Dog Personalities from A to Z: Which One Is Your Pup?

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Dogs come in all different shapes, sizes, and personalities. That’s part of why we love them. But it can be easy to fall into the trap of seeing your dog not as they are, but as you wish they could be, and treating them accordingly. When we assume our dogs enjoy something just because they are dogs, we not only do them a disservice and set them up for failure, we set ourselves up for frustration when they fail to live up to our expectations.

All dogs, regardless of their breeding, are individuals. It’s essential to look beyond your dog’s breed to try to understand the traits that make up their personality. The better you know your dog, the fewer misunderstandings you’ll have in the future. As a professional dog trainer, I convey this message constantly to my clients.

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These seven dog personalities aren’t based solely on temperament but on the characteristics of the vast variety of dogs in the world. Which of these personality traits does your dog have?

The Distracted Dog

The Distracted Dog is a common personality type, especially among puppies and adolescent dogs. Their attention wanders easily and they’re frequently overwhelmed due to excitement or anxiety, especially in new environments, or when encountering unfamiliar people and dogs.

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Common personality traits:

  • Have trouble listening or responding to cues in new environments
  • May seem to be “naughty” when in actuality, they cannot filter out the noise of the outside world
  • Love to play with toys
  • May frequently pull on the leash towards interesting smells or sights
  • Some may be dog-reactive due to leash (barrier) frustration
  • May easily shut down in high-intensity environments, refusing to walk or trying to escape from their guardian
  • Are likely to be puppies or adolescents of any breed under the age of three

The Brainy Booper

Brainy Boopers are smarty-pants dogs that are eager to learn and perform a job. Typically high-energy, high-drive dogs, Brainy Boopers do best with parents who are willing to put in extra effort with training and exercise. These dogs tend to excel at dog sports like agility, barn hunt, and freestyle.

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Common personality traits:

  • Pick up new cues and behaviors quickly
  • Require lots of exercise time and play to draw down their energy (may become destructive or experience behavior challenges without it)
  • Are likely to be more human-oriented than dog-oriented
  • May be aloof to unfamiliar humans, especially when their guardian is present
  • Relatively confident, though early under-socialization may make some Brainy Boopers dislike other canines
  • Most likely candidates are shepherds, terriers, and retrievers

The Marshmallow

Everyone loves a good marshmallow, especially when it comes in dog form. Marshmallow dogs are super-malleable and easy to handle in most environments, though they may not be as outgoing as their Social Butterfly cousins.

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Common personality traits:

  • Love to snuggle and get affection from their humans; may or may not seek attention from unfamiliar people
  • Relaxed in most environments and make great office dogs
  • Often not particularly interested in play or high-intensity exercise
  • Any breed can be a Marshmallow, but large dogs like Bernese Mountain Dogs, Newfoundlands, and Great Pyrenees are classic softies, as are many Pit Bulls and Pit mixes

The Referee

Referees are dogs that have no trouble expressing their thoughts about the world, especially when things seem out of place. Referees tend to vocalize in response to the actions of others—dogs at play, dogs or people passing their home, or if they aren’t getting enough attention.

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Common personality traits:

  • Barks at the dog park or when playing with toys
  • May bark or lunge when passing other dogs on leash, especially if the other dog is engaged in play
  • May bark or growl at dogs passing the home
  • May herd others (both humans and dogs), using their voice and sometimes their teeth to organize the world
  • May be unpredictable with new people, especially children whose patterns of movement are unlike those of adults
  • Any breed can be a referee, but it’s a behavior commonly associated with shepherds, collies, and other herding dogs, as well as terriers such as Jack Russells

The Social Butterfly

Every dog is a good dog, but it’s the Social Butterfly that most of us imagine when we picture the perfect dog. Social Butterflies are easygoing dogs with a penchant for making friends.

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Common personality traits:

  • Well-socialized, confident pups with a high tolerance for unfamiliar environments
  • Eager to seek out attention from new people; not easily frightened by strangers
  • Friendly and playful at the dog park
  • Love affection and stick close to their humans, but not overly agitated when their humans are out of sight
  • Make great Canine Good Citizens and therapy dogs
  • Can be any breed, but Social Butterflies often come from “family” dog breeds like retrievers and poodles

The Velcro Pup

The term “Velcro” shows up frequently in dog forums as a way to describe pups who prefer not to let their humans out of sight. But the truth is most dogs prefer not to let their humans out of their sight. Those that can relax away from their parents tend to be the exception, not the rule. Velcro Pups are happiest when in physical contact with their guardians.

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Common personality traits:

  • Total snuggle bug who prefers to be held or to sit in the lap of their humans
  • Can be pushy or whiny when not in physical contact with their humans
  • May be unwilling to leave the comfort of their guardians to interact with other people or dogs
  • May experience fear or anxiety that prevents them from wanting to explore the world on their own
  • More common with Chihuahuas, Pomeranians, Pekingese, and Bichon Frise

The Wallflower

The Wallflower is a sensitive pup that, due to fear, anxiety, or under-socialization, sometimes comes off as aloof. The Wallflower can be a lover, but usually reserves their affection for family members. Wallflowers tend to be most comfortable in familiar spaces with familiar people.

via GIPHY

Common personality traits:

  • Disinterested in meeting other people or dogs and may even bark or snap at those who get too close
  • Independent dog who may prefer their own bed to snuggling with humans on the couch or bed
  • May be somewhat stiff or uptight; play may not come easily to them
  • Easily overwhelmed in busy or noisy environments
  • May have some fear or anxiety about unfamiliar people, places, and dogs
  • Can be of any breed type but is characteristic of rescue dogs
  • Common suspects include greyhounds and Italian greyhounds, Chihuahuas, and shiba inus

Do you recognize any of these personalities in your dog? Regardless of disposition, every dog’s individuality should be acknowledged and embraced. Because if you try to see your dog as someone they’re not, you may miss out on the best their personality has to offer.

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