Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

Dogs go through a midlife crisis just like humans, study finds

Published Oct 19th, 2020 6:58PM EDT
dog age study
Image: SasaStock/Adobe

If you buy through a BGR link, we may earn an affiliate commission, helping support our expert product labs.

  • A new study focusing on personality changes in dogs finds that dogs tend to stop novelty-seeking around age three and experience personality changes up until age six.
  • Dogs tend to become jaded about new places and experiences after they reach the age of three.
  • The study shows that personality changes in dogs are a lot like those in humans.

Human personalities tend to change over time. It’s rarely an abrupt change, but over the course of several decades, our outlook on life and our opinions about various things shift in a way that shapes our personality in new ways. Around four or five decades into our lives, some people experience a profound and sometimes unsettling realization that their lives are roughly half-over, and a “mid-life crisis” can ensue.

As it turns out, man’s best friend experiences similar changes in personality, though on a much shorter timeframe than humans. In a new study published in Scientific Reports, researchers reveal that dogs tend to undergo a shift in their perception of the world at a relatively predictable point in the lives, and that change makes them less interested in new experiences and, in a way, more jaded.

The researchers came up with an experiment to track canine personalities across over 200 dogs of the same breed. The team chose Border collies, which are known to be incredibly smart, and their ages ranged from less than a year old to 15 years of age.

The study examined how interested the dogs were in new experiences and surroundings by introducing them to rooms that they were not familiar with. The scientists carried out a number of tests on the dogs, tracking various behavior such as how willing the dogs were to explore their new environment, how they greeted someone unknown to them, how they dealt with separation and isolation, how obedient the dogs were, and how they dealt with threatening gestures. This is just an abbreviated list of the testing parameters, and there were several more that the researchers carried out.

Ultimately, the researchers wanted to paint a picture of each dog’s personality at their specific stage in life. The team even conducted follow-up research four years after the initial testing to see how the personality of the dogs may have changed during that time period.

The researchers were able to identify a number of interesting quirks in canine personality, but one of the most important findings is that dogs tend to be less interested in new things after the age of three. This change was predictable, even in the dogs that hadn’t yet reached that age, and follow-up testing confirmed the change at roughly the same time in each dog’s life.

What they also discovered is that by the time a dog reaches the age of six, their personality is much less likely to dramatically change going forward. It’s not set in stone, of course, and there were individual personality quirks that were observed with certain dogs and not with others, but overall, dogs that reach the age of six are likely to maintain a steady personality for the rest of their lives.

More Science