you build a positive, loving relationship together. Building a strong community is important for developing the character of your family members and your pet. There are steps that you can take to bring your dog into the family in a way in which the dog has a clearly defined place. 

Everyone in the house needs to know how to treat the dog and care for their pet. Begin with discussions as a family about the dog, the household rules, and the expectations of family members. Make it clear as to who will be the Alpha. The dog will be learning to follow commands and signals. Everyone needs to know what they are and how to effectively use them. 

For example, some people will get excited and start repeating a command, which confuses the dog. Take the time to get training on how to train your dog. Then, begin by training the people in the house so everyone knows what to do. The dog will be looking to the family for leadership and support. Dogs need to live in a house with clear and consistent rules and expectations.

Four Simple House Rules for Dog Ownership:

1. Be Consistent - Make sure everyone is using the same methods, words, and signals.

2. Include Everyone - Parents, kids, and other household people need to know what to do.

3. Be Positive - Tell everyone what to do to address the dog's behavior.

4. Reach Agreement - It will confuse the dog if there are different points of view about the training of the dog. Get on the same page.

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Written by a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel lover Pat Drake

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 06/04/2018, edited: 04/06/2020

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