Hippie dogs (and do dogs reflect our personalities?)

Last night, we took Pyrrha to a laidback outdoor concert at The Garage, a fun, creative music venue in our town. (Excuse the blurry phone photos in advance, please…)

The Garage
The Garage

As I’ve mentioned before, Pyr has been having some leash reactivity to other dogs, and I thought this might be a good socialization experience for her. The Garage is set up so that the audience sits across the street in a small city park, so you can get up and move around if need be. This gave Pyrrha some “breathing room” and allowed me to get up and walk her around when I could tell she was getting agitated/too anxious.

Pyrrha at The Garage | DoggerelOn the whole, I was proud of how she handled the whole experience. She did especially great with people. She wasn’t afraid of men coming up to her and petting her, and she even generously (and, um, thoroughly) licked the face of a loud (maybe inebriated) woman who rushed right up to her. Overall, Pyrrha-to-people interactions were a success.

While we were there, she also had a positive interaction with this dog:

So, a horrible photo, but you can get the idea of what this dog looked like, right? A small, rangy-type street dog.

The dog was with a group of young travelers, whom I’ll call “hippies,” but not in a derogatory sense — more because of their laidback behavior, dreadlocks, and general bohemian appearance. Nothing negative about them. But this dog was meandering through the crowd, dragging her leash behind her. This initially made me nervous, and Pyrrha was up on alert as soon as the dog came close to us, but I took a deep breath and loosened my grip on the leash. They sniffed rears, wagged tails, and the blond dog peacefully went on her way. No barking, no hackles, no extreme reactions from Pyrrha. Sigh of relief!

This interaction led me to this question: Do you think our dogs mirror our temperaments?

Obviously, dogs pick up on our body language, and they can sense our moods often more accurately than we can. And there’s no clear study (that I know of) that could definitively answer this question, but here’s what I was thinking: This blond hippie dog was so CHILL. She knew exactly how to defuse Pyrrha’s anxiety. She wandered calmly through the crowd, sniffing here and there. I could almost see her saying, “Peace and love, man, peace and love.” Her human (a young woman with dreadlocks) watched the dog calmly and would call her back; she was not overly concerned with the dog’s behavior.

I, on the other hand, tend to be a fairly anxious person. And you all know that Pyrrha is a fairly (OK, very) anxious dog. I worry about her a LOT, and I imagine she worries about me, too. So, are we just feeding each other through these vicious cycles? The hippie dog stays peaceful because her people stay peaceful; Pyrrha stays anxious because I stay anxious.

Do you ever wonder this? Like, would Pyrrha be a much calmer dog if she lived with these nomadic young travelers? I don’t know. It’s kind of a depressing thought, but I think it might be true. The moral of the story for me? Peace and love, man, peace and love. And maybe that aura will influence Pyrrha too…

9 thoughts on “Hippie dogs (and do dogs reflect our personalities?)

  1. I don’t think it’s quite that strong of a correlation – I call our dogs Oversocial and Undersocial in terms of their feelings on other dogs. That said, I am also an anxious person so for a long time I did not walk Undersocial and it helped. In situations like that, my husband would have been the handler because I know I would give off nervous vibes!

  2. So two thoughts: First, if the dog was super chill, that probably helped put Pyrrha at ease. I’ve noticed in my reactive guys that they amp up way more if the other dog is also amped up. I think they respond to the energy that’s coming at them, if that makes sense. Second, I do think that they reflect our emotions in their behavior. If we’re tense, scared, nervous, whatever, they’re going to be the same way because they’ll think, “My person is worried… that means something is wrong… I should be worried, too… ARGH!” This was a VERY hard lesson for me to learn when I started working with Lucas, but I think it’s so true!

  3. Your relationship with Pyrrha reminds me of my relationship with my pup, who is, like me, very nervous 🙂 While I’m sure there are a lot of factors involved in our dogs’ personalities, I will never forgot the dog trainer who responded with, “Dogs are a product of their environment” after I explained the anxiety issues we were working on.

  4. I think its more complicated than it seems, but of course a dog’s environment will have an impact on their personality, especially if they are in that environment since they’re a young pup. I’d bet that dog goes everywhere with her relaxed people, and has been in those types of situations a LOT because they bring her without thinking about it…. whereas it was still something “new” for Pyrrha. But if you were to expose her to that kind of environment regularly, she’ll adjust and relax. 🙂

  5. I think there is a predisposition for your dog to reflect your own anxieties, or lack thereof. My dogs have typically been pretty laid back – as we are. But Jack was a little hyper and reactive when we got him – so I started getting nervous ABOUT him, and now he kind of feeds on my nervousness. He is much less nervous when he’s with my husband. So I need to chill and I know that he will too. I know it’s not quite that simple, but certain dogs really tune in to their owner and their owners ‘vibe’.

  6. My trainer once said that a trainer told her that “you get the dog that you deserve”. My trainer said she thought it was kind of a mean thing to say, considering she deals mainly with very nice people who have very reactive/aggressive dogs. But while we talked, she said the saying did seem to have some truth and that she’d noticed over the years that it may not be per se what you deserve, but more a dog that reflects you. I’m anxious as well and my Shelby is pretty anxious as well. Part of “her” training regiment is for ME to meditate (it sounded crazy at first, but really, it’s helped both of us). So yep, I agree, wholeheartedly! We could all use a little more hippie in us!

  7. Hmmmm…. Well, this isn’t the case with Morgan, as far as I can tell. There’s no rhyme or reason to how she’ll react to another dog walking up. Heck, it could be the same dog on two different occasions and she might act differently. But if I had Bunny or Kuster, or heck, even Flattery, they would be totally fine with any other dog walking up, as long as that dog was friendly and not aggressive with them. She’s just wired differently.

  8. This post made me smile! I’m sure I don’t have anything to say that you don’t already know, but you are the perfect mama for Pyrrha! You are careful and conscientious. I know personally that I can be an anxious person, and being surrounded by people who are too mellow only makes me worry more, because I feel like I’m the only one in charge! While learning to relax around your girl a bit more might be helpful, don’t ever doubt that you two are a great team!

  9. Loosening up on her leash was perfect,esp with the “hippie dog” signaling “I’m not threat.” What a nice evening for you all.
    I’ve heard that people get dogs who are the opposite of their personalities. I’m a definite introvert who has mostly Beagles and Coonhounds – extroverts in the dog world. For the most part, they get along with everyone though the three I took to an adoption event yesterday (Saturday) seemed to defend their turf (wire crate) when other dogs came by.

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