Do You Look Like Your Dog?

We all know people and their dogs look alike. After all, check out Winston Churchill and his bulldog.

Except Churchill had poodles.

So do people really look like their dogs? Or is it an urban myth?

Woman and dog on the Beach

Do you think we look alike? Well, we’re both wearing coats on the beach.

Ask Science If People Look Like Their Dogs

Some scientists had extra grant money hanging around. So they decided to experiment to see if people actually do look like their dogs.

Studies in the U.S. and Venezuela found that strangers were able to pair pictures of dogs with their people at a rate higher than statistical chance. What does that mean?

A freaking 80% of the time—80%!—people matched the person and dog who belonged together.

At first, scientists thought people chose dogs with similar characteristics. Women with long hair prefer dogs with long floppy ears, for example. Redheads prefer Irish Setters. That kind of thing.

A man who looks like his dog.

Does he look like his dog? Or is it just the messy hair?

One Japanese scientist wondered what would happen if they did the test with a more racially homogeneous population. What actually makes us look like our pets? And guess what? Even in a population where every human had dark hair and eyes, people still matched the dogs to their humans most of the time.

So if it wasn’t hair color or other physical characteristics that make people and their dogs look alike, what was it?

The scientist, Dr. Nakajima, started covering up the faces one feature at a time. And when he covered the human’s eyes, the guesses were only right about 50% of the time. In other words, about what you’d expect from someone guessing.

However, when the subjects saw only the dog’s and persons’s eyes, once again they made correct matches around 75% of the time.

So the eyes have it.

We look like our dogs because of something in our eyes.

Police officer with two Belgian Malinois.

Do police look like their dog partners?

Look Deep Into My Eyes

Eyes are very expressive. If you want to know if someone is really smiling or faking it, look at their eyes. In a fake smile, only the mouth turns up. But in a genuine smile, the corners of the eyes wrinkle.

So when people match dogs and their people by looking at the eyes, are they matching an attitude more than appearance?

I’ve got to know more.

I could hang around the psychology labs up at Cornell hoping someone decides to do such a study and invites me to participate.

Or I could run one myself.

Power to the people. We don’t need no stinking scientists.

And you can help.

Let’s See If You Look Like Your Dog

Send me pictures. I’ll post them here and we’ll see how many people match you with your dog.

But let’s try to be at least somewhat scientific.

Let’s follow the rules that Dr. Nakajima used for his studies as best we can. Use these guidelines for taking the pictures of you and your dog:

  • take headshots only, cropped at the shoulders
  • take the pictures against a white wall (or plain, light-colored background, if you can’t find white)
  • please send one person picture with one dog only
  • smile slightly
  • take the pictures of you and your dog separately.

If you need help, check out sample photos from Dr. Nakajima’s study.

I’ll collect photos until September 20 and then I’ll post them in a test here. You can send your pictures to me at somethingwagging at gmail dot com.

Are you in?

Oh, and let’s spread the word so we get a wide range of pictures. From people who don’t publish pictures of themselves with their dogs on blogs. From people who don’t even read blogs. Heck, I’ll even take pictures of people with their cats.

Do you look like your dog.

Spread the word on Facebook. Ask your sister to send a picture with her dog. Let’s see if we can get the same results with hundreds of pictures that Dr. Nakajima got with a small sample. Feel free to share the announcement above, just right click to download it onto your computer so you can share it.

And let’s give a prize to the random winner who pairs the most dogs with their people. We’ll have some fun with this.

Learn the truth. Do you really look like your dog?

Your Turn: Do you think you and your dog look alike? What if you have more than one dog? Will you be sending your pictures in for our experiment?

photo credits: (man in striped shirt with dog)gareth1953 the original via photopin cc, (policeman & Belgian Malinois dogs) West Midlands Police via photopin cc. Click on images to learn more about the photographer.

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  1. This sounds like fun, we’ll help spread the word!!! Great idea!!

    • Glad you’re in. And thanks for sharing on FB.

      I guess I’d better check my email and see if I’ve gotten any pictures yet. :)

  2. Hey Pam – Yes, I do! I wrote a post about me being a”doppelgänger” I’ll send you the photos when I get home this evening. And I’ll spread the word – this should be a hoot! Have a great weekend :)

    • I loved your doggie doppelganger post. And from the very first time I saw your blog, I loved the striking look of your hair next to your doodles.

      I think anyone could do worse than to be told they look like such lovely creatures.

  3. I couldn’t wait to read your post because I think this is such an interesting topic! And it’s funny you said that about redheads, because my daughter and son in law are both redheads, and I suggested they get an irish setter. And my son, also a redhead, had his choice of 10 golden retriever puppies, and instead of going for the lighter yellow ones, picked the most reddish one. Looking forward to your test study!

    • Do you know something interesting about reddish goldens? It’s supposed to be one of the characteristics of the more high-energy working dogs. Apparently the genes for retrieving drive are somehow linked to the reddish color.

      Maybe you can get your son to send in a picture with Zeke. We could certainly use a few men in the mix.

  4. I don’t even remotely look like either of my dogs. I have however seen a lot of people who do. It’s scary really how many there are out there.

  5. I’m in, but I think too many people will recognize us. Will have to recruit some friends.

    • I’m thinking of trying to duplicate the part of the experiment where they just showed the eyes. It might not be as obvious as you think.

  6. Oh my gosh this sounds like fun! I will share this on FB straight away and start looking for photos (or take some new ones). If people would be able to actually match me and Alfs then I would take it as a huge compliment because he’s such a handsome dog :-)

  7. That is so fascinating! I saw the article about this study the other day but didn’t click on it because I was at work, and for once decided to resist a distraction. Glad to read your synopsis though–that is very cool about the eyes. I do always have dogs with brown eyes… but that is not too surprising :)

    • Since human eye color is so much more diverse than dog eye color, I suspect the color isn’t that important. But I guess we’ll know once I collect the pics.

  8. I’d be happy to look like any of my dogs! What a great idea for a competition. Interesting results from previous studies, I wonder what yours will come up with?

    • OMD! I’d be happy to look like any of your dogs. Especially Beryl. Those legs!

      I hope I’ll be getting a picture from you.

      And thanks for sharing on FB.

  9. Does wanting to look like my dog count? lol Because I’m trying!

  10. Oh my, I think my dog has beautiful eyes, what does that say about me?!! Hahaha… incidentally I think a lot of dogs have beautiful eyes… 😉

  11. Very interesting. No, I don’t think I look like my dogs. I have had a variety of breeds so I think it would be difficult. I do, however, think me and my dogs develop similar personalities. If I have a dog that loves to play, I tend to be more playful. Or if I have a dog that loves to cuddle, I tend to want to cuddle more. Vice versa too. When I was outdoorsy, my dogs also tended to be that way. Today, I am laid back and so my dogs tend to be as well. We do get exercise but Maya, Pierson, and I enjoy relaxing at home most of the day. That’s amazing since Maya and Pierson are both known to be very energetic breeds.

  12. What a brilliant idea, and how weird I am sure I mentioned something about my dogs eyes being their most appealing feature in an earlier comment on your blog which clearly means I am a genius! (and modest!)

  13. H’mm, I didn’t pick any of the dogs I live with currently. I’ll see if I can photos of the people that selected the dogs.