Is Your Dog a Reflection of Your Life? Sherlock Holmes Thinks So

I’ve been catching up on my Sherlock Holmes reading as of late. It only took me twenty years. One of my favourite fiction genres has always been the mystery novel and yet until the last few months, I never once gave Sir Arthur Conan Doyle a try. Granted, I did most of my mystery reading as a teenager. Back then the lives of older white men understandably held very little interest for me. So far I am enjoying the experience. The books aren’t without problems, of course, and I have some beefs with the point of view, but they make for good reading on a cold winter’s night.

One wouldn’t think a fictional Victorian detective would have anything to do with dogs. One would be wrong. Perhaps it is just proof of my own obsessions but it didn’t take me long before I found a story that relates at least indirectly to my favourite subject.

In The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes, there is a tale called “The Adventure of the Creeping Man.” The plot of this story doesn’t matter and I won’t go into detail about that. It was a particular line of thought shared by the title character that caught and held my interest, rather than the narrative. I will quote it exactly:

“A dog reflects the family life. Whoever saw a frisky dog in a gloomy family, or a sad dog in a happy one? Snarling people have snarling dogs, dangerous people have dangerous ones. And their passing moods may reflect the passing moods of others.”

Naturally, I immediately stopped reading and thought over this concept.

The idea of people’s moods affecting their dogs’ behaviour isn’t new. It is also one I have explored a lot on here. Most trainers and behaviorists agree that our emotions directly impact the emotions of our dogs. This is why I was told to sing a song to myself when walking Shiva in the earlier days of her reactivity. If I could prevent myself from tensing, I could hopefully help her relax as well.

I think what Sherlock Holmes determined in the above quote takes this a step further. And it was written long before dog behaviour was anything scientists studied in any great detail. Insightful, I think, but is it completely accurate?

Shiva is a mostly happy dog: anxious at times, dislikes surprises, values her family life more than anything else. She is adventurous in her appetite and attitude. She is not overly fond of strangers. She has lots of energy but is not ambitious.

Yep, I can relate to that.

What do you think? Does your dog reflect your life?

Congratulations go out to Elyse and Riley, winners of last week’s giveaway! Thanks to everyone who participated and shared their favourite videos. You made my weekend a lot more adorable than it would have been otherwise. For those that missed it, I highly recommend checking out the comments for this post. Make sure you have some serious time to spare.

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22 Comments on Is Your Dog a Reflection of Your Life? Sherlock Holmes Thinks So

  1. Pamela | Something Wagging This Way Comes
    January 28, 2013 at 11:26 am (1 year ago)

    I love this post. You’ll have me thinking about this for a week.

    Maybe I’ll change my mind tomorrow. But I wonder if we choose dogs that reflect something of ourselves? And sometimes we choose dogs that reflect our aspirations.

    That doesn’t mean dogs aren’t later influenced by our personalities, just like couples start to look alike or share mannerisms.

    But something draws us to a dog. And I bet it’s more than looks.

    When we adopted Agatha and Christie, I wasn’t going to take Agatha because she was too neurotic. But Mike insisted on taking them both. In the end, I became intensely attached to Agatha, probably because her neuroses were so much like my own.

    But her neuroses were quite evident from the first time I saw her in her crate. So I’m not going to take credit for making her that way. :)
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  2. Jodi
    January 28, 2013 at 12:27 pm (1 year ago)

    As Pamela said, you’ll have me thinking about this one for a while and it might even generate a post or two. (With credit back to you of course!)

    My dogs love to be around their family and love to meet and greet people, I consider them to be very social, much like someone else in my household who craves interaction with others. :-)

    I do love the way the character summed it up though, “snarling people have snarling dogs, dangerous people have dangerous dogs” it’s a great way to judge a person when you meet them out and about, no?
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  3. Leslie
    January 28, 2013 at 12:52 pm (1 year ago)

    I’m going to have to give this some thought as well and wonder what such a statement says about me and Jan. I suspect there is some obvious truth to it but to what level of detail, I’m not sure.

    To Jodi’s point above – does a snarling dog you meet on a walk *always* reflect the owner’s personality? Those of us with reactive dogs might have to disagree. ;)

    Having owned two dogs that couldn’t be more different, I’m sure I’ll be reflecting on this all week long.
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  4. Heather
    January 28, 2013 at 1:30 pm (1 year ago)

    Annie is the only dog that I have ever had from puppyhood & she reflects my personality back at me day after day; some of it good, some of it bad. With that being said though, over the years I have had the pleasure of sharing my home with dogs that have been the exact opposite of me. I have been pondering this very thing for awhile now & am still not sure how I feel about it. Maybe it is just chance that Annie is my canine doppelganger.
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  5. Donna
    January 28, 2013 at 1:41 pm (1 year ago)

    Good question. Lets see, I’m not great with small children. They make me uncomfortable. Hmmm….that sounds like Leah.

    I get rush around like a lunatic when I’m trying to get out of the house to go somewhere. I always feel like I’m running late. Hmmm…Toby runs in circles when he sees me gathering leashes and treat pouches.

    Okay, so I’m not entirely fearful like Meadow…but she came that way and has been improving….so yes, judging by the two that have been here longer….I guess there is some validity to all this. :-)
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  6. Sam
    January 28, 2013 at 2:02 pm (1 year ago)

    I’ve always loved Sherlock Holmes and have enjoyed reading his stories since I was little. I don’t take them horribly seriously, but once in a while there is something that makes me pause.

    Sam
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  7. Sue
    January 28, 2013 at 2:29 pm (1 year ago)

    There are times when I’ve felt down and Polly has come and sat or layed by my feet, or brought a toy over for me to play with her. Certainly lifts my mood.

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  8. Blueberry's human
    January 28, 2013 at 3:04 pm (1 year ago)

    Interesting post! I guess I was attracted to Blueberry’s profile when I saw her on Petfinders because she sounded so laid back. I didn’t really attribute it to her being like me or like someone I wish I were. Although I suppose we are similar in that we like people, we just don’t necessarily enjoy strangers coming up and getting all handsy with us. ;)

    And also, I doubt you’ve ever jumped through a drive thru window for a treat, right? Or maybe you just wanted to…
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  9. Amy@GoPetFriendly
    January 28, 2013 at 3:17 pm (1 year ago)

    A very interesting question! I don’t know that we “chose” pets that reflected our personalities – Ty was just a tiny puppy when we got him and Buster chose us by showing up on our doorstep. The funny thing is – they’re completely opposite! Though, I do think that one of them is more like me and one is more like Rod … but I won’t be saying which to preserve marital harmony.
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  10. Taryn
    January 28, 2013 at 5:11 pm (1 year ago)

    Hmmm, my dogs are pretty different from each other. One friendly and outgoing, the other shy and a bit of a loner. I got them both as young pups. I don’t think they are the way they are as a result of my personality so much as their own innate being. However, I do think they can pick up on my mood! That’s why agility is hard for us. I get ring nerves that quickly transfer to my dog. I’m sure they wonder why I get so weird at trials compared to just a class. My younger dog especially watches my face a lot, I think in order to gauge what mood I’m in.
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  11. jan
    January 28, 2013 at 5:46 pm (1 year ago)

    All of my dogs have somewhat different personalities. Does this mean I have Multiple Personality Disorder?
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  12. Jen
    January 29, 2013 at 12:36 am (1 year ago)

    Without putting too much thinking into this, both my dogs are so different but I think are a combination of me.
    Leroy is goofy and full of life, he doesn’t take things very seriously and has a mind of his own. Sherman is more serious yet neurotic with some things and being with his family is the most important thing to him.
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  13. houndstooth
    January 29, 2013 at 1:01 am (1 year ago)

    I wonder if it’s that our dogs are a reflection of our personalities and home lives or if we’re drawn together and like attracts like. My deepest canine connections have been with dogs who chose me versus me choosing them. I think sometimes we’re mirrors of each other and other times, one of us just has a good or bad day!
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  14. Merciel
    January 29, 2013 at 2:01 am (1 year ago)

    Would it be fair to say that it was probably truer in Conan Doyle’s day than it is in ours? ;)

    Back then, I imagine people mostly got dogs that were useful for their jobs — a ratcatcher might have a terrier, a shepherd would have a collie, a suspicious groundskeeper might get a bitey mastiff (back then, dogs that bit people seriously weren’t demonized if it happened in the course of doing their jobs!), and so on. Today, our pets are mostly companions, and their behavior is much more tightly restrained.

    But yes, I definitely see myself shaping my dog to match my priorities, and in the years I’ve had him, he’s certainly come to reflect his owner!
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  15. Lilli
    January 29, 2013 at 5:05 am (1 year ago)

    I think it’s possible. It’s quite same in humans too. If your family isn’t doing so well it will reflect in you someway and vice versa. Why not in dogs too. After all they can pick out your mood more easily than humans and they do know when you are just pretending to be happy or sad. It would be interesting to know if there’s some kind of study of this :)

    -Lilli-
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  16. Flea
    January 29, 2013 at 3:00 pm (1 year ago)

    Interesting. We probably choose our dogs based on their personalities, as well. My current Aussie mixes are surprisingly calm dogs for the breed. A little neurotic, but mostly calm. Our last Aussie, when we and our children were younger and more active, was hyper. But the choosing – I don’t think I could ever own a small, nervous dog. It wouldn’t suit me or my family.
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  17. Abby (Doggerel)
    January 29, 2013 at 6:16 pm (1 year ago)

    Great quote! Thanks for sharing. I love finding little nuggets like that about dogs in literature. I definitely think the theory applies with me and Pyrrha; I often feel like I can empathize with her nervousness about new people, strange sounds, and changes in routine! At the same time, though, she’s also taught me to overcome my own little anxieties for her sake. If I’m nervous about something, she’ll pick up on it, so it’s something I’m learning to curtail in myself.
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  18. Karen Friesecke
    January 29, 2013 at 8:58 pm (1 year ago)

    While my friends are convinced that Jersey reflects my hidden inner desire to be a princess, neither of the dogs reflect my personality. Dexter is a happy go-go positive puppy, which is so NOT me, either.
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  19. lexy
    January 31, 2013 at 5:53 pm (1 year ago)

    I think it makes sense overall… not that the dog will be happy exactly when you are, or snarly exactly when you are – but I think it’s like kids – your kids turn out kind of like you are, an inexact reflection of you. And so someone who usually is grumpy and unpleasant will likely not end up with an always-friendly dog… not after they and the dog have been together for a long time.
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  20. melF
    February 4, 2013 at 12:29 am (1 year ago)

    Oooo! I love this post!

    I think he Holmes was right. I do think that a dog is a reflection of the family life. Have you ever met a confident, happy dog who has lived in an overbearing, abusive home? I haven’t.

    I immediately thought of my aunt (who I loved dearly). She was kind of nutty and nervous most of the time. Her dogs were always a little neurotic. I think they got it from her.

    On the other hand, I have been told that I am rather even-keeled and balanced (I hope that doesn’t sound pompous) and many people have said to me that my dogs seem that way as well. (Even in my year-end review this past week my leader said I was “balanced”! I’m beginning to think that means I am boring. Eeek!)

    I give full credit to Daisy. I had to be balanced to help her.

    And to think these books were written so long ago!
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