Life

11 Weird Habits You Didn't Know Dogs Adopt From Their Owners

Who knew dogs could be introverts or extroverts?

Dogs mimic imitate their owners in surprising ways.
Kyle Kuhlman / 500px/500px Prime/Getty Images
Updated: 
Originally Published: 

It’s long been held that dogs tend to look like their owners (re: that montage in 101 Dalmatians). But this common saying actually has science to back it up — plenty of research has revealed that dogs often share facial features with their human counterparts, including details as specific as eye appearance (say what?). That being said, looks aren’t the end-all-be-all when it comes to ways the dogs mimic their owners. Some canine pals seem to act like their humans, too, and vice versa.

"Dogs are very observant and will witness and take in more visual and auditory stimuli than their humans may notice," Stephanie Liff, DVM, of Pure Paws Veterinary Care, tells Bustle. "Because of [their] vigilant nature, they are likely to pick up some habits they are witnessing regularly from their human." While sharing habits may mean you have to be careful not to encourage some less-positive behaviors — even if they’re really cute — it mostly means that your dog will find ways to fit happily into your routine.

A lot of habits dogs share with their owners are intuitive to your furry friend. They’re just adapting to fit into your life — another reason dogs have been so historically beloved by humans. To help understand why it is that dogs mimic the people around them, here are 11 weird and surprising dog habits you may not know can be adopted from owners, according to experts and research.

1

They May Talk Like You

Shutterstock

Some dogs naturally like to vocalize, and if they’re around owners who often speak to them, they may speak back. "Some vocal breeds will howl and bark when a parent howls or is rowdy with them," certified dog and cat behaviorist and trainer Russell Harstein tells Bustle. "If that behavior of vocalizing is reinforced, the dog will continue to offer those behaviors."

So, if you and your dog have a "conversation" at some point, and you react positively, that moment may become a habit the two of you share.

2

They May Sleep Like You

Dogs naturally sleep way more during the day than people, but they can also get used to your nighttime schedule. Sleeping alongside a dog is great — research has shown it can promote feelings of comfort and security — and your dog will adjust their habits to make sure this is possible. "I think the most common adopted behavior is sleeping patterns," Dr. Liff says. "If the owner likes to stay up late and wake up late, the dog is likely to adjust to the same schedule." While not all dogs can alter their sleep schedule, many will try to make it work.

3

They May Get Hungry When You Do

If you tend to feed your dog around your own meal times, they'll likely start to get hungry at the same time as you. "Typically, if a pet is being fed at a regular time and that changes, they will react to that," Dr. Liff says. "They are conditioned to expect meals based on time of day or certain triggers that indicate meal time is coming, and may become upset or agitated or demanding ... if that schedule changes." Just like you may get frustrated if you have to work through lunch, your dog may get annoyed if you come home late and delay their dinner.

4

They May Want A Similar Exercise Routine

Another way dogs mirror their owner's habits is in their exercise routine. Your daily workout schedule will become the norm for them, even if it changes for you. "If a pet is conditioned to regularly scheduled walks of a specific duration and time, and that schedule changes, you may see a negative impact on your dog," Dr. Liff says. They’ll make it clear that they're eager to get out and about if you miss one day's jog.

5

They Might Share Your Moods

VioletaStoimenova/E+/Getty Images

Most dog owners know that their dog gets excited when they're excited, or that their pooch will lie on the couch with them when they’re sad or sick. There’s science behind this: "Emotional contagion is the phenomenon of shared emotions between social species when in close proximity to one another," Hartstein says. "Hence, if a parent is calm and confident, a dog will tend to be calm and confident. On the flip side, if a parent is hyper and fearful, the dog will also be inclined to be more hyper and fearful." The sharing of emotions may extend beyond moods and into general emotional habits.

6

How They Express Affection

While some dog breeds are cuddlier than others, and some are more likely to lick, the extent to which a dog shows affection can be informed by their owner’s habits. "We show affection in different ways, and some people are more affectionate than others," Nicole Ellis, certified professional dog trainer, tells Bustle. "Our animals often fall into the same habits of expressing their affection, from staying distant with simple tail wags to cuddling and kisses." Your dog may love cuddles this much because you've made the habit of picking them up and putting them on your lap.

7

They May Move Like You

As you move around, you may realize your dog starts to mimic some of your walking patterns. This habit is pretty well known by trainers, who actually use it to their advantage. "Our pets often try to mimic us — there [are] even training methods using entirely this," Ellis says. "Many pet owners create habits of dancing with their dogs, and soon the dogs have their own dance moves, too, [like] jumping up and down, howling, and spinning." Not all dogs will end up doing full dances on the hardwood floor with their owners, but many may find little ways to mirror the movements of the people around them.

8

They May Get Excited About The Same People As You

You may have noticed that your dog has a bit of a "sixth sense" for people you dislike. "Dogs can easily pick up on our emotions, from happy and excited to scared and upset," Ellis says. "If we get excited every time someone in particular comes over, our pets will soon pick up this same habit of being excited for this new company." The same goes for people you aren’t as fond of. This lovely trait of dogs means they can help protect you from people you don't feel comfortable around, and help make those you love feel warm and welcome.

9

They May Share Your Social Preferences

Just like humans, dogs can be introverted or extroverted, and according to research, dogs will often adopt whichever social preference their owner has. If you’re the life of the party, your dog might be too. And if you’re more comfortable with a night in on the couch watching movies, your dog might be the same and not a big fan of group settings.

In fact, a 2019 study showed that shared social environments and activities likely contribute to a correlation between owners, their dogs, and their personalities. “Dogs learn from the vibe that you're giving,” Blake Rodriguez, certified dog trainer and behavior specialist and founder of Dream Come True K9, tells Bustle. “They're going to read your energy, they're going to read your intent, they're going to read your body language.” So, if you give off happier, more comfortable vibes in smaller groups or alone, rather than in large social settings, your dog will read that.

10

They May Mimic Your Injuries

Shutterstock

Dogs have also been known to mimic their owners when it comes to exhibiting injury — such as in one viral instance of an English man walking with a limp from a recovering foot injury, who spent £300 (almost $400) on vet fees only to find out his dog was completely healthy and simply mimicking his limp.

While it seems like sympathy coming from dogs toward their owner, this type of behavior is likely due to “automatic imitation” in dogs — something that humans exhibit, too. Automatic imitation is a crucial aspect of social learning in human development, and it essentially means you unconsciously imitate the behaviors of people around you. The same goes for your pooch.

11

They May Share Your Stress

One not-so-great quality your dog may adopt from you is stress and anxiety. The results of a 2021 study in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior showed a significant correlation between owners’ anxiety and the severity of their dogs’ fear and anxiety-related behavior.

“If you are a fearful individual, or if you are really scared and you get scared in situations, it might not be the best, because it will project that onto a dog that's also scared in the moment,” Rodriguez explains. “You have a dog that thinks, ‘Oh no, we have to be scared together. This is a scary thing.’” In the same way, however, dogs will also share their owners’ level of confidence and security. When possible, it’s important to maintain a strong, positive presence around your pet.

While not all dogs will pick up on these habits — and some vary by breed and temperament — it is true that dogs tend to share behaviors with their owners. This is generally quite a positive thing that will keep your dog happy in the life you provide for them, as long as it's healthy and loving.

Experts:

Stephanie Liff, DVM of Pure Paws Veterinary Care

Russell Harstein, certified dog and cat behaviorist and trainer

Nicole Ellis, certified professional dog trainer

Blake Rodriguez, certified dog trainer and behavior specialist and founder of Dream Come True K9

Studies cited:

Payne, C., Jaffe, K. (2005). Self seeks like: many humans choose their dog pets following rules used for assortative mating. J Ethol 23, 15–18 . https://doi.org/10.1007/s10164-004-0122-6

Nakajima, S. (2013). Dogs and Owners Resemble Each Other in the Eye Region, Anthrozoös, 26:4, 551-556, DOI: 10.2752/175303713X13795775536093. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.2752/175303713X13795775536093

Hoffman, C. L., Stutz, K., & Vasilopoulos, T. (2018). An examination of adult women’s sleep quality and sleep routines in relation to pet ownership and bedsharing. Anthrozoös, 31(6), 711–725. https://doi.org/10.1080/08927936.2018.1529354

Huber, A., Barber, A., Faragó, T., Müller, C. A., & Huber, L. (2017). Investigating emotional contagion in dogs (Canis familiaris) to emotional sounds of humans and conspecifics. Animal cognition, 20(4), 703–715. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10071-017-1092-8

Chopik, W. J., Weaver, J. R. (2019). Old dog, new tricks: Age differences in dog personality traits, associations with human personality traits, and links to important outcomes. Journal of Research in Personality, Volume 79, April 2019, Pages 94-108. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrp.2019.01.005

Friederike, R., Ludwig, H., Cecilia, H. (2011). Automatic imitation in dogs. Proc. R. Soc. B.278211–217 http://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2010.1142

Pereira, M., Lourenco, A., Lima, M., Serpell, J., Silva, K. (2021). Evaluation of mediating and moderating effects on the relationship between owners’ and dogs’ anxiety: A tool to understand a complex problem. Volume 44, 2021, Pages 55-61, ISSN 1558-7878. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jveb.2021.03.004.