Dog Doppelgängers

There’s some science to the old adage that pets look like their owners:

119939095_b88a06e3cc_bResearchers around the world have repeatedly found that strangers can match photos of dogs with photos of their owners at a rate well above chance. 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. 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. Another study, which cross-referenced personality-test scores and breed preferences, noted that disagreeable people favored aggressive dogs.

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. 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.

Wouldn’t you like to meet the owner of this pup?


(Bottom photo from Carli Davidson‘s Shake, a new coffee-table book you can order here. Live-action book preview here. Top photo from Flickr user Anjuli)