Why People Resemble Their Dogs

Doesn’t it make you chuckle a little when you walk down the street and notice that the person coming towards you walking their dog… looks just like their dog? Tall, handsome man with his stately Lab. The grouchy, bald guy with the round tummy and his Bull Dog. The leggy, blond with flowing locks with her gorgeous, just-back-from-the-groomer Golden Retriever. Is there a real similarity, or are we merely projecting?

Sadahiko Nakajima, a professor in the Department of Integrated Psychological Sciences at Kwansei Gakuin University, Japan, was curious. Dr. Nakajima and his team took headshots of 40 dogs and their owners, each individually, and then performed various experiments using the photographs.

In one experiment, 70 “judges” who had met neither the dogs nor their owners were shown the photographs. These judges were then asked to match each dog to its corresponding owner — which they did, at a percentage that was significantly higher than expected. (The judges had combined the pictures based on the degree of similarity between dogs’ and owners’ faces.)

Separate experiments further affirmed the resemblance between dogs and their owners. But why, not to mention how, are they similar?

Two hypotheses have been proposed.

The first proposes that people acquire dogs whose faces are naturally similar to their own. Since we see our faces in the mirror every day, we are familiar with and sense attachment to our own faces. Thus, people may choose dogs with faces that bear a certain degree of resemblance.

The second hypothesis proposes that dogs gradually become similar to their owners throughout their lives as pets. I’m not so sure I buy into that one. After all, how can an Afghan Hound grow into her silky coat and prominent snout — both of which are also the trademarks of her beloved “master”?

At least Professor Nakajima has proven there’s a kernel of truth to this phenomenon. Perhaps he can take his research further and investigate the similarities between a dog’s and owner’s personality, as well! I know I’ve chuckled when observed how similar the high-pitched yap of a Chihuahua is to her owner’s high-pitched complaints about the new HOA fees.

I’m looking forward to the research conclusions on that one.

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