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Do Different Dog Breeds Have Different Personalities?

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As anyone who spends time with dogs can tell you, every pup, like every human, has a distinct personality of their own. Some are outgoing and friendly, while others take time to warm up to new faces; some insist on taking the lead, while others are happy to follow. 

Although experts disagree, most laypeople also believe that personality differs between breeds. Golden Retrievers have a reputation for being affectionate and playful. German Shepherds are prized for their courage and protectiveness. Depending on who you ask, small breeds such as Chihuahuas are either loyal darlings or temperamental monsters. 

Are these beliefs baseless stereotypes, or is there some grain of truth to them? At NomNomNow, we love answering questions with data, so we created a survey that over 5,000 of you have taken to date. 

For the 25 most common breeds, we melted all our personality variables down into two meta-variables that explained the most variation in personality. The first, on the x-axis of our chart, measures how high-strung a dog is, and the other, on the y-axis, measures how active a dog is. Breeds on the left side are laid-back, while breeds on the right side tend to be either dominant, fearful, or both. Breeds on the top are highly active and athletic, while breeds closer to the bottom are reserved and somewhat shy. 

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Most dogs are reported by their parents to be active and laid-back, but a few breeds do stand out. In accordance with their reputation, the ever-popular retrievers are the most laid-back and easy to get along with. Corgis, true to their history as a herding dog, take the prize for the most energetic breed, while Shiba Inus were reported to be the most reserved. And, at least in our data, the average Pomeranian, well, has character. (We love them anyway!) 

We also looked at personality by size: here, the smallest breeds are in red and the largest breeds are in blue. While it does seem like some smaller breeds are on the more high-strung side of the chart, Bichon Frises and Shih Tzus are the exception to the rule. 

However, like any study, there are caveats to keep in mind. First, all of our data is self-reported by pet parents, and their perceptions and interpretations of their pups’ personality may be affected by pre-existing breed stereotypes. Second, differences between breeds may be due not to intrinsic biological differences, but to the different environments in which they live (for example, whether they live in an urban or rural setting) and the different experiences they have in life (for example, whether they were raised to be a working dog, a competitive show dog or a personal companion.) And finally, our analysis only addresses average breed personality: there are still many differences between individuals of the same breed.

Want to know more? Us too! By taking our health assessment survey, you can help us uncover more personality insights, as well as provide the health information that drives our scientific research.