What’s Your Animal Personality Style?

In “Are You Facing Your True North”, I shared about personality styles in general including a variety of assessments available to determine yours.  My original intention was to write about the following however “True North” sort on took on a life of its own and so now I want to share about my favorite way of defining personalities based on the following animals:

  • Puppy Dog 
  • Cat 
  • Canary 
  • Gold Fish 

Like the popular DISC assessment, no one is 100% one specific style.  We’re all a blend of the four types which makes up seemingly endless combinations with each individual having his own singular and unique style.  When communicating, it’s critical that you not only understand your style but also recognize other people’s styles as well.  If you don’t, you might as well be speaking a foreign language to each other because your efforts in communicating can really fall short.

Puppy Dog 

Puppy Dogs crave words of affirmation or praise.  If you pat them on the head and tell them what a good boy or girl they are, they’re good to go.  They will love you, be loyal to you, and practically run through brick walls for you.

Note to employers:  Puppy Dogs require positive and constant feedback.  It’s not that you’re telling them something they’re not, but when they’ve done a good job, they need to hear about it.  If you want them to “burn the midnight oil for you”, be consistent in affirming their performance.  As with the other three styles, it’s not a matter of manipulation, you’re just giving them what they need based on how they’re wired.

A lack of affirmation or recognition can leave them feeling despondent and wondering what they’ve done wrong.  They will begin to doubt themselves and their ability and their  performance will suffer.  Be especially cautious in how you discipline a Puppy Dog.  By all means, call them out for their failure, but be careful to lift up the person.  Zig Ziglar was wise in his saying “Failure is an event, not a person“.  Puppy Dog’s need to be reminded of this in the scenario of a performance correction.

Note to wives:  For Puppy Dogs, a wife may have more power than any other person in their life.  Say the right words and they will do pretty much whatever you ask.  On the flip side, a harsh word from a wife can send a Puppy Dog scurrying away with his tail between his legs straight under the bed where it can take days to recover.

Again like in the scenario of a boss calling out a Puppy Dog for poor performance, it’s not a matter of not addressing an issue, it’s just critical that a wife go about it in the right way.  The Proverb “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” carries considerable weight in the case of a wife scolding a husband.  By all means call out the poor performance, just be sure to remind the man of how much you love him.


Cats crave physical touch.  There is power in physical touch in general and you can find examples of this in all areas of life.  The reassuring hand of a coach on a young ball player’s shoulder when he’s next up to bat can make all the difference in his performance.  In days gone by, business agreements were solidified with a simple handshake.  Well, for a Cat, touch is oxygen for their soul.

Note to couples:  Cats want, need, crave, and desire physical touch.  In contrast to a Puppy Dog, all the praise in the world from one spouse to the other will fall on deaf ears if the recipient is a Cat.  And this doesn’t necessarily always mean sex.  Holding hands or a hand on a knee or an arm around a shoulder or just sitting close can be all that’s needed.  Without it, the Cat will feel isolated and ultimately not loved.


A Canary needs quality time.  In contrast to a Gold Fish, all the acts of service in the world will mean nothing if quality time is lacking.  A Canary simply needs you to be with them.  It doesn’t have to be fancy.  Something as simple as a walk in the park holding hands (if there’s some Cat in their style) can more than satisfy a Canary.

Note to couples…and to Men in particular:  When you get home at the end of the day and your wife is a Canary, your best bet whether she’s had a great day or the worst day ever is to “let her sing”.  If she’s had a hard day, she’s more likely looking for a shoulder to rest her head on and share her story than for you to come in and play superman and seek to save the day.

On the flip side, if she’s had a great day and you have as well, don’t make the mistake of topping her story with yours.  It’s not that you don’t share, but definitely let her go first and you might even consider waiting until later to share of your exploits.  Let her have her moment because this is what a Canary needs.

Men, if your wife is a Canary, you could wash the car, take out the trash, mop the floors, pick up the groceries, and any other random household chore but if you fail to give her quality time, you will completely miss the mark.  It’s not that she won’t appreciate your acts of service or words of praise or touch, it’s just not her primary communication style and she will be left feeling unfulfilled in your relationship.

Women, if your husband is a Canary, he needs you to be involved with him in activities outside of your core relationship.  You may not care much for a particular sport, however if you husband is a fan, then attending a game with him or simply watching one on TV will thrill him.  He will always have his buddies to pal around with but none of them can come  close to touching his heart in the way you can by spending time with him in an activity he loves.

Gold Fish

Gold Fish crave acts of service.  In a literal sense, they’re really not into touch and they won’t listen to your words of praise anyway.  Just keep their tanks clean and feed them and they’re great.

My Mom is a Gold Fish and she has one of the greatest servant’s heart of anyone I’ve ever known.  She loves people the way she craves to be loved.  She appreciates quality time and words of affirmation will certainly make her smile, however a simple thing like a greeting card for no apparent reason will mean more to her than most anything.

Note to men:  If your wife is a Gold Fish, then her “Honey Do” list is your ticket to happiness.  She still needs to hear “I love you” and quality time together is essential, but if you want to hit a “home run”, be a champion in helping her around the house.  If you really want to score big, do things proactively without her always having to ask.  And…be sure to give of yourself because you love her and because it’s the right thing to do…not because you’re looking for anything in return.

Note to women:  While I’m a huge believer in men and women sharing responsibilities around the home, if your husband is a Gold Fish, this is truly an opportunity to turn house hold chores like washing and folding clothes into a labor of love.  It may not seem like that big a deal, but to him, it really is.

Closing thoughts for my readers:

For effective communication to take place and for meaningful relationships to exist, you must not only know your style but also understand the styles of the other people in your life.  People’s default way of “showing love” to others is to express their love in the way they are wired to receive love.  Hopefully you can see now how this doesn’t work very well.

If you’re a Puppy Dog and your wife is a Canary, all your words of affirmation to her will completely fall on deaf ears.  She needs your time.  To truly be an effective communicator, you have to seek to “love” others in the way they are wired to receive love.  Only then can you foster and develop the strongest and most enduring relationships.



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