updated 3/31/2004 2:14:46 PM ET 2004-03-31T19:14:46

Those who think purebred dogs look like their owners are barking up the right tree, but matching a mutt to its master is another thing, a study suggests.

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Research at the University of California, San Diego indicates that when people pick a dog, they look for one that, at some level, bears some resemblance to them. And when they get a purebred dog, they get what they want.

When given a choice of two dogs, judges correctly matched 25 purebreds with their owners nearly two out of three times. With mutts, however, the pattern went to the dogs.

“When you pick a purebred, you pick it specifically because of how it’s going to look as a grown-up,” said Nicholas Cristenfeld, UCSD professor of psychology and co-author of the study, which appears in the current issue of Psychological Science.

Doesn't apply to mutt owners
Cristenfeld said mutt owners such as himself make their choice on the spur-of-the-moment at a dog pound, not knowing what a puppy will look like.

Forty-five dogs and their owners chosen at random were photographed separately at three San Diego dog parks. The judges, some 28 undergraduates taking psychology classes at UC San Diego, were shown pictures of the owners and two dogs and asked to match the correct dog with the owner.

Out of the 25 purebreds, there were 16 correct matches and nine misses. For 20 mutts in the study, there were seven matches, four ties and nine misses.

“There is a certain stereotype of person from each breed,” said Tracy Cavaciuti, a French Bulldog breeder in Connecticut.

Hound people 'very doggy'
So what kind of person likes the pop-eyed, pointy-eared, pug-nosed Frenchie?

“Actually, they’re quite trendy and good-looking,” Cavaciuti said, adding that they tend to strut on the streets of New York City’s tony Upper East Side.

Hound people are a different story.

“You can spot them a mile away,” she said. “They’re very doggy.”

How the aristocratic Afghan Hound or the otherworldly French Bulldog resemble their owners is unclear since the study found judges didn’t use any one characteristic to make the matches. There were no significant correlation between dogs and owners on the basis of size, attractiveness, friendliness and energy level when considered separately.

“People are attracted to looks and temperaments that reflect themselves or how they perceive themselves,” said Gail Miller, a spokeswoman for the American Kennel Club. Miller, who has owned several bearded collies, described her “beardies” as gregarious, active dogs.

“I’m definitely like them — very outgoing, likes to have fun and get active,” she said.

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