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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Animal & Veterinary

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"ENFJ Bichon Frise Seeking ISTP Burmese to Share Home with INTJ Human”

By Gail O’Neill, Contributing Writer, Communications

Looking to increase your dog pack or cat colony?  Soul mate, playmate, furry four-legged family member...try type watching with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)!    
Do you ever wonder why you click with some animals and not others?  Have you ever heard the phrase, “A leopard can’t change its spots?”  Or, “A zebra can’t change its stripes?” 

Watching dogs interact at a dog park is a great way to see personality types in action.  A Chihuahua with lots of charisma may run the show.  A feisty terrier changes the hierarchy because he can.  An easygoing Doberman pinscher defers to the assertive cocker spaniel while a spontaneous poodle won’t follow routines.  The stubborn beagle shakes up the people-pleasing saluki as the chow attempts to reject authority while bossing around everyone else.  Rounding out the animal personality parade is the empathic greyhound maintaining group harmony at all times.  A reserved rottweiler watches from afar. 

In the 1920s, psychologist Carl Jung introduced psychological type theory.  Common personality characteristics were studied.  In the 1940s, psychologists Katherine Briggs and Isabel Briggs-Myers developed the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).  The MBTI incorporates Jung’s concepts.  The MBTI is accepted in organizations worldwide, including FDA’s CVM.
The MBTI sorts preferences but does not measure ability or integrity.  The MBTI’s goal is to understand and appreciate differences.  All types are equal and there is no “best in show” type. 
The combination of four preferences defines personality type. The four preferences include: (1) extraversion or introversion; (2) sensing or intuitive; (3) thinking or feeling; and (4) judging or perceiving.  Everyone functions across the preferences spectrum.  Everyone has preferences within the four categories.  

It is interesting to observe animals for preferences!

Category 1:  Where Attention is Focused (Extraversion or Introversion): Does your pet prefer to focus on the outer world of people, animals, and things (Extraversion)?  Or, does your pet prefer to focus on the world inside itself (Introversion)?  Muldoon, the Bichon Frise (E), prefers to be with people and other animals.  Molly, the Burmese (I), prefers to recharge her batteries with solitude.

Category 2:  The Way Information is Absorbed (Sensing or Intuitive):  Does your pet prefer to use its five senses to absorb information (Sensing)?  Or, does your pet prefer to rely on its instincts (INtuitive)?  Sensors focus on the details (trees) and Intuitors focus on the big picture (forest).  Muldoon (N) uses his “sixth sense” (or instinct) to know when another is ill.  Molly (S) keeps the toys in her toy basket in order by inspecting them with her eyes, nose, and paws. 

Category 3:  Decision Making (Thinking or Feeling):  Does your pet prefer to make decisions using logic and consistency (Thinking)?  Or, does your pet prefer to make decisions using feelings and circumstances (Feeling)?  Muldoon (F) brings home strays and is happy to randomly share his toys.  He is empathic.  Molly (T) counts her toys and feels comfortable when the toy basket and borrowers are in order.  She is practical. 

Category 4:  Structure (Judging or Perceiving):  Does your pet prefer an organized and structured environment (Judging)?  Or, does your pet prefer a flexible and spontaneous environment (Perceiving)?  Muldoon (J) likes to maintain his walking schedule.  Nothing distracts him from his routine.  Molly (P) likes to play spontaneously. She is happily sidetracked.

Combining the letters for each preference in the four categories creates a four-letter “code” for a personality type. For example, Muldoon is an ENFJ and Molly is an ISTP. There are 16 personality types of the MBTI and they are a combination of Jungian theory and years of clinical research.  They are points of reference for insight into yourself and your pets. What personality type best fits your pet? 

Just as each of us has our own personality, each animal does too.  We bond with like-minded souls.  We also bond with different-minded souls because they complement us.   

Personality preferences may be observed among species and breeds.  A Golden retriever (ESFP) rescue organization will advertise their adoptees as kind and fun.  Equestrians may describe horses (ESFJ) as sympathetic and helpful.  Zoo-goers may consider gorillas (ENTJ) social and assertive and kangaroos (INFJ) patient and nurturing. SeaWorld dolphins (ENFP) are people-oriented and risk-takers. Despite being crowded by people, deer (ISFJ) remain warm and generous.      

An animal’s beauty captures your attention but personality captures your heart.  I chose my canine and feline best friends and they chose me.  A human ENFJ, a canine ENJF, and a feline ENFJ.  Soul mates. 

As Jewel sings, “You were meant for me, and I was meant for you.”  MBTI magic.