Debate Magazine

Saturday Smiles: Kids and Their Lookalike Dogs

By Eowyn @DrEowyn

kids & dogskids & dogs1kids & dogs2kids & dogs3kids & dogs4

H/t FOTM’s MomOfIV

Sarah Yager writes for The Atlantic, Oct. 23, 2013:

Could there be something to the old adage that people resemble their pets? The phenomenon has been amply documented. Researchers around the world have repeatedly found that strangers can match photos of dogs with photos of their owners at a rate well above chance [4]. Perhaps people are drawn to animals that look like them. In a study of female college students, those with longer hair judged flop-eared dogs—spaniels, beagles—to be more attractive, friendly, and intelligent than dogs with pointy ears; women with shorter hair concluded the opposite [5]. And the apparent affinity between owners and pets is more than fur-deep: One analysis found self-described “dog people” to be less neurotic than “cat people,” who were more curious [6]. Another study, which cross-referenced personality-test scores and breed preferences, noted that disagreeable people favored aggressive dogs [7].

While the Law of Attraction—like attracts like, or in this case, adopts like—might explain some of these similarities, there’s reason to think pets also emulate their owners. A 2011 study found that dogs tasked with opening a door preferred whichever of two methods of door-opening they had just observed their owners use (head or hands/paws), even when offered a treat for the opposite choice. Researchers concluded that dogs possess an “automatic imitation” instinct that can override both natural behavior and self-interest [8]. Dogs are also more susceptible to yawn contagion (an indicator of social attachment) when it’s their master, rather than a stranger, doing the yawning [9].

A downside to pets emulating their owners is that as Americans increasingly become obese, so do their pets. The Atlantic article continues:

Plenty of research has established that pets are good for our health; less is known about whether we might be bad for theirs…. According to one recent study, as U.S. obesity rates shot up over the past half century, the average weight of animals living among humans also increased [1]. Another study linked pet owners’ body mass indexes to their dogs’ fat accumulation [2], backing up a 1970 survey that found that obese dogs were much more likely to be owned by obese people than by those “of normal physique” [3].

~Éowyn


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