Science explains why dogs and their owners look alike

When you’re walking through the local park and think you’re seeing double, your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you. More often than not, dogs and their owners do tend to look alike. It’s not just a coincidence; there’s actually scientific research to back it up.


Sadahiko Nakajima is one psychologist who has studied this phenomenon in depth. As a researcher at Japan’s Kwansei Gakuin University, he found evidence to support why dogs resemble their owners.

Nakajima conducted an experiment back in 2009 to see if strangers were able to match up dogs and their owners. All they had to go on were photographs of their faces. Incredibly, participants identified dogs and owners with 80 percent accuracy.

More recently, Nakajima dove deeper. He created another experiment to test if specific facial features were key to correctly matching dogs and owners. He created two sheets of dog and human portraits. One included dogs matched with their owners, while the other had mismatched dogs and people. To determine which facial features were most important, Nakajima blocked out the mouths or eyes on the photos of the dogs or the humans. Then the participants were randomly assigned to one of five different photo conditions and asked to identify dog-owner pairs.

Nakajima discovered that the eyes have it. When either the human’s or dog’s eyes were covered, accuracy plummeted to around 50 percent. In fact, the participants identified the dog-owner pairs with the same accuracy as they would with random guessing. However, participants could still correctly match dogs and owners 74 percent of the time when all they could see were the eyes.


Other researchers have discovered that owners are responsible for their doppelganger dogs. Similar to selecting a mate, people opt for pooches that are more familiar. Without realizing it, they look for physical features as well as personality traits that resemble their own. For example, they noticed that dogs and owners shared traits like extroversion or shyness. In fact, the personalities of owners and their dogs may be more similar than those of married couples.

And in scanning through the #dogownerlookalike tag on Instagram, it seems dog owners are totally willing to own this unconscious bias. Instagram user @pinewoodcavapoos commented on her and her dog’s similar hairstyles:

Instagram user @inkedbymruniverse struck a silly pose. The similarities are undeniable:

@gizmothelionking has sweeping, blond hair just like his mom/owner:

This is fur real.

Animals, Entertainment, Puzzles & Brain Teasers

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About the Author
Jennifer Nied
Jennifer Nied is a freelance writer and editor based in New York City. She focuses on beauty, wellness, and travel stories with a background covering the spa industry.

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