They say that the longer a pet owner lives with his cat, dog or other furry friend, the more the owner starts to look like the pet. But it's also true that a person's relationship with her pet affects - and reflects - what's beneath the skin.
For instance, from the breed to the bark, the type of dog you own says a lot about your personality. If your puppy's active or lazy, smart or dull, chances are decent you share some of those attributes.
Even the way you find your pet says something. Start from the beginning: You decide you want a dog. Do you head down to the local pet store and pick out the cutest puppy in the window, or contact a reputable breeder? Getting your dog from the pet store shows spontaneity and, some might say, naïveté.
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Many dog experts consider buying a puppy from a pet store a no-no. "Huge numbers of dogs from pet stores are coming from puppy mills," says Stanley Coren, a psychologist and professor best known for his pioneering work with dog psychology. Coren says deciding "in that moment without any research" that you want that "exact puppy in the window" shows definite impulsiveness and "a lack of intelligence."
On the other hand, going to a breeder shows you’ve done the research, according to Coren. You get "someone who really loves the breed when you go to a breeder."
Mary Burch, an American Kennel Club spokeswoman and animal behaviorist, says that opting for a purebred dog and making the extra effort to go visit a breeder shows commitment to your pup. Breeders know more about their dogs, she says, and what sort of medical issues they might face. "Responsible breeders have a great deal of knowledge about canine genetics," she says.
Some dog owners will adopt their pets from animal shelters. "It’s the new hot thing to adopt from a shelter," says Andrea Arden, a dog trainer in New York City and founder of Andrea Arden Dog Training. "More and more celebrities are doing it."
You might be surprised how much celebrity endorsements can impact people's dog choices. Coren says there was a spike in the popularity of Portuguese Water Dogs after the Obamas adopted one as the White House pet, and that Beagles became more popular after the captain of the last of the Star Trek series had one. You’re always going to have people "who just pick these dogs because they’re following the fad," he says. "That probably says something about their personality too."
Do you prefer a big dog? You might want to take some time to reflect on your life first. Cesar Millan, a dog trainer and star of the Animal Planet series The Dog Whisperer, says that "the kind of dog people are drawn to is indicative of what’s missing in their life." To Millan, owning a bigger dog could signify a lack of protection or "certain masculinity" in the owner’s lifestyle and world.
"People choose dogs according to their mood," agrees Arden, and mood is affected by the economy and what’s going on in the world. "Getting a secure dog makes them feel more comfortable about life."
While big dogs offer security and protection, small dogs can be a source of companionship and love. "Many of the smaller breeds were bred for the specific purpose of being companions," Burch says. "Small breeds have personalities that appeal to many owners."
Deciding what's the best kind of dog for you requires a lot of thought. Whether you're conscious of it or not, choosing the best match for both your personalities is key.
If you go about it properly, the dog you choose will love you no matter what. "They don’t know the difference between being in a mansion or a mobile home," says Millan. "They don’t care if you’re rich or poor as long as they are following a strong leader who fulfills their needs."