Personality Tests for Your Dog

PUBLISHED ON April 28, 2022 by kathleen morrill

Ever ponder where your dog falls on the canine personality spectrum? Enjoy taking personality tests yourself, and wish your pup could join in the fun?

If the answer to either question is “yes,” you will love Personality Profiles, a new feature on your dog’s page within your laboratory on the Darwin’s Ark portal! We are happy to report that you can now see whether your dog is an indiscriminate chow-hound, or has the most selective of palates. A total velcro dog, or a master in social distancing. A natural pleaser, or reluctant to comply with your requests (put it in a memo with a treat, please).

Eight Personality Profiles

In our recent study published to Science, we looked at 8 personality factors, and how breed ancestry affects (or doesn’t affect) dog behavior. These Personality Profiles are as follows:

Human Sociability – “Stranger Shy” to “People Person”

This profile focuses on your dog’s response to people, especially unfamiliar people. Some dogs are more shy and wary of strangers, while others want to meet every person.

Arousal Level – “Excitable” to “Laid Back”

This profile is concerned with a dog’s reaction to exciting events and things, and how long they hold their enthusiasm. Arousal level is all about whether your dog gets revved and thrilled – or stays calm and composed – during exciting times.

Toy-Directed Motor Patterns – “Down to Fetch” to “Toy Ignorer”

This profile gets at whether or not your dog engages in – and can’t get enough of – playing with toys. We hypothesize that engaging with toys and objects may represent underlying differences in functional dog behaviors, such as herding and retrieving, that originated long ago.

Biddability – “Biddable” to “Independent”

This profile measures readiness to accept and follow instructions. At a first glance, this profile seems to describe a dog’s trainability. However, this profile better describes a dog’s motivation, internal or external, for complying with your requests.

Agnostic Threshold – “Assertive” to “Easygoing”

This profile describes behaviors that help distance a dog from what it perceives as a threat, and the contexts in which a dog might express discomfort.Some dogs are relaxed under uncomfortable or unfamiliar situations, while others are anxious or assertive about not being put in those situations.

Dog Sociability – “Solo Dog” to “Dog Lover”

This profile focused on your dog’s response to other dogs. For some, the dog park is their life – joyfully interacting with other furry friends, but not all dogs seek companionship with fellow canines.

Environmental Engagement: “Curious Canine” to “Nonchalant”

This profile describes whether a dog is super aware of everything happening around their home turf. Dogs who score as more curious are always searching for stimulation, whereas more nonchalant dogs might rather sit back and zone out.

Proximity Seeking: “Velcro Dog” to “Hands Off”

Some dogs are total lap dogs, are very into cuddling and will lean on you. Others know are more comfortable with the idea of social distancing, and dip from your touch. Distinct from a love of people and friendliness towards strangers, this profile describes a dog’s touchy-feely side and the scope of their personal bubble.

Avoiding Personality Analysis Pitfalls

It is tempting to look at any one survey question in complete isolation, but if we do, we can run into problems with interpretation.

First, behavior is complex and no single behavior captures or defines a dog’s entire personality. A question as simple as why dogs howl, can have a wide range of answers. For example, one dog could howl often because they enjoy being vocal, whereas another dog could be coping with separation anxiety.

Second, surveys are subjective. While you, the participating community scientist, are the best expert on your dog, it’s difficult to be fully objective and unbiased. For example, how much difference exists between a dog that howls “often” and one that howls “always”? And because you love your dog, do you think he’s the nicest dog when he sometimes can be a jerk.

To avoid these pitfalls, we perform factor analysis. This is a statistical technique that takes in the questions across all our surveys and the thousands of responses given by owners to measure underlying “dimensions” of the data. Through factor analysis, we can effectively group surveyed traits that are related to one another.

We were able to identify the 8 major behavioral factors listed above by analyzing 10,253 dogs with complete responses for the first 110 behavior-related questions in the Darwin’s Ark surveys. Each factor captures a set of questions, each weighing different amounts. For dogs who have responses recorded for all questions in the set, we can use these weights and those responses to produce a score. Based on this methodology,, we can only give a score for dogs who have responses recorded for all questions captured by the factor. So, if there are still surveys needed to produce the score, then you will see the next recommended survey on your dog’s page.

It’s interesting to note that despite all the data we’ve collected, there is still so much we don’t understand – in fact, these 8 factors explained less than a quarter of canine behavior measured by our surveys. This is why we are adding more surveys to continue to expand our understanding of dog behavior and health, so don’t forget to come back regularly to see what new fun surveys we come up with!

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