According to the the many personality tests out there, people are often categorized as either introverts or extroverts. Bubbly, outgoing, talkative, and friendly are traits often associated with extroverts. Introverts, on the other hand, enjoy the company of just a handful of people, are private, and inward focused.
While many people would assume all dogs are extroverts – they are like social butterflies, right!? – that isn’t the case.
Dogs, like humans, have different personalities, with some being social and others sticking to the sidelines as wallflowers.
“Some dogs choose to spend more time around all people while others choose to spend time with a select few family members or on their own,” says Lauren Novack, director of operations and an associate certified dog behavior consultant at Behavior Vets in New York City.
So, is your dog an introvert? Let’s take a deep dive into animal psychology to find out.
Dogs and Their Personalities
“Scientists have yet to come to a consensus on what personality traits to assign to dogs, how to define each personality trait, or how to test for them,” Novak says.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a plethora of research out there trying to figure out exactly how our dogs thinks.
For instance, scientists have found that dogs possess several different personality traits, including “Playfulness”, “Curiosity/Fearlessness, “Chase-proneness”, “Sociability and Aggressiveness” and “Shyness–Boldness.” They have also determined that just like us, their personalities can change over time; can be overly sensitive; and undergo the same chemical changes we do during different emotional states — dogs have a hormone known as oxytocin, which in us, is related to the feelings of love and affection.
Why Is My Dog an Introvert?
As with humans, your dog may be introverted or extroverted because of his genetics and life experiences.
“Dogs exist because their ancestors were able to coexist with and cooperate with humans, and this increased their odds of surviving long enough to reproduce,” says Novack. “Within the species, breeds were created to cooperate with humans in different ways. We needed some dogs to operate independently.
For instance, according to Novak, livestock guard dogs were bred to protect the herd when humans weren’t around. “We tend to consider breeds selected to do their jobs alone as more ‘aloof’ or ‘independent,’ Novack explains, adding, “Other dogs were selected to work in close harmony with humans – like sporting dogs and lap dogs.”
The experiences your dog had as a youngster also play a large part in his personality. According to Novak, dogs need to have positive interactions with the world, including both people, animals and places, during their socialization period at seven to 12 weeks of age. These interactions and experiences can greatly affect who the dog trusts or fears later in life.
“Dogs who have lots of great experiences with humans will want to hang out with us. Dogs that have lots of terrible experiences won’t,” Novak says.
However, she concludes, “I wouldn’t label that introversion, I would label it fear.”
Signs of an Introverted Dog
Introverted dogs will display the same types of signs that introverted people do. If your pup likes to keep to himself and doesn’t enjoy playing with others, this is one of the tell-tale signs to look out for.
Your dog may stick by you in the park or watch other pooches play without participating. He’ll seem anxious in large crowds of either people or pets and may be completely disinterested when folks come over to say hi to him.
Also, introverted dogs are slow to show their feelings and process their emotions. They also will be withdrawn around strangers, according to findings published by The Australian Veterinary Journal.
If you are unsure of your dog’s personality, Novak recommends really keeping an eye on his body language and focusing on his unique preferences and comfort levels over his personality.
“Watch what your dog does, who they interact with, and where they go when they are off leash and can make the choice for themselves,” she says “Do they climb on other human’s laps when at the dog park, or sniff around on their own?”
How Can You Make Your Introverted Dog Comfortable?
If your dog is introverted, you may be asking yourself how you can help him thrive.
Novak’s advice: accept your dog for who she is.
“If you wanted a dog who is the life of the party, but your pup would rather say hi and then go chew a bone by themselves, let them,” she said. “Never force them into interactions.”
And if your dog is truly fearful and actively avoids others or shows signs of aggression? Novak recommends that you seek the help of a professional.
This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional advice.