Vail Daily Pet Talk column: Let dogs decide elections |

Vail Daily Pet Talk column: Let dogs decide elections

Everyone knows dogs are a great judge of character. And almost everyone also agrees our election process is already in the dog house. So why not let our canine friends sniff out our next set of politicians?

All kidding aside, dogs have played a big role in politics. When president Obama’s family got Bo, it was front page news for a week. In WWII, I am quite certain General Patton’s re-instatement after striking a war torn soldier was due more to the lovability of his Staffordshire Terrier, Willy, and less to do with his military acumen. And President Nixon’s political career was said to be saved by his “Checkers Speech” in which he proclaimed they were keeping a dog his 6-year-old daughter named Checkers regardless of whether it was an improper gift or not:

“I just want to say this, right now, that regardless of what they [the press] have to say about it, we are going to keep it,” — Richard M. Nixon.


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But are dogs really a good judge of character, or are people who love dogs merely good characters? As much as I would love to say the former, it appears the latter is truer. According to animal behaviorists Daniel Estep, Ph.D., and Suzanne Hetts, Ph.D., “There is no evidence that dogs can discriminate people of good or bad character. These are things … that are not automatically known by dogs. If dogs really were good judges of character, why would they live with really bad people? Even Adolph Hitler had a loyal dog.”

OK, so it is obvious, we need to be looking at the traits of humans who own dogs. Researcher Allen McConnell, of Miami University in Ohio, said, “Specifically, pet owners had greater self-esteem, were more physically fit, tended to be less lonely, were more conscientious, were more extroverted, tended to be less fearful and tended to be less preoccupied than non-owners.” Conscientious seems to be a trait I’d like to see in my political representatives!


The breed a person owns can also say a few things about their personality.

“We go for dogs that are a bit like us, just as we go for a romantic partner who is a bit like us,” said study researcher Lance Workman, a psychologist at Bath Spa University in the United Kingdom.

One recent study polled 1,000 people about themselves and their dogs to see if there were patterns. They concentrated on what psychologists call the “Big 5” personality traits: openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism.

The results showed people who own pastoral or utility breeds are very extroverted. Owners of gun dogs like Labrador retrievers and toy dogs like yorkies were the most agreeable. I find it interesting that the most emotionally stable people owned hounds, like Beagles or Afghans, which are not the smartest dogs in the world (and yes, we can measure intelligence in dogs). It makes sense to me, owning a Beagle can test your patience! You want creativity, imagination and openness? Find someone who owns a chihuahua or Maltese.


Of course, we need to take these kinds of studies with a grain of salt and not generalize people by the breed they own. I doubt a divorce judge would buy into the argument that you left your spouse because you just found out they owned a cocker spaniel before you met them and you read online that cocker owners are adulterous. One thing we can take to the bank, though, is that standard poodle owners are funny, intelligent, handsome and humble.


Getting back to politics, however, it would not surprise me in the least if someone told you “I voted for Hellen Back because she owns a cattle dog and her opponent Bill DaPeeple owns a Basset Hound.” Dogs are serious business when it comes to judging people. I am sure I am not the only one who notices politicians and their dogs. Harry Truman said it best, “You want a friend in Washington? Get a dog.”

President Woodrow Wilson said, “If a dog will not come to you after having looked you in the face, you should go home and examine your conscience.”


So here is my political editorial on dogs and politics. Rather than waste millions of dollars and precious resources on TV ads, radio ads and printed garbage that fills up our mailboxes, I propose the following: Do away with unproductive campaigning; it is a huge waste of man and woman power. Instead, weed out potential candidates, line them up and let pound puppies sniff out our next round of paw-liticians. Approval ratings have nowhere to go but up!

Stephen Sheldon, DVM, practices at Gypsum Animal Hospital. He can be reached at 970-524-3647, or by visiting the clinic website at

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