A study by psychologists from Michigan State University suggests that dogs are much more adaptable than previously thought.
By Published on 2 Mar 2019
The research includes data collected from the owners of over 1600 dogs from 50 different breeds.
It shows that a dog's personality is much more malleable than previous studies suggest. In other words, dogs are constantly changing and evolving in response to changes in their environment.
This means that a dogs personality is not a fixed thing, but rather a fluid concept that enables the dog to adapt to new and unfamiliar circumstances.
Your dog is always changing
Depending on the external or internal changes, certain traits may develop late in life, while others become amplified or disappear completely.
The results surprised researchers. The study also suggests that humans and dogs are far more similar than we once thought. Williams Chopik is the study's lead author. He said, “When humans go through big changes in life, their personality traits can change. We found that this also happens with dogs—and to a surprisingly large degree.”
Chopik went onto say, “We expected the dogs’ personalities to be fairly stable because they don’t have wild lifestyle changes humans do, but they actually change a lot. We uncovered similarities to their owners, the optimal time for training, and even a time in their lives that they can get more aggressive toward other animals.”
It appears that your dog's development never really stops. It's often said that the best window for obedience training is during puppyhood, but this study believes that a dog learns best around six years of age. This is the time when they've outgrown their puppyish ways, but are still young enough to learn new tricks.
Old dogs and new tricks
Neural pathways tend to become more ingrained as dogs get older, which slows down the learning process.
Despite running counter to many of our pre-conceived notions about puppy training, the study re-enforced some of its more fundamental principles.
Researchers found that owners who reported having the happiest dogs were the same ones who invested heavily in obedience training.
To put it simply, the more effort you put into your dog's development, the happier they tend to be.