A dogs personality

14 Jan

First off, i would like to point out there are many definitions of what personality is. For the purpose of this post, we will define personality as: the combination of characteristics or qualities that form an individuals distinctive character.

When talking about dogs, i generally prefer to describe what people think of as “personality” as traits. This is merely a personal preference as i tend to border more on the line of thinking that personality is a human thing, hence the “person” and whilst a dog may have certain characteristics and traits, i do not tend to use the term personality to describe this. One reason for me thinking this, is that people will often give their dogs a “personality” and therefore humanizing them which in turn can result in behavior problems developing. For example, my dad will often say that Maya “loves to run” – this is not necessarily true, for all dogs love to run. It isn’t something that is a characteristic of her, but of dogs in general. It would be better to say “Dogs love to run, and Maya is a good example” or something similar.

Getting back to the point. For the purpose of this post, i WILL use the term personality, because i suspect that is a term that more of you will relate to.


I decided to do this post following a conversation with my friend. Initially, we were discussing the pros and cons of neutering as this is something that she is currently considering. This led onto the topic of dominance. Little Solomon, a seven month old Shih Tzu has recently been showing some very dominant behavior  not quite so much with humans, but with other dogs.

Solomon in his bow tie

Handsome little Solomon in his bow tie

Now, imagine this handsome little guy, weighing little more than 6kgs, what harm could he get up to right? He’s just a cuddly little bundle of fur that could never get  into any mischief. Wrong, little Solomon is the perfect example of how different dogs have different personalities. This pint sized pooch can not only hold his own when faced with a bigger dog, but will actually go as far as being the dominant one! I bet your thinking, yeah, a bigger dog like a border terrier… NO, a bigger dog as in a Rottweiler. The point of this story is that as my friend says “he has no concept of equality or size”. Well, that’s because in the dog world, it doesnt matter what breed you are, or what size you are, what matters is whether you have what it takes to be the leader, or whether you are born to follow.

Would you mess with this guy?

Would you want to mess with this guy?

General personality types:

The dominant and/or aggressive: A dog that is naturally dominant doesn’t come up often. The reason behind this is because not every one can be pack leader, and therefore there is generally no need to be a dominant type. That being said, those dogs that are dominant, need to be matched with an owner that is able to be the leader. Dominant dogs require a firm hand, but also one that is very patient, gentle and understanding. As Cesar Millan says, every dog owner needs to have calm assertive energy; this is even more vital with a naturally dominant dog. Other dogs, will try to assert their dominance when they are not receiving any leadership in their lives. In this case, it means that you, the owner is doing something wrong, and you need to put it right in order to help your dog. Aggression doesn’t always go hand in hand with dominance. And just as dominant behavior can begin to show when something isn’t quite right (with the owner) this is also often the cause for aggressive behavior. If your dog is dominant, or aggressive i is important that you seek good advice and learn how to appropriately and correctly handle and train your dog.

Confident: A confident dog could also be a dominant dog. It is a dog that is comfortable and a natural leader, feeling comfortable in its surroundings and doesn’t let things bother it. An owner would need to work hard with a confident dog, just as it would a dominant dog. It is important that these dogs respect and trust their owners, otherwise they will simply not follow.

Happy and outgoing: Whether it knows your or not, this dog will want to say hello! Usually these dogs get on great with other dogs, and will even happily accept other small furies such as cats. These dogs might be prone to being overly excited and could be a little difficult to train regarding the rule of not jumping up on people. Stick with it though and it will all come together!

Adaptable: An adaptable dog is usually one that is eager to please its owner and as such is one of the easiest type of dog to train. They are not as outgoing as the happy dog, but are just as comfortable around people and other animals. This type of dog would be very suitable for being around children or older people as they are able to quickly adapt and change how they need to behave. They will quickly associate their owner as the leader (providing that is how the owner asserts themselves) and will look to them for guidance and instructions on what to do next or how to act.

Independent: This might be a dog that seems to want little to do with its owners. A dog that you cannot force into cuddling you or sitting with you, if it doesn’t want to, it wont. Bonding is important with this dog as although it may not want to spend all of its time with you, it will look to you for guidance. A dog that is not particularly used to people might fall into the category. For example a rescue dog might want its own space, and it is down to the owner to slowly and gently bond with dog, earning trust and respect.

Shy and insecure: These dogs need a sensitive owner, but still an owner will calm and assertive energy. They might become uncomfortable at loud noises or sudden movements, and as such it is the owners responsibility to (in the right way) let them know that there is nothing to worry about. These dogs will often develop a very close bond with their owner, sometimes developing into an obsession  In these cases it would be possible that separation anxiety could occur. This dog will need lots of praise and rewards for its success in order to teach it to feel safe and secure in its surroundings.

What category did my dogs fit into?

Toby (the golden retriever): I believe Toby probably fell into the happy and outgoing dog. He jumped up to say hello, and got on with everybody. However, that being said he could also have been described as being adaptable. I have told stories about how well he behaved around me (as a toddler), he listened to commands, walked well and was generally a very well behaved dog. It could even be said that he was very confident as nothing ever seemed to bother him, but could he have leader potential? I don’t know.

Clay (the black labrador/ex gundog): Automatically i would fit Clay into the adaptable dog category. He was always eager to please, followed instructions and was well behaved around all ages. That being said, there were times when he definitely did not please us, and got himself into a lot of trouble. He loved to be around us, but was also happy spending time on his own, and although he loved to meet new people like the happy and outgoing dog, he never jumped up or got over excited.

Maya (chocolate Labrador, the reason behind this blog): What category can i put Maya in? This one is possibly the hardest, partly because she is still really a puppy, now going through adolescence so things could easily change. At the moment, she would most fit into the happy and outgoing category. She loves people and will run a hundred yards or so to catch up to a complete stranger and say hello. She jumps up (not as often now) almost bowling people over with her enthusiasm. When it comes to other animals, she loves them! If there are dogs around, you can guarantee she will be running up to play with them. Even a warning and a quick nip from another dog telling her to back off doesn’t deter her. Maya thinks everyone is her friend, and everyone wants to play. Then again, she is also very confident, nothing bothers her, and i often catch her making attempts to dominate me or my family members in particular. She is also very adaptable. She learns new tricks within a matter of minutes (spread out over a couple of days). She seems to want to please, but at the same time, will definitely decide when she wants to please and when she doesn’t!


Maya waiting for her command to start walking again – an example of being eager to please and respecting her pack leader (me).

Solomon: This one is a little harder to describe, considering he is not my dog, and i have never met him. However, from what i have been told, i would probably put him into the confident category. I doubt that he is actually a dominant dog, but being confident can result in him trying to assert his dominance. This may be partly because he is entering adolescence and trying to establish himself, or it could be that he needs a little further training and a firmer hand (much like my Maya in many cases). It also sounds as though he would fit into the happy and outgoing type, as he seems to want to socialize with both people and other dogs. Countless times i have been on the phone to my friend and heard the “solomonster” barking in the background for attention.

Fizz: Fizz is my friends older dog. She describes her as being ” gentle, obedient, nervous around dogs she doesn’t know, happy around people, sheepdoggy”. From this description i would imagine her belonging to the adaptable category, because she aims to please her owners and is good in most situations. However, in contrast she could possibly fit into the shy and nervous category because she isn’t sure of other dogs. This is the perfect example of how a dog can be one thing, but show tendencies of another “personality” even if they are only minor.

photo (3)

This is Fizz (on the left) and her little brother Solomon (on the right). They are the perfect example of how size doesn’t matter. The little one is described as being the more dominant of the two, whilst Fizz, being much bigger, is described as being more submissive.

The point i am getting at, is that although there are definite traits or “personalities”  it is very difficult to pin point just one. A dog isn’t a person, it doesn’t have particular interests or way in which it behaves. Sure, it has traits that it develops as it grows up, instincts that any dog is born with, and breed specific characteristics, but pinning one specific personality or description onto a dog is next to impossible. Not only that, but it doesn’t matter what breed or size your dog is, it will have its own traits. Take Solomon the little Shih Tzu as the perfect example.


2 Responses to “A dogs personality”

  1. yomicfit January 24, 2013 at 5:18 pm #

    Soloman is to die for!!! Love his attitude.
    I have two adorable shihtzus and they each have great personalities.
    I think some of it has to do with their owners 🙂

    • taylorr1991 January 24, 2013 at 7:22 pm #

      Thank you for the lovely comment, i passed your message onto Solomon’s owner 🙂

      I agree, i think their personality has alot to do with the owner and how they are brought up!

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