Chaz is a free spirit. Iris is a good girl looking for love. Dylan is a foodie who isn’t sure how he feels about kids. Luke likes long walks—really long walks. All of them are ready for a long-term relationship. In fact, they’d like to move in right away. All of them are dogs.
Taking a cue from dating websites, a number of programs have begun using personality tests to pair pets with owners. For example, PawsLikeMe, a website described by a co-founder as “eHarmony for people and pets,” gives humans a questionnaire to gauge their lifestyle and expectations, then returns dating-site-style bios of rescue dogs. (For Karisma, a Chihuahua–pug mix: “If you are looking for big things in little packages, then look no farther!”)
Human–animal matchmaking may sound fanciful, but it mirrors a renewed scientific interest in animal personality. Having moved beyond the fear of anthropomorphism associated with researchers like Jane Goodall (who was ridiculed for “inventing” personality traits for chimps in the 1950s and ’60s), scientists are actively exploring animal personality’s implications for everything from daily care to evolution. As John Shivik, the author of Mousy Cats and Sheepish Coyotes, points out, a species’ survival depends on diversity, including of personality. “If you don’t have variation, you will go extinct,” he says, noting that traits that are advantageous in one situation may not be in another. Boldness, for example, might be beneficial when food is scarce and risk-taking essential, but less helpful at other times. In one study, scientists assessed how bold or shy captive foxes were, and then released them into the wild. After six months, only bold foxes had died, perhaps because they were more inclined to take risks that put them in harm’s way.