The behavior and personality in dogs are defined as the dog’s attitude toward other animals and people. This attitude varies depending on many environmental and inherited factors.

Behavior and personality assessment in dogs is extremely useful as it allows breeders to identify the right type of training to adopt and helps owners to raise sociable dogs.

It also helps determine the dog’s suitability for a specific role and diagnose some eventual behavior disorders.

The dog’s personality determines behavioral traits and trends.

In this article, you will learn about the different types of dog personalities, the main factors that influence the dog’s personality as well as the methods of characterization of behavior and personality in dogs.

Also, you will get a grasp of how to deal with each type of personality and if it is possible to craft a specific one for your dog.

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Do dogs have personalities?

Just like humans, dogs also have different personality profiles. If you understand your dog’s personality, it will be easier for you to train him and reach advanced levels of interaction and understanding.

You certainly noticed that your dog could manifest many personality types, but one type will always be dominant.

According to a study by Wilson and Sundgren in 1997, there is a considerable hereditary component to dog personalities.

In 2002, Svartberg and Forkman identified the main variables that define the dog’s personality:

  • Playfulness
  • Desire to chase
  • Curiosity/fearlessness
  • Aggressiveness
  • Sociability
Two playful dogs enjoying their time

Based on these variables, the dog can be either:

  • Shy/ Timid,
  • Confident,
  • Independent,
  • Adaptable, or
  • Happy.

Does the breed matter?

Many factors influence the personality of dogs such as breeding, training, and the surrounding environment. Yet, some recent studies showed that even the dog’s breed has a strong influence on his personality:

In 2005, some scientists successfully sequenced the dog’s genome and also attempted to discover the exact genes responsible for the personality of each dog breed, but due to the important variability within the dogs of the same breed, the results were not significant and reliable.

Some dog breeds are very sociable and naturally well-behaving which makes them suitable for any individual, but others are difficult to train or pet because of their stubbornness and bad temperament.

It could be interesting to assess a dog’s behavior and personality before you bring him home. But for working dogs, it is a necessity.

Here are some personality characteristics of some dog breeds in relation to the type of work/activity:

Herding Dog Personalities

A herding dog guarding and leading the sheep

Dogs that belong to this group are serious, intelligent, and full of energy. They have a territorial nature which explains why they are wonderful guard dogs.

Herding dogs like to live in large families and companionship is their common trait of character. The main breeds that belong to this group are:

  • German shepherd,
  • Belgian Sheepdog,
  • Australian Shepherd.

Sporting dog personalities                                        

A sporty dog jumping over obstacles

Sports dogs are best known for their active and alert nature all the time. These dogs have multitasking skills and can be easily trained and raised.

Some breeds of this group love to swim and can happily spend the whole day at the beach. These dogs can also serve as assistants or therapy dogs.

Many breeds belong to this group:

  • Cocker Spaniel,
  • Golden Retriever,
  • Korean Jindo Dog,
  • Pointer,
  • Labrador retriever, and
  • Weimaraner.

Hound Dog Personalities

A group of Hound dogs waiting to go for a hunt

Hound dogs are of two types: Scent hounds and Sighthounds.

They are strong, agile, and fast, which makes them perfect hunters, thus you need to have enough space to fulfill their need to explore.

Since these dogs are interested in tracking, they are always kept on a leash; otherwise, they may get loose.

Among this category, there are several breeds such as:

  • Basset Hound,
  • Norwegian Elkhound,
  • American Foxhound, and
  • Greyhound.

Terrier dog personalities

A Rat terrier in a hunt stance

Terrier dogs come in all shapes and sizes. They are territorial by nature and can be used for hunting purposes. Also, those dogs have a high level of energy and they always like to work because it seems like playtime to them.

This group includes:

  • Rat Terrier,
  • Miniature Schnauzer,
  • Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and
  • Jack Russell Terrier

Toy Dog Personalities

The smiling Chihuahua

Toy dogs are small in size but have a large character, they are very territorial and can be the perfect match for people living in confined spaces.

The dogs that belong to this group are:

  • Chihuahua,
  • Chinese Crested Dog,
  • Maltese,
  • Pug, and
  • Pomeranian.

Can we craft our dog’s personality?

YES, Absolutely!

The way you treat your dog will considerably impact the development of his personality as he grows to become an adult. A well-treated puppy will grow into a healthy and happy dog. Consequently, the sooner you start training your dog the better.

According to the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB), you can start training your puppy for socialization as early as 2 months of age. And when it comes to training, you should seek the best training programs in the market, the ones designed by professional dog trainers with accredited certifications, such as Adrienne Farricelli who is a CPDT-KA certified dog trainer with over 10 years of practical experience.

Check out her dog training program called Brain Training for Dogs.

Major changes in human life have an important influence on personality traits. And the same goes for your little pup, in fact, his personality can be affected to a greater extent.

According to a recent study conducted at Michigan State University by William J. Chopik and his colleague Jonathan R. Weaver, on a sample of 1681 dogs from 50 different breeds, with different ages and both sexes, the majority of dogs tend to adopt the lifestyle of their owners:

Dogs living with active people are very energetic and dynamic while the ones owned by lazy people tend to be sedentary.

The same study also revealed that your dog’s personality can predict many important life outcomes. As a matter of fact, his personality and behavior will define how close he feels toward you and even predict the development of some chronic illnesses.

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How to deal with each personality?

If you identify the personality of your dog, you can easily figure out how he sees the world and accordingly, will understand how to properly deal with him.

Below are some types of dog personalities with tips on how to manage them:

The Shy or Timid Dog

Like some humans, dogs can also be shy and reserved. If you force your dog into an uncomfortable situation, they will interpret the negative effect of this effort.

They may be afraid and this could lead to mistrust. Shy dogs don’t like noisy and chaotic environments and will feel insecure.

You can deal with shy dogs ​​by giving treats, lots of praise, and encouragement, and then introducing them to new people and the environment at a slow pace.

The Confident Dog

A confident dog is a born leader, easygoing, comfortable, and always ready to adapt no matter what the situation or the surroundings.

Sometimes confident dogs can display dominant behavior and if you react harshly to this behavior, this will lead to aggression or further stubbornness. The only effective way to deal with these dogs is through positive reinforcement.

The Independent Dog

Some breeds of dogs like to live, think, and act freely with no restrictions or guidance, and these instincts remain throughout their lives. The independent dog will only bond with a person he considers as a leader; otherwise, he can be perfectly fine on his own and may even seem distant.

An independent dog is difficult to train as he needs the right motivation and an extremely dedicated master.

Don’t try to force him to socialize, this can backfire and cause aggression.

The Adaptable Dog

Those dogs are the most outgoing and can adapt to any environment and will do anything to please their owners.

Adaptable dogs are cooperative, extroverted, and easier to train due to their strong desire to please and their submissive nature, which makes them compatible with all people and other animals.

You will almost never notice any resort to violence or aggression from this type of personality.

The Couch Potato/Happy Dog

Such a lazy day

Dogs belonging to this category are overly enthusiastic and everyone will love them. They will get along well with all people and animals and can even lead a thief to valuable family items with a wagging tail.

They are always excited and jump on strangers to make friends with them.

You need to train them adequately to remain calm when they meet people.

Is there any method to assess the behavior and personality of dogs?

Assessment of behavior and personality in dogs, also known as, BPH (Beteende och Personlighetsbeskrivning Hund), is a behavioral assessment technique developed in 2012 by the Swedish Kennel Club.

The basic behavior and personality assessment will describe seven traits that are:

  • Behavior toward a stranger
  • Play drive
  • Behavior towards food
  • Surprise
  • Response to Auditory Stimuli
  • Response to a threat
  • Response to Tactile Stimuli


The assessment of a dog’s personality and behavior is extremely important for its predictive value, as it allows us to figure out, with an incredible level of precision, the predisposition to certain behavioral problems at an early age and even predict some chronic illnesses.

Nowadays, potential owners are pickier and want to have a dog with a personality that suits their lifestyle.

Also, different agencies and dog shelters use behavior and personality assessment to facilitate the adoption process, help to find the best suitable working dog, and decrease the incidence of dog aggression.


Photo Credits

Featured image:

Billy by bullcitydogs licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Image 1:

Playful pets by Bernard Spragg licensed under CC0 1.0

Image 2:

Herding by Arbutus licensed under CC BY 2.0

Image 3:

Agility KC by Eric de Boer licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Image 4:

Staghounds by Mark Robinson licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Image 5:

Suzie on the Hunt by Dagny Gromer licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Image 6:

Rio smiling by Wayne Silver licensed under CC BY 2.0

Image 7:

Lazy time by Lottie licensed under CC0 1.0

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