If you’ve ever seen the original Disney animation 101 Dalmatians, you probably remember the scene in which several people pass a window with dogs on leashes that look just like them. While this may be a slight exaggeration, it has been scientifically proven that humans do select dogs that resemble themselves. If you go to a dog park and watch the various people interacting with their dogs, you will most certainly notice similarities, especially with pure breeds. Even if the dog doesn’t look exactly like their human counterpart, they will most likely have at least one familiar trait. Most commonly, humans choose dogs with eyes similar to their own. This was first discovered by psychologist Michael Roy, who did just this. Roy photographed humans and dogs at 3 different dog parks, then asked a group of participants to pair the dog photos with the human photos. Without any additional clues, the participants were able to pair the humans and dogs correctly with reasonable accuracy. Roy then tried covering the eyes of the humans and the dogs in the photos and found that the pairing became much more difficult for the participants with less accurate results. Why is this? One theory is that humans want to look into familiar eyes that resemble family, which is why we gravitate to dogs whose eyes look like ours in shape, color, etc.
Another theory is that evolution is the reason we choose dogs that look like us. Humans were evolved to find mates that had traits similar to their own, under the assumption that the 2 sets of genetics would be more compatible. This “imprinting” applies to all areas of our lives and explains why people tend to choose partners and cars that resemble themselves as well. But perhaps the most widely recognized theory is that human beings are, at the core, narcissists. This theory has found that humans don’t just choose dogs that look like themselves, but we also choose dogs that have similar personalities to our own. This theory has been tested many times in human relationships, but was recently tested in human-dog relationships by Borbala Turcsan in Budapest. “The relationship with a dog is a very special one – they are not simply a pet but a family member, a friend, or a companion – so we thought it might develop in parallel with those other relationships,” says Turcsan. Turcsan proved that various personality traits in humans (such as being introverted, extroverted, aggressive with strangers, shy, etc.) tend to be reflected in their choice of dog. In fact, the personalities of dogs and their owners tended to be more similar than the personalities of married couples. An important fact, considering the average dog tends to outlive the average marriage! Turcsan even applied the concept of the “Big Five” to this theory about dogs.
In the human version of the “Big Five”, people base potential mates off 5 traits: neuroticism, extraversion, conscientiousness, agreeableness and openness. Though the Big Five doesn’t apply exactly to dogs, Turcsan created the canine version that proves that humans select dogs based on a certain set of traits (laziness, aloofness, etc.). Although humans originally domesticated dogs to help with hunting, warmth and protection, we have since established deep bonds with dogs and have raised them in our own image. Since humans have narcissistic tendencies, it’s no wonder dog is man’s best friend!