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Why People Look Like Their Pets

Updated on November 23, 2012
(From left to right) Dog A, myself, Dog B
(From left to right) Dog A, myself, Dog B | Source

Which of the two dogs pictured above looks the most like me?

See results

On the walls of the waiting room in my vet office there are pictures of all of the veterinarians with their pets. The pictures are fascinating to me because in nine out of ten cases the pet-vet combos share an uncanny resemblance.

Try going to a dog park and guessing which owner belongs with which dog. With only a visual cue it is not hard to decide on accurate pairings.

It is not just a myth. People do look like their pets.

Before we continue, take a second to answer the poll to the right of the screen. I will come back to the poll at the end of the article.

Psycholgical Roots

Interpersonal attraction is a branch of psychology that explores the reasons that people are attracted to each other. One of the main factors that psychologists have identified as the cause of attraction between two people is the amount of similarities between them. This includes similarity in appearance, personality, and lifestyle.

Research on human-pet relationships is not nearly as developed as research on human-human relationships, but it stands to reason that people interact with animals similarly to the way they interact with people. Because of this it seems fair to presume that interpersonal attraction can apply to people's relationships with their pets.


Initial Attraction

Ask almost anyone what their favorite breed of dog is and they will probably have an immediate reply.

Interpersonal attraction indicates that people are attracted to animals that share similar physical features - a round face, a prominent forehead, beady eyes. Being around something that is similar to them in looks is a confirmation of their own self worth. People are also more comfortable with things that they are familiar with and having a pet that seems familiar is a way of making them feel safe. Without ever meeting an animal face to face people have already formed strong preferences based on their own appearance.

Interpersonal attraction also accounts for similarities in personality. Once a person is face to face with an animal that they have deemed physically attractive, similarity in personality will also become a deciding factor in picking an animal.

This explains why pets expressions often seem to be well matched with their owners' expressions. A happy go-lucky guy is more likely to chose a smiling golden retriever, while a loner guy is more likely to chose a grumpy cat that glares at you from under the bed.

Before any relationship has developed human and pet already look and behave similarly.

Life Style

Over time an animal will likely become more like it's owner in terms of body type. Lifestyle plays a major factor in this increasing similarity. A man who lives a highly athletic lifestyle will likely share that lifestyle with his dog. The result will be an owner-pet combo that is well toned and healthy. Inversely, a woman that does little activity and places a high value on food is less likely to keep her pet well exercised, and is more likely to feed her pet extra food as a way of showing affection.


Behavior

Time may also cause similar behaviors between owner and pet to develop. This strengthens the outside perspective that people look like their pets. Humans are great at picking up learned behaviors, often subconsciously from their surroundings. I caught myself stretching the other day in a way that is very distinct to my dog, Lily.

Pets will likely pick up human behaviors as well. For dogs this is instinctual because in order to function as as they do in the wild, they have to be able to learn behaviors from other dogs in the pack. Lily learned quickly how to rub against people's legs from my foster cat, Delilah. It is only a matter of time before she picks up some of my behaviors.

Disney shows this idea best in the classic opening sequence of 101 Dalmatians. Notice how the dogs are not just physically similar to their owners - they also walk with a similar posture and pace.

In Conclusion

Studies in interpersonal attraction suggest that relationships that share similarities are stronger and last longer. Next time you laugh at the old lady with the perm and the matching poodle, stop and consider that her relationship with her dog is probably one to be admired.

P.S. Back to the poll: I picked out Dog A (Lily) myself, but my dad picked Dog B (Taffy) for me. Does that show based on our appearance? Research shows that when asked to pair random pictures of people with pictures of their pets, 2 out of 3 times someone could match the pet with the correct owner.

Interested in Reading More?

Living at a Pet Friendly College - Takes a look at the benefits of college dorms allowing students to bring pets.

Interior Design with Your Pet in Mind - Ideas on blending pet accessories and supplies (which can be an eyesore) in to the design of your home.

Potty Training a Shelter Dog - Shelter dogs come with additional challenges, especially in the case of potty training. This article explores ways to potty train dogs who have already developed bad habits.

The Danger of Laser Pointer Toys for Pets - Laser pointer toys are likely to cause dogs and certain cats to develop OCD.

Preparing the Pup for the Cold Without Breaking the Budget - Some dogs are not properly equipped for the winter months, and this article suggests ways to keep your dog warm without spending a fortune on designer doggie sweater.

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    • Larry Fields profile image

      Larry Fields 4 years ago from Northern California

      Hi ArF. Great hub!

      At the moment, I'm not organized enough to be a good pet owner. I like several breeds of large and medium-sized dogs. But I'm allergic to cats.

      Several years ago, I befriended my neighbor's family's Border Collie mix. I enjoyed taking Gurr--yes that's really his name--on day hikes in the Northern Sierras. As much as I like BCs, I could never own one, unless I lived on a sheep ranch.

      What kind of dog do I look like? You tell me. :)

      Voted up and more.

    • Maria Cecilia profile image

      Maria Cecilia 4 years ago from Philippines

      Hahaha I can attest to that.... when I do exercise and walk in the morning my dog Peso is always with me, however when the place was suddenly closed to pets, I stopped walking because I don't want to go that place alone without my dog, so as I result I have no exercise... quite on the heavy side, my doctor often advised me to diet, my dog peso was on little heavy side too though his vet did not advised for strict diet, I was told not to let him increase more weight, when I bought my 2nd dog to vet, I was surprised to be told that my medium sized dog needs dieting too... so if the human loves to eat same with her dog.... Imagine that my Peso would even asked for dessert after his meal... impossible to believe but true... but once he knew I have his favorite cooky he wont' stop whinning ang poking me If you ask him what he wants, he will go to the area of the house where the cooky is hidden.... so how can you resist a dog like that..

    • Suhail and my dog profile image

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 4 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      My dog, a Kuvasz, doesn't look like me a bit. So I have t differ, but then there are always exceptions lol.

      Great hub, because I settled for this dog breed after much research to match my lifestyle.

    • A r F profile image
      Author

      Allison 4 years ago

      Larry - your profile picture is too small for me to tell which kind of do you look like. But ask your friends! Figuring out which type of animal people resemble is a fun way to kill time. My friends say I look like a Toucan (or an English Pointer). I'm not sure how I feel about that, but we have a good time coming up with different possibilities.

      Maria - I'm sorry they closed your walking place to pets. Some people teach their dogs to walk on a treadmill - maybe you guys could have your own in-home place to walk.

      Suhail - Your dog is gorgeous! I think the similarities we pick up on in our animals are often very subtle (much more so than the 101 Dalmatians clip). And of course, there are many additional considerations besides just physical appearance that people take in to account before getting a pet. It sounds like in your case lifestyle won out over appearance.

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 4 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Hi, I picked Lily right away! She is part Whippet, right? I enjoyed your article, but have to include "those people that pick dogs that they wish they look like". I bought a Maltese years ago but I really don´t fit the bill.

      I´m still waiting to hear which college is the most pet friendly!

    • A r F profile image
      Author

      Allison 4 years ago

      Yes, that's Lily! I like that about your Maltese - maybe we're all just living vicariously through our pets.

      I am working on a hub about pet friendly colleges right now! When it is done you will be the first to know.

    • btrbell profile image

      Randi Benlulu 4 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Very interesting! I always thought people look like their pets until I got cats. they are way to sleek and graceful to be compared to me! Thank you for a great hub!

    • A r F profile image
      Author

      Allison 4 years ago

      Oh cats.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 4 years ago from Florida

      I have heard this many times, so you must be right! My Miniature Schnauzer, Baby, does look like me. People comment on that all the time! Our personalities are even similar.

      Voted UP, etc.

    • A r F profile image
      Author

      Allison 4 years ago

      Hello Mary! From your profile picture I can tell that you and Baby are an adorable pair. If you get compared to your dog a lot it is always nice to know that the dog in question is a good looking one!

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      I have heard of this but I just can't see me looking like this black dog on the photo. BUT I did have a little reddish blonde sheltie for years that may have resembled me. Cool Hub!

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 4 years ago from Chicago

      Thank you for publishing this outstanding article! I enjoyed reading it very much and I agree wholeheartedly with your analysis. Welcome to the HubPages Community!

      James :-)

      ps My dog is a Westie

    • A r F profile image
      Author

      Allison 4 years ago

      Rebecca: It may just be some tiny resemblance that you have in common. From the little picture it looks to me like you and your black dog may have similar eyes. Or maybe your dog has a resemblance to someone or something you are very positively familiar with. I can see you resembling a Sheltie too, and what great dogs to resemble - beautiful with great personalities.

      James: Thank you so much for your compliments! I can definitely see you resembling a Westie. You have a similar facial structure! Westies are such great little dogs. They always remind me of the children's books about McDuff the Westie. Have you read them?

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 4 years ago from Chicago

      You are welcome. I am not familiar with those books. But then again, I am a long way removed from childhood. :-)

    • A r F profile image
      Author

      Allison 4 years ago

      Well, if any little kids see you walking your westie and yell "McDuff!", that's why. =)

    • Beata Stasak profile image

      Beata Stasak 4 years ago from Western Australia

      Happy to meet another gentle soul who loves animals, nature and all:)

      Congratulation to your nomination, well deserved:) B

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 4 years ago from USA

      Entertaining article with nice use of teaser poll and follow up at the end. I'm a cat person who loves torties. I went through a phase when I was streaking my black hair with orangey highlights. I felt like a kindred spirit to them. People definitely look like their pets!

    • A r F profile image
      Author

      Allison 4 years ago

      That's great, I love that it was a conscious effort for you! I'm starting to think that people and their pets copy each others facial expressions as well. I was dog sitting for my friend Heather and her dog looked at me with the exact same expression that Heather often has. It was a little bit disconcerting. =)

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