Study: Dogs go through personality changes as they age

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Dog owners already know that their pets have distinct personalities.

What’s not so well known is that those personalities shift and change over time.

Michigan State University researchers say they have found a dog’s mood and personality traits evolve over the years, and change as a response to an owner’s personality or mental state.

Owners, for example, who felt happy about their relationship with their pet typically had a dog that was more active and excitable.

“When humans go through big changes in life, their personality traits can change. We found that this also happens with dogs – and to a surprisingly large degree,” explains lead author William Chopik, professor of psychology at MSU. “We expected the dogs’ personalities to be fairly stable because they don’t have wild lifestyle changes humans do, but they actually change a lot. We uncovered similarities to their owners, the optimal time for training and even a time in their lives that they can get more aggressive toward other animals.”

The study is one of the first of its kind. Chopik and his team surveyed the the owners of over 1,600 dogs, including 50 breeds. Pup-participants ranged from just a few weeks to 15 years and were nearly evenly split between male and female. Chopik created an extensive survey for owners to evaluate their dog’s personality traits, as well as their own characteristics, and answer questions about their dog’s behavioral history.

The study was published in the Journal of Research in Psychology.

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