For decades, groups and employers have utilized personality assessments, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, to understand how different types of people respond to various communication styles and other people’s personalities.
An Orlando, Fla., company called PawsLikeMe launched a website that is using a similar assessment, except it specifically examines a human’s personality as it relates to dogs. One might think about it like Myers-Briggs — but focused on a pet owner’s best match for a canine companion.
“The intent of our algorithm is to quantify the human’s and dog’s personalities,” said Coleen Johnston, PawsLikeMe co-founder and veterinarian. “We wanted to do Myers-Briggs with dogs, but in a nonjudgmental way. There is no good or bad personality. It’s just what they are.”
PawsLikeMe developed from the desire to match dog personalities to appropriate human personalities in order to reduce the number of dogs surrendered, and potentially euthanized, at shelters. The site facilitates fitting the right pet parent for dogs that are being re-homed by private individuals, within government shelters, rescue groups and nonprofits — within one’s search radius.
“We’re not telling people what their personality is,” Johnston said, “We’re telling them what their personality is for the ideal dog. Someone’s lifestyle plays a huge role in what kind of dog will meet their family’s needs.”
Johnston, along with Marianna Benko, co-founder and clinical social worker, and Elizabeth Holmes, co-founder and CEO, developed four basic categories relevant to how a dog interacts with a person.
- Energy: mental and physical
- Focus: Does the dog need to concentrate on something for an extended period?
- Confidence: Does the dog need coaxing, comfort and support in new situations?
- Independence: What is the dog’s need for physical affection; will the dog follow its owner around the house all day?
The second part of the assessment is 20 “agree” or “disagree” questions, such as: I prefer a dog that does not require a lot of petting; I don’t mind a dog that is shy or afraid; I want a dog that can do advanced training such as agility. Based on the combined answers, the dog receives a score in each of the four categories.
“Someone may be a fairly active person and likes to run marathons,” said Holmes, “but may not be willing to run with a dog every day. If their expectation is to take a walk with a dog every day even though they are active outside of that, we’re looking to learn their abilities as a pet parent.”
Johnston wrote the code for the algorithm on the beta site, which launched last August. Since then, the team contracted developers to translate the code to Java, create the search engine function, and create a platform for individuals and organizations to add a new pet.
PawsLikeMe has partnerships with 142 shelters and rescue groups in addition to some veterinary clinics around the nation. This month, it launched the re-homing platform, in which individuals can fill out the pet personality form and re-home their pet. Within the first week, there were more than 100 pets listed for re-homing.
According to the No Kill Advocacy Center, there are about 3 million animals killed in shelters each year due to lack of a home. By being able to list dogs on PawsLikeMe, the intention is to get the right dogs with the right owners, and reduce the number of dogs needing to be put down. County shelters, which unlike private shelters, must accept all pets, experience higher euthanasia numbers, creating an incentive for listing dogs on PawsLikeMe.
“The more pets a shelter can keep out of the shelter, the better it is for them,” Holmes said. “So they are very keen on participating in the program.”
PawsLikeMe collects a $75 adoption fee for re-homing. It donates 50 percent of the adoption fee to the rescue organization from which the pet originated.
“The primary data points for success is the number of adoptions through our website,” Holmes said. “We’re also looking at the number of pets enrolled in the re-homing program, the number of organizations with which we’re partnered, the website traffic rank and the amount we’re able to donate to our partner organizations.”
In the coming months, the team is launching a pet parenting platform in which pet parents can pay a subscription to receive products that are in line with their pet’s specific needs.