What Kind Of Dog Should An Introvert Have?

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).

Honey the golden retriever plays with a stuffed elephant.

The Dad is an introvert so I let him hide behind Elephant.

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.

Honey the golden retriever at BlogPaws.

This one, on the other hand, likes meeting people at BlogPaws. I like being around cheesecake.

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.

Honey the Golden Retriever at BlogPaws.

I was thrilled to meet Pup Fan of I Still Want More Puppies. Especially when I found out how good she was at butt scratchies.

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.

Elizabeth and her corgis at BlogPaws.

Our friend Elizabeth from the Chronicles of Cardigan claims corgis make great ice breakers for an introvert.

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.

A newfoundland and friends.

If you don’t want strangers to bother you when you’re walking your dog, don’t adopt one that weighs 160 pounds. Or who looks like a bear. Or who herds corgis.

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.

Honey the golden retriever makes a friend.

Yeah, there’s a hand attached to a leash. But obviously my new friend from Bringing Up Bella only has eyes for me.

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.

A scared dog.

What would you do for this frightened 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.

Cute kitten.

Is the best dog for an introvert actually a cat?

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?

photo credits: Newf – Putneypics, Frightened Dog – Mister-E, Cat – kevin dooley, all via photopin cc. Click on the images to learn more about the photographers.

Disclosure: If a link is marked “affiliate” it will take you to Amazon. If you buy something while there, I will earn a few cents but your item will not cost you more. Thanks for supporting Something Wagging.

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  1. Great article and topic!
    Obviously, as an introvert I am rather sick of people defining an introvert as someone who “hates people”. Your energy spending description is spot-on.
    I came across that article about what dogs are good for introverts when I was writing mine, too. Sure, the big guys like Newfs and St Bernards are great companions for chilling out at home – they relax and are quiet. But he’s completely disregarded factors on having to walk and train your dog. where having a dog that’s a spectacle is maybe more for extroverts.
    Tough call. Perhaps a non-descript perfectly average dog that’s also got low energy is the best for introverts? I don’t know what that would be. lol
    But you’re definitely on to something with the rescue dogs! Alma’s my reactive rescue, and her bouncing around – even though she’s a big Newf – does mean that other dog walkers don’t stop to chat. Best of both worlds!

  2. Mom and I say: a GBGV or better yet two of us. Mom is shy, enjoys being alone and is an introvert, but whenever she is out with one or both GBGV’s she is constantly approached about us and has to talk about us which is great. She loves talking about us, so it isn’t hard for her to be an “extrovert for a few minutes”. She even gives out our business cards to people that are interested in us, something she rarely does other times.

  3. I used to walk my next door neighbor’s HUGE (even for a Newf) Newf. People didn’t so much stop to comment on him as just drive by and hurl odd comments out of the car window. Most people on the ground were petrified of him in his hugeness. Silly, since he was so sweet and gentle.

    Like Elizabeth (with Dewi and JF), I consider myself an introvert (purely because I find social settings so draining. I have lost the shyness of childhood and adolescence.) and having Cardigan Corgis will force you out of your protective shell. While they are more widely recognized now, with my first CWC in the mid-80s thru early 2000s, I was constantly playing a game of 20 questions whenever we were out in public. You talk to a lot of people who you would ordinarily never even notice that way. Back then it was to grill me about what breed it was, now it’s to let me know they know someone with a CWC. Either way, having a unique looking dog brings on more human interaction, so be prepared. Depending on my mood, that might mean ducking down that alley or crossing the street 😉

  4. I’m so glad you wrote this!

    I suppose adopting Blueberry with all her cool markings wasn’t a great idea if I wanted to avoid people. Although at the time, the rescue told me I was the only person that had expressed interest in Blueberry for the several months she had been with them so I thought maybe I was the only one that thought she had beautiful markings. Boy was I surprised when I would take her out in public and so many people stopped to ooh and aah over her. Even if the window in the back was rolled down and people in the next car over could see her, they’d make kissy noises at her or shout out the question, “What kind of dog is she? She’s beautiful!” My initial reason for getting her was that I thought I could train her to be a therapy dog. In a way, I’m glad that never panned out because it turned out she wasn’t really therapy dog material. And the comments and questions I get when I have her out and about I don’t mind answering – but I do find myself trying to find places other people aren’t just to be able to unwind with a nice quiet hike.

  5. Ha! My first reaction to your question was, “A cat.” For seriously introverted people, that truly would be the best pet.
    You pose some interesting thoughts here, and ones that I suspect are not so easily answered. A complex set of ideas, and I’m sure our dogs are glad they don’t have to consider them!

  6. Geez – those definitions! “Self-centered”?? And, yeah, I don’t really want to talk to strangers and I’m quiet in a big group – but I *can* carry on a conversation with another person… if I must.

    As for the type of dog – I think you’re right – it’s “Any kind of dog you want. Because you’ll be so in love with your furry friend that you’ll put up with anything.” Our first dog was a beagle who didn’t like other dogs (cuz she thought she was a person) so she was not unique looking, everyone knew what breed she was, and I didn’t have to stop and chat with strangers.

    Our 2nd dog was a GORGEOUS tri-paw whose breed mix we never knew. Talk about strangers stopping and asking questions! (Some of them irritating – “we don’t need your pity, thanks!”) Plus she loved everyone so would drag me to meet new folks. Not ideal at all for an introvert, but she was still my heart dog. Would love to have had more time with her. :(

    Our current dog, Rita, was described by her foster mother as “average looking”. Plus she’s reactive to strange men, people in hats/earbuds, other dogs – so she’s pretty perfect for me. She’s allowed me to go back to my introverted ways and I don’t have to stop and chat with the neighbors anymore! :)

  7. You’d think with a common dog like a Labrador that I wouldn’t get stopped. I expect it from Sampson as he’s golden/lab but not Delilah and surprisingly she is the one I get stopped about the most. Of course, they are mostly telling me how beautiful she is and I like that, but still it surprises me.

  8. Great post! Thank you for the better definition of introvert. I saw beagle on the list, but of course not all dogs of a certain breed are the same. Our Cricket is shy and reactive, but Kobi was outgoing and friendly. When we went on a walk he wanted to see everyone. But he was also raised for his first year by extroverts.
    Another point this brings to mind is: are there certain breeds that are more prone to reactivity and shyness than others? If there are, maybe introverts should avoid those breeds, because it’s difficult for an introverted person to socialize a puppy. Ian Dunbar says you should have 100 people to your house to socialize your puppy….I’m lucky if I could come up with 25 people I wanted to have to entertain at my house! :)
    One last thing: having dogs is great for introverts because we just don’t feel comfortable talking to a lot of people, partly because we feel different. But if someone wants to talk about dogs….I can go on forever!

  9. This has really made me think about myself. I honestly don’t know if I am an introvert or an extrovert. But, you are correct in that ANY dog is the best dog for an introvert, or an extrovert.

  10. I am a classic introvert. I have lived alone for thirty six years, happily. I love quiet and stillness. I spend as much time outdoors as possible. I have loved animals all my life.
    I am eighty years old. I have trained and shown dogs in obedience. I loved the training and hated showing, actually fainted in a ring while showing.
    I love cats. My first pet was a cat. I have not had a cat in years. My house is too small, but have two lovely rescue Siamese grand cats.
    My favorite breed of dog: Belgian Malinois and Shetland Sheep dogs. I have both. I love dogs with a great zest for living and lots of energy.
    I do not show any more but train as though I do. I love the interaction with another species.

  11. Really enjoyed this…I’m a die-hard introvert and am glad you wrote about the definition that I think suits at least me best. I’ve been in sales and consulting almost my whole career, so I don’t hate people, or public speaking and I’ not shy…but I enjoy being by myself and recharging the batteries. As far as my dog…well I have Labs, so they are hardly shy or retiring, but like Honey they don’t attract too much attention, so they suit me and my personality.

  12. Great article. You had me laughing just reading the title. You gave me an even bigger laugh at the end when you said if an introvert doesn’t agree with what you wrote about the best type of dog for them then maybe they need a cat. BOL!

  13. As an introvert myself, and I loved that last definition, I would say that I’ve found the perfect dog for an introvert in the Greyhound. They are often described as a cat in a dog’s body. They are gentle and quiet. If you want to spend quiet time curled up with a book at home, they are good with that and will usually curl up beside you for companionship. When you go out, they do draw attention, but I view that as a good thing. I have a lot of conversations with people because of the dogs and I like having conversations. I just don’t want them to be meaningless wastes of my time. Talking about the Greyhounds is never that!

  14. This is such a great post, and thank you for the kind words. I read Quiet, and one of my favorite parts was her distinction between being “shy” and being “introverted.” Not the same thing! It was eye-opening to me and helped me overcome a bit of that Webster’s definition! I do think that my “type” helps me relate to Lucas and Cooper, more so than super-extroverted John. I can empathize with their plight a bit better than he can. Emmett, on the other hand, pushes me to come out of my shell! His gregarious, outgoing personality and our work as a therapy team has made me interact with more people than I would ever choose to on my own, but I’ve had him there to break the ice and help me feel more secure!

  15. I’m happy to see so many of my fellow introverts chiming in here. :)

    I don’t really consider myself shy, but it’s true that I probably prefer my own company (and that of my dog) over anyone else. But that doesn’t mean I hate people… it just means I’m fine with getting along on my own. Truth is, I’d love to live someplace quiet and secluded, just me and Nike. As long as I have an internet connection, I could be happy with just the bare minimum of possessions.

    As far as which dogs are best for introverts, I think it’s whichever dog steals your heart. :)

  16. This post is great. I love the research you quoted about introverts vs extroverts – I’m definitely an introvert and although I love people, I need a lot of alone time to re-charge my batteries. Alfie, being a handsome young dog of an unusual breed – attracts so much attention. And he makes it worse by being absolutely adorably puppy like, which seems to work as a people magnet in the park. Its actually quite good – otherwise I might just never talk to anyone :-))

  17. What a wonderful post. Loved the topic. I would venture to say that a Goldendoodle would drive an introvert crazy. They attract entirely too much attention. You did an excellent job on the research. Bravo!

  18. ….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…..

    I just choked on my coffee!!

  19. Great post Pam! I’m an introvert- though I enjoy being around people, I really need my time alone to re-energize! I do not function well when I have to constantly be around people with no break-

    I have to admit, I scrolled through your article to find the list of dogs an introvert should have- when I found the link, I followed it and thought “yes, I could live with one of these big dogs easily!” My dogs breed wasn’t listed- but no surprises there!

    What I find hilarious is my dog Noah, a Plott Hound/Black Lab, is an extrovert- he has to meet and greet and every human and dog that comes our way- he takes after my wife! Since he does this, I’ve meet several people in the neighborhood or in stores that I wouldn’t have met otherwise. For me, an introvert with an extroverted dog!

  20. I am so glad I finally got around to reading this. I have spent a lot of time thinking about whether my dog is an introvert or extrovert and haven’t been able to decide. In some ways, I think she is the latter as she is always extra bouncy after an interaction with another dog, even if it wasn’t positive. However, now that I have read this I realize my initial thought was probably correct and that she is just reacting to the over-stimulation such a greeting always brings. Not necessarily a good thing. Though the bouncing is cute, I need to remember a calm Shiva is probably a much happier Shiva.

    And a much happier me. :-)