Matching Personalities

Charli Saltzman

I’m sure if I asked you to tell me about your dog, you would give me a list of traits to describe him or her. You might say she’s friendly but somewhat timid, or he is goofy and full of energy. Other descriptions of a dog could include mellow, gentle, happy, and many other things. When you describe your dog to other people, you are telling them about your dog’s personality.

I am currently in a theories of personality class, and on the first day, we began with a fun activity. We wrote down descriptions of our dogs and then told them to a partner. Research is beginning to study dog personalities. You can’t say that all dogs are the same. Each dog has something unique and different from other dogs. This is why it is important that service dogs and owners are matched at least somewhat by personality.

A lot of people have asked me how I chose my dog. Maybe people think that I get to walk through a row of kennels and just pick one. While this would be so much fun, it doesn’t work that way. When we arrive at the school, instructors do a very informal assessment of our personalities. We don’t take personality tests or anything like that, but the instructors take into consideration how we act, how fast we walk, and how we interact with others in our class. Some of these other things are not as important as our walk. The walking is the most important because you want to have a dog who walks a similar pace. It wouldn’t be good for a fast walker to get a slow dog or a slow walker to get a dog who walks fast. However, the other traits are important. For example, I enjoy being around people. I’m friendly, and I like to get to know people. However, I do enjoy being home. The instructors will ask us what activities we like to do. A person who is always busy will have to have a dog that likes to keep moving. For a person who has a crazy schedule, the dog will have to be flexible, patient, and willing to change routines. I guess I’m sort of in the middle. Being a college student, I sometimes have confusing schedules. Seriously, I sometimes don’t know whether I’m coming or going, but I suppose that’s the life of a student. Either way, Joba is pretty patient with me, though he doesn’t like to wait. He’d rather keep going and going. It is a good thing that I don’t have an uptight, anxious dog who doesn’t like to be around people. Joba likes other people, but he is also very focused on his job which is a good thing.

Breeds_of_guide_do_3099721aThere is always the possibility, however, that instructors make a matching mistake. I’ve had a couple of people in both of my classes who had the dog for a short while and decided between the instructor and themselves that the dog was not a good match. When this happens, all is not lost. The student is immediately given another dog that will hopefully work for them right away. However, some students realize their lifestyle has no room for a guide dog and end up sending the dog back. It varies from student to student. I have been fortunate to not have this happen to me. I don’t know if I could have a dog for a few days and then give it back and start the whole process over with another new dog. Not saying this will never happen to me.


I only know brief information about the matching process. Therefore, I am providing links that will give you more information. Perhaps, if you are deciding to get a dog, you might take some of these into consideration when choosing a dog for yourself.


Guide Dogs of America – Mission

Guide Dogs of America – Matching Process



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