Introverts are hot!
And no, I’m not talking about the way my introspective husband looks when he gets out of the shower (although he is awfully cute).
I mean that introverts are tired of feeling undervalued in a culture (I’m talking of the U.S., in particular) that rewards brash and talkative people.
Introverts are fed up and they’re not going to take it any more. So they’ve decided to write books about how valuable they are (what, did you think they were going to start making speeches?). One example of the new genre, Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking(affiliate) is a top seller.
Since several of my dog blogging friends and plenty of S’Waggers who visit here identify as introverts, I’ve started wondering if there is an ideal dog for an introvert to adopt.
Should they live with a gregarious, active dog who will drag them into interacting with other people? Or are they destined to be caretakers for reactive dogs who need a loving person to limit their overstimulation (while conveniently providing an excuse for not being more social themselves)?
What is an Introvert? What is an Extrovert?
I started by googling, “introvert definition.”
I immediately saw why introverts get pissed off. Google says an introvert is a “shy, reticent, and typically self-centered person.” WHAT? Who wrote that? And have they been fired yet?
Merriam-Webster is only slightly better, calling an introvert a “shy” and “quiet” person who does not “find it easy to talk to other people.” It feels kind of judgy, doesn’t it? Criticizing someone’s ability to talk to others?
I find another definition more helpful and it’s based on the ideas of Carl Jung.
Introverts replenish their energy by spending time alone. Extroverts replenish their energy by being around other people.
As an extrovert, I find those dichotomies describe me very well.
I’m self-employed. But if I spend too many hours working alone at home, I become mopey. So I take my computer to the library, go into the office when I don’t really need to, and work on the front porch so I can chat with people admiring my clematis (Oooh, what a dirty mind you have! A clematis is a flower!) as they walk by.
But just because I need to be around people doesn’t mean I always have great social skills or that I don’t have my shy moments. Just like introverts aren’t all hair-chewing freaks sitting in the back of the room.
In fact, some self-described introverts, like my friend Maggie at OhMyDog!, are particularly warm and charming with strangers, perhaps because they’re empathetic toward people who might not feel like they fit in.
Introverts aren’t all shy. But if you agree with my borrowed definition, they don’t need to be around people all the time to be happy. In truth, after spending hours surrounded by other humans, they’re probably happy to get home to their dogs.
Oh, dogs. Yeah, this is a dog blog. So what kind of dog should an introvert have?
Best Dogs for Introverts
Some nice man has actually written a list of the best dogs for introverts. He argues that introverts benefit from having a gentle, easy-going dog (heck, who doesn’t?). And so the first two breeds on his list are Newfoundlands and Saint Bernards.
Apparently the list writer hasn’t met JenK because she finds Newfoundlands a terrible fit if you want to avoid people pestering you with comments and questions about your huge dogs.
I’d argue that he’s going about his list all wrong.
The best dog for an introvert has a fairly high energy level. It’s really hard to interrupt a person and her dog when they’re running crazy zoomies around the park or tossing a ball again and again.
An introvert’s dog should have no unusual characteristics like great size or being from a rare breed. That way your energy isn’t consumed by stupid questions from curious strangers.
I’ve joked that Honey and I are a good fit because we’re both extroverts. But in truth, she might be a better dog for an introvert.
Golden retrievers are very common. Nearly everyone has known one. No one asks me what kind of dog she is.
And her breed is famous for being friendly to strangers.
After asking, “Can I pet your dog?” no one pays attention to me at all. I stand by waiting while some stranger rolls around on the ground playing with my dog. I should probably just start bringing a book with me on walks.
See? Perfect introvert dog.
Introverts and Reactive Dogs
Despite being an extrovert who loves chatting with strangers, I have a soft spot for reactive dogs. Which means I’ve done my share of crossing the street to avoid other people and dogs while on walks or hiding behind parked cars until people move away.
Joanne Brokaw wrote a fascinating article on whether dogs are introverted or extroverted. In it, dog trainer Diane Gardner referred to dogs as reserved or outgoing, rather than introverted or extroverted, because they don’t have the ability to reflect on their experiences the way people do.
A reserved dog will have a greater tendency to become overstimulated. Without the introverted human’s ability to think about their experiences (“I just have to stay at this work party long enough to say hello to everyone and then I can go home”), a dog can become reactive when overly stimulated.
However, a caring and sensitive dog person (introverted or extroverted) can help a reserved dog associate positive things with scary moments (“Ooh, noisy trucks mean I get a hot dog”) so their reactions decrease or go away.
And here’s the special gift an introvert can bring to a reactive dog.
The other difference between introverts and extroverts is that introverts tend to reflect, act, and reflect some more. Extroverts tend to act, reflect (hopefully), and act again.
An introvert’s trait of thinking before acting means they’re more likely to formulate a plan for helping a reactive dog. While an extrovert might be tempted to try something and see how it works before thinking about it too much.
(We extroverts can be trained to slow down and think before acting, but not usually until we’ve blundered into a few situations without reflecting first.)
So I don’t think that every introvert should adopt reserved dogs or look for shelters dogs showing signs of reactivity. But if you do end up with a dog who needs a person to help him deal with an overstimulating world, your introversion may help you with that task.
So What Kind Of Dog Should An Introvert Have
Any kind of dog you want. Because you’ll be so in love with your furry friend that you’ll put up with anything.
Even noisy strangers asking crazy questions or hiding behind trees to avoid scary moments.
And if you don’t agree with that then maybe the best kind of dog for an introvert like you is actually a cat.
Your Turn: Do you think introverts and extroverts look for different things in dogs? Which are you and how does it work with your dog?
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