If I ask you to picture a dog in your mind (other than yours of course!) most people picture a happy, tail wagging social dog that's happy to see everyone and every dog. Some of you may own such a dog, the one that greets strangers demanding cuddles, kisses or bum scratches and new dogs like best friends to play with for hours.
Through my years I've noticed that most dogs go through this friendly phase where everything and everyone is Great! Then maturity hits, and suddenly your hyper-social dog starts being a bit more selective on who he/she approaches or plays with. That's normal! Now to be clear, I'm not referring to dogs with reactivity or aggression issues (that's a whole different topic).
Let's start with a quick breakdown of life phase since dogs, like people, go through life phases where they interact with the world differently. There's the wiggly puppy phase, the mature adult phase, and the senior retired phase (those are not official terminology and yes it is partially to make you smile!)
Wiggly Puppy Phase
The first phase of a dog's life: puppyhood! This is where puppies are leaning about the world, and yes it seems they do it by chewing on everything. Here's where it's important to socialize your puppy; let them explore the world! Most puppies have similar traits in the sense that they are usually hyper-social and wanting to go everywhere and meet every new dog.
Mature Adult Phase
Here's the largest part of your dog's life; adulthood. Sometimes it's a gradual transition, sometimes you'll wake up and your dog has hit maturity! Every dog is different, and bigger breeds do take longer than smaller ones to develop, both mentally and physically. During this phase you'll see your dog's true personality solidify.
Senior Retired Phase
The last phase of your dog's life: Retirement. This is where your dog's done it all and has enjoyed a great life, now they can take things a bit easy. You'll notice during this phase that your dog is slowing down, where a day-long hike was your dog's favorite activity now it may be playing with you in the yard or a short walk through nature. Again every dog is different and will experience these phases slightly differently. During this phase it's important to keep them active within their limits and keep up with vet visits to make sure all the parts are still moving as they should.
While looking at personalities I'll be focusing on the Adult Phase in this blog entry. Without further ado here are the personalities as I see them broken down.
This is the mentally strong dog, the one that's a natural leader. These are the dogs that will charge head first into any new environment and challenge presented to them. This personality is great to train since they have a natural fearlessness to them 9although focus may be a different story!), they will jump into the water right away, or follow you into a crowded store without batting an eye. The downside to this personality trait is that they can take over your life easily if not taught to work with you, they can also be the ones that turn aggressive should archaic and abusive training methods. But if you love them and work with them then you'll have a happy balanced dog to do anything with.
The dogs in this category are different from the confident dogs in the sense that they are the ones that will happily operate without human interaction. There are breeds of dogs bred to be this way such as the Kuvasz which was originally bred to guard livestock. This means they need to live with the livestock and guard them from dangers, this is all done with little to no interaction from the owner. I've had the privilege to work with some of these dogs and they would come in for a pat once in a while but were clearly happy just being on their own or in company of something that bahs.
This is the hyper-social dog that's happy to see every person and every dog, similar to a puppy would. These dogs are usually described as happy and go everywhere dogs. These are the ones comfortable navigating through a crowded city filled with new people and smells. The stereotype is the happy Labrador that will treat every stranger as they would their owner. They are easy to take anywhere and do a lot of new things with since they have a relaxed mindset that makes them less reactive.
Timid dogs are the ones that need a bit of coaxing to do new things; also described as shy or nervous. With these dogs you will need to take things slowly. Introducing new activities and environments should be done at a pace they show you they're comfortable with. These dogs will need a lot of praise, encouragement and patience depending on what you are trying to teach them. People often describe these dogs as introverted since they are comfortable with their known environment. That doesn't mean they can't or will refuse to experience new things, just that it will take a bit longer for them to feel confident within those new experiences.
The adaptable dog is the adventure dog, the one that takes everything in stride to be with his/her owner. They are the ones you'll see skateboarding or surfing. Trick training these dogs is a dream since all they want to do is please their owner. The environment they are in doesn't matter as much as the people that are in it. These are dogs that are strongly bonded with their owners and prefer their company and cuddle over the ones from strangers.
These personalities are not exclusive and can change over time. My Dalmatian Blue is a combination of adaptable and timid. She's very happy with me wherever we go and whatever we do. She learned to paddle board with me simply by her wanting to be near me, now I can barely get her off the board when it's time to pack it up and go home! She can also be timid with strangers and is selective about who she will let pet her, otherwise she walks away.
Knowing your dog's personality traits is important because that will give you guidelines and parameters in which to operate with your dog. I would never interact with a timid dog the way I would with a confident one! That could be a disaster and cause harm to the timid dog's mentality.