Dogs Have Personality

Every dog is unique, regardless of breed. Like a child, your dog needs to be loved for who he is, and you need to keep this in mind as you train him. You can't train every dog or puppy the same way—each one learns differently based on identifiable personality traits as well as breed characteristics. Here are six different personality descriptions. Consider where your dog fits in.


These dogs take themselves very seriously. Strong-willed and determined, they simply ignore anyone they don't respect. A dog with this personality requires a strong, consistent training program and is happiest when everyone involved takes the same approach.


These jokesters are always dancing on the edge of good behavior and will reveal any inconsistency within your approach or within the family. Engaging, they thrive on interaction and may be naughty simply to get attention. A comedian needs clear direction, consistent follow-through, and a calm approach. Being too stern can backfire as this dog will get hyper when a lesson becomes too rigid.


This easygoing lot takes life in stride and may not pay attention to your concern, energy, or disapproval. These dogs often prefer to nap during lessons and can be challenging to motivate. Be persistent with your lessons; left undirected they can easily get distracted and find themselves in harm's way.


Dogs with this personality put your approval high on their priority list. The drive for attention is so great that these dogs may indirectly learn such routines as jumping up when greeting to get attention that don't meet with everyone's approval. Training need only be presented and reinforced in a consistent manner for this dog to cooperate.


These endearing dogs are gentle and loving, often preferring to view life from the sidelines. They prefer not to make waves and can sometimes appear overwhelmed if lessons are too strict. Adoring and sweet, they can be needy if ignored. A calm, praise-heavy training approach works best to bring out the best in this personality type.


Dogs in this group do not tolerate new situations, dogs, or people well. Calm familiarity is reassuring to them. To an outsider, a timid dog may appear abused, as he cowers and hides at the slightest distraction. Consistent, affirmative lessons will help this dog establish a stronger sense of himself.

To determine a dog's or puppy's personality, you can do a series of exercises. Test A is best done on a puppy under 5 months; Test B is for dogs over 5 months.

Test A: Puppies Under 5 Months

1. Watch your puppy interact with other puppies. Is he a. Bossy, biting and climbing on the others' backs?

b. Playful, responding to the others' interactions or carrying toys?

c. More interested in you?

d. Laid-back and relaxed?

e. Content to sit alone?

f. Fearful?

2. Cradle your puppy in your arms (if you can). Does he a.

Squirm and bite to be freed?

Mouth playfully, then relax?

Relax immediately and lick your hand?

Relax and look content?

Look submissive, licking your hand with his ears back?

Look afraid?

3. Shake a set of keys above your puppy's head without his knowing it. Does he a. Respond assertively, jumping up to bite the keys?

b. Try to play with the keys?

d. React calmly?

e. Look confused?

f. Act fearful—tail tucked, ears back, hunched down?

4. Gently grasp the scruff of your puppy's neck, just behind his ears. Does he a. Turn to defend himself?

b. Lay his ears back and reach up to playfully interact?

c. Quickly lower himself to the floor and roll to one side playfully or lick your hand?

e. Roll submissively to one side, and possibly pee?

f. Look frightened—roll to one side, tail tucked under belly, ears pinned back?

5. Fall to the floor and pretend to grasp your knee in pain. Does he a. Pounce and bite you?

b. Playfully run to you with his tail wagging?

c. Run to you, putting his head under your body?

d. Not respond?

e. Act confused?

f. Run to a corner, tail and ears down?


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