February 22, 2005

Why We Love the Dogs We Do

Stanley Coren’s book groups the various dog breeds by personality type, gives the reader a personality test to determine their qualities, and then matches them with breeds that would make suitable and satisfying pets for them.

Coren’s argument falls along the following lines: people have particular personalities; dog breeds have particular personalities; people with a given personality may get on better with one breed of dog than they would with another. It makes sense in a folksy sort of way. But Coren is at great lengths to convince us that there is serious scientific research behind his theory, and the evidence just doesn’t stand up to a moment’s rational thought, let alone careful scrutiny.

Coren’s classification of dog breeds in personality-based groupings are:

His clever dogs include the herding breeds plus Doberman Pinschers, Poodles and Papillons.

Coren then asks that you calculate your personality using a pared-downversion of the Interpersonal Adjective Scales--a personality test that measures in terms of extroverted/introverted, trusting/controlling, dominant/not-so-dominant, and warm/cool. The findings of this test, when coupled with Coren's new canine classification system, pinpoint the dog/dogs perfect for your personality.

By carefully choosing the answers to my personality test questions I was able to achieve a match with ‘Clever’ dogs.

The rest of the book is filled with gossipy anecdotes about famous people and their pets. And a chapter I rather enjoyed on cat people, which consists of unintentionally funny ‘data’ supporting petty stereotypes of cat owners.

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