So, it's true what they say about pet-owners

'More West Highland Terriers are under the care of pet psychiatrists than all other breeds put together'
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The Independent Online

A certain amount of reader reaction followed a recent column in which I revealed that, according to unofficial psychiatric research, owning a dog is frequently a sign of some kind of personality disorder. Did the research cover the broad spectrum of pet ownership? I was asked.

A certain amount of reader reaction followed a recent column in which I revealed that, according to unofficial psychiatric research, owning a dog is frequently a sign of some kind of personality disorder. Did the research cover the broad spectrum of pet ownership? I was asked.

The answer is that, of course, where there is a domestic animal, "pet transference", as it is known, is normally to be found. Owning a caged bird (particularly the African Grey) tends to denote an intellectual inferiority complex. Gerbils, hamsters and mice (but not rats) suggest a craving for affection while rabbits, for obvious reasons, reveal profound fears of impotency. Goldfish owners tend to be bulimic.

In fact, the only exceptions to the general rule of pet transference are cats, to whom the entire concept of ownership is essentially meaningless, and, even then, experts suspect that humans who live with more than four cats at one time are in danger of taking on feline characteristics, such as sulking, narcolepsy and unprovoked temper loss.

But it is dog owners who are giving the psychiatric community the most cause for concern. In an attempt to help sufferers, a website known as DogSigns.com, offering guidance and self-recognition in the manner of Sun Signs or Star Signs, is currently under construction. Most of DogSign's findings remain confidential, but some early guidelines have been made exclusively available to this column.

The Shih Tzu: Perhaps because this animal is still hunted as a household pest in parts of south-east Asia, owners of the Shih Tzu (which means "Rat Dog" in Chinese) tend to exhibit extreme forms of class consciousness. They preen and primp and tie bows in their hair in order to present an acceptable fireside image to the world but, the more they try, the clearer their rat-dog origins are to the rest of the world.

The Whippet: Like a canine Ally McBeal, the whippet presents a vulnerable exterior to the world - all doe-eyed submission and ladylike shivers - but, beneath the delicate facade, is more bloodthirsty than any other breed (with the possible exception of the Schnauzer and the Welsh Corgi). Whippet owners tend to have unresolved problems of violence. It is never wise to disagree with a whippet-owner when alone in the kitchen.

The Pekinese: This breed is known as a lap dog because, to its owner, it is an external representation of the lap. Just as male sexuality is expressed by certain breeds, notably the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, so the Pekinese performs a similar psychological function for women, veering unpredictably from wild excitement to profound slumber. As a result, Peke owners, of whom the late Dame Cartland was a fine example, tend to be obsessive about love, sex and gender, feeling ill at ease when the conversation moves to anything else.

The West Highland White Terrier: It is thought that more "Westies" are currently under the care of pet psychiatrists than all other breeds put together. Some have body-image problems, heaving up their Winalot on the nearest carpet within moments of consuming it. Some, driven insane by their envy of cats, will tear down curtains in their attempts to climb them. Some are so psychologically dependent on their humans that they refuse to walk more than 20 yards without being carried. Those who own Westies tend to be the kind of humans who thrive on stress, compassion junkies who need to be needed at all times.

The Labrador Retriever: Second only in emotional intelligence to the Bonobo pigmy chimp, the Labrador will pick up on its owner's whims, enthusiasms, moods and desires several minutes before he or she does. So desperately and humiliatingly does it crave human affection that a slightly insensitive glance from its owner will cause it to yelp with psychic pain. Because it longs to gain approval, it will splash about in a river, although Labradors naturally hate water.

Tragically, at least for the Labrador, its cringing subservience particularly appeals to fully fledged sadists (celebrity chefs, prep school headmasters, supporters of the Countryside Alliance) or control freaks (Peter Mandelson).

terblacker@aol.com

Miles Kington is on holiday

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