Do pets tend to be good judges of character?

It might be confirmation bias but have you noticed that pets tend to respond more positively to some people than others? If so, for what possible reasons?

I would absolutely agree that the pets in my life will respond to some people in a more open and positive way than they may react to others. I have no reason to believe that the other person’s character has anything to do with it.

IMHO, the biggest factor in determining a dog’s reaction to a stranger is by picking up behavioral clues from their family or pack. If I am relaxed and friendly when someone new to the dog arrives then my dog is more likely to be relaxed and friendly towards that person. If I’m nervous or hostile then my dog is more likely to share that reaction.

Naturally there are many other variables that can throw off this simple guideline. Maybe my dog was kicked one time by someone wearing a blue shirt. This might be enough to trigger lifetime fear of anyone wearing a similar shirt.

Cats, who knows what the hell is going on in there?

My dogs are social butterflies and for them a stranger is just a friend they haven’t met yet. This includes people of all races, yuppies, landscapers and construction workers, people speaking Spanish or English, wearing clothes and hats of all kinds.

So one day when we were out walking and they started veering a wide circle around this guy walking toward us, I respected their opinion. I don’t know what they sensed but it wasn’t good.

My 2 less than brilliant house doggies are not a good measure of this. One is seriously handicapped, the other likes anyone who might have food or skritches.

My daughter’s 2 visiting Chihuahuas (whom I hate, just sayin’), have decided I have all the answers to their needs and happiness. I’m default ‘packleader’
I swear I never intended for this to happen.

Mid-daughter is pee-oh’ed about this. They never minded her. She screeched at them continuously, squirted a water bottle, used a clicker. All to no avail.

I set out to reaffirm their potty training, coz’ I don’t like dogs to pee and poop in my house.
In that excercise, somehow I became their defacto ‘person’
Now they have to sleep in my room. They are completely trustworthy not to go potty in the house.
I’m not sure how all this happened. It wasn’t hard or long in coming. I just said one day, “I’m gonna train these two dogs”
And, now I’m their ‘goddess’

Go figure?

On to ‘Cat’ training.:eek:
If I go MIA, you’ll know why.

Our pug is an idiot. She’ll bark at my SIL - and he lives here! She goes bat-crap crazy when his brother comes over - and he dog-sat her for a week once! Both of them are very easy-going, laid-back sorts. And I’ve been told that when my husband and I are away, she doesn’t bark at all. So there’s one data point for: Not any kind of judge of character.

Nope. Our cats think I sit at the right hand of Bastet and am a Prince Among Men.

Shows what they know.

Dogs are individuals. Our goofy dog Loki would be thrilled to get attention from Charlie Manson. Our GSD Kali is more reserved. Once we tell her a stranger is cool, she’s happy to meet them. Our old dog Ella would rip your gramma’s throat out if her vibes were off.

Pepita, my best dog ever, absolutely loved me and was very protective . If you were a wonderful individual, she might not hate you. When a cop friend/master dog trainer was helping me train Ella, he was provoking Ella to bite him by striking out at me. Nobody realized Pepita was outside. When he pretended to hit me Ella growled, but didn’t attack. Pepita came out of nowhere and tried to kill him though, leaving some nasty bruises through his bite suit. Months later when he came over for other reasons we had to lock Pepita up or she’d have tried to kill him.

My pets like people I like, for the most part, and are leery of people I’m leery of, for the most part. By pets I mean dogs. The cats, who can figure?

Some exceptions. My last dog did not like homeless people. I don’t know why. I have nothing against homeless people. On walks, he would have a certain reaction, and his hackles would rise, and a minute or so later I would spot a person, maybe on the sidewalk with a sign, maybe just hanging. By this time he would be growling and I would be moving him to a distance that was less triggering. (Social distancing, he was great at it.)

He didn’t like cops, either.

Other exception: He did not like my grandchildren. He loved their parents. But the first time he encountered my grandson, when he was a puppy, my grandson teased him; I told him to stop, my son told him to stop, but apparently the damage was done. Kids = bad. So that was a challenge. He regarded them with suspicion and it brought a certain tension when they were over.

I have had dogs that could be won over by anyone with a single treat. Not the last one, though. Whenever anyone except a family member or his trainer offered him a treat, he got very suspicious. He always got a treat at PetsMart and a few other places, and he would sit politely for the treat, then reject it. I would put it in my pocket and he knew it was there, and he’d take it from me, after awhile. We must have somehow taught him this, but not on purpose.

Also, and this is kind of weird, if he had a dog friend, he was immediately a friend of everyone in that dog’s family. If he had a dog enemy, he was immediately an enemy of everyone in that dog’s family. So if we encountered the owner of a certain Great Dane, even if the Great Dane wasn’t with her at that moment, we couldn’t get close. We had to talk from a distance, and he growled the whole time. But the owner of the Goldendoodle, who was a terrible gossip and a bore and a person I tried to avoid? He would drag me right over to her, whether she had the Goldendoodle with her or not, because Goldendoodle was a pal.

I once had a racist dog, a poodle-sheepdog mix. She was normally a very sweet, affectionate dog. But when the mailman came, she sometimes went berserk by the window, barking and carrying on wildly. One day, my mom noticed that the dog only did this when the mailman was black. Every single time. And no reaction to a white mailman.

Every cat I ever had has been affectionate and playful with me and everyone else. Never a problem.

Hitler’s dogs apparently were fond of him (I know, I lose the thread).

Just found out that Hitler’s first dog was a Jack Russell terrier. Which figures (at least, according to Mrs. J., who considers JRTs “the assholes of the dog world”).

“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.”

  • Sherlock Holmes, in “The Adventure of the Creeping Man”.

My dog tends to distrust everyone. I think he may have been abused. He was found wandering on the side of the road. But, if he decides to like you he’s very friendly
Females are more likely to be accepted than males.
Almost everyone welcome in the house is a friend. Everybody at his second house, a neighbor that lives about three doors down, is a friend. This includes delivery people.
Kids are usually not trusted. I think it’s because they tend to come to him too quickly.
The two people who he doesn’t like are men would probably be considered ultra-conservative - shoot guns, “don’t tread on me” truck decals/flags, etc. And he doesn’t like the dog he doesn’t like belongs to one of these. All other dogs are friends.

My dog rates people on the following scale:

  1. people who are giving her treats now
  2. people who have given her treats in the past (2 is sub-divided by how frequently or often they have given her treats)
  3. people who are in locations where she has been given treats (are you wandering around the pet store? she thinks you’re awesome)
  4. everybody else
    It could be that there is some kind of correlation between being a person of good character and going to the hardware store where they keep treats behind the counter - but that doesn’t seem likely.

I had a racist cat too. But only towards men. He specifically disliked white men. Men who were at all brown-skinned, he loved extravagantly. Although we got him very young, our home was already his third home, so presumably something bad had happened in one of them.

IME dogs tend to like fairly calm people - that is, except the many dogs who love everyone - but being calm doesn’t necessarily correlate with being a good person to be around. I guess it could mean that the person is not comfortable in that environment and doesn’t fit in, but that’s as far as it goes.

Our late ‘pit bull’ was like the first part, but I never saw her seriously wary of anyone at all. I never saw direct evidence she could grasp the concept of ‘human who is not my friend’.

She liked me, as a buddy, seemingly more than anyone else, but I have to guess that was about the amount of time we spent together rather than a character judgment. Her attitude toward my wife and daughter was more like reverence. I used to say, she probably loved the bastard(s) who cut off her ears and used her to breed fighting dogs in her earlier life. We tried to be worthy of her.

Our earlier hound mix liked most people but could easily take a disliking to particular people for either systematic (he didn’t like old people for some reason) or random individual reasons. He was a bit of a weird guy, though also lovable.

Every cat we’ve had has immediately cozied up to any guest who is allergic to cats.

My old Rat Terrier had it in for any kinda of small prey. She loved the chase.
So little kids running around was such fun and games to her.
She would be nearly laughing, it seemed like. She never nipped, just chased.

She came on so strong a few kids would be afraid of her. If they didn’t run around she would sit close and watch, ready to bound after them if they moved.

Other than that, she was wary of any grown up until she got to know them.

I’ve read that this is because people who are allergic to cats look away from them, hoping the cat won’t notice them and come near them. But cats, and to an extent dogs, see looking away as non-threatening behavior that puts them at ease so they tend to go to them first.

How did she interact with cats and other small dogs?

Dogs like me way more than I like them, especially dogs I’m barely more than indifferent to. I don’t think that speaks highly of their judgment.

Pets, and I really mean dogs, are good judges of routine. If it’s in their routine to meet new people and be friendly, then they’re going to look for those cues from other newcomers. If it’s not in their routine, they often won’t be thrilled.

Character, other than “are they threatening the Human or me”, doesn’t enter into it. Some dogs will sense malleability in a human, in that the person won’t react to the dog’s dominance displays, or will do what the dog wants: “Oh, this one’s a pushover. Hold my toy until I’m done chewing on it, then throw it. But not too far.” Again, not judging character in any way you’d find useful.