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Do Dog Owners Look Like Their Pets?

This used to be a joke, but psychologists say it's true. Pure-bred dogs can be matched to their owners most of the time, although this doesn't work for mixed-breed mutts. Psychologist Nicholas Christenfeld gives an example: "There was a goofy guy, smiling with slightly shaggy hair and a golden retriever with a goofy smile, the same hair--everyone said 'these two go together.'"

In New Scientist, Shaoni Bhattacharya writes that Christenfeld and psychologist Michael Roy went to parks and took separate photos of dogs and their owners. When they showed people the photos of the dog owners and gave them a choice of one of two dogs, they matched the person with the dog 65% of the time. Christenfeld says, "We can't tell whether it's a physical resemblance or a stylistic resemblance. One gets a sense that it is a mix of these different things."

Other studies have shown that married couples gradually come to look more alike, so they checked to see if this was something that also happens gradually with dogs and their owners. But Christenfeld says, "It's not people coming to look like their dogs when they live together. Instead it's that people pick a dog that resembles them. But with a mutt you don't know what it's going to look like [when it grows up. It does appear that, as in the case of selecting a spouse, people want a creature like themselves."

Sara Ward, of the U.K. Kennel Club, says she has noticed this for a long time; for instance, bigger dogs have bigger handlers. She says, "And if you are showing an Afghan, often it is quite an elegant person running round with them."






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