It's one of those little-understood but unquestionable facts of life that, over time, dogs and their owners begin to resemble one another.

"I don't know if they pick each other out or what," admits veterinarian James Vondruska. "But it's almost a cliche to see the little old lady with her poodle and the construction worker with his bulldog.

"Like humans a dog's personality (animality?) and appearance are influenced by heredity and environment," notes Vondruska, a canine researcher at the Barrington (Ill.) Kennels.

In pure-bred dogs, desirable genetic traits are cultivated through selective breeding. "Dobermans and German shepherds are bred for aggressiveness," he says. "Just as boxers are bred for desired coat (color) patterns."

But despite a certain genetic predisposition, after years of life with -- and dependence on -- a human master, Vondruska says, "a dog tends to take on its owner's personality -- particularly when it's lived with one person.

"You see a jumping, happy, crazy kind of dog, and it's obviously under the influence of kids. You see a slow, quiet, overweight dog and its owner often looks the same.

"If you've got a hyper, neurotic dog, there's a message in that, too. An animal's nature can definitely be a barometer of what goes on."

When people select a dog they consciously consider size, grooming needs and sex. "Unconsciously," he shrugs, "who knows?" What makes a Pekinese person a Pekinese person? "You got me."

Vondruska, who doesn't have a dog, but considers himself a "Labrador kind of guy," was in town recently for a veterinary convention and to represent his employer, The Quaker Oats Co., maker of a brand of dog food.

As a dog-day diversion, he mixed and matched some "Washington types" with their complimentary canine counterparts. Here are some of his "dog tags":

Beaucrat -- "Like a Bulldog -- stuffy, stodgy, formal and short-winded, without much energy."

Lawyer -- "Goes with a class dog that has snob appeal, like an Afghan Hound -- a fussy, picky individual.


Democrat -- "Fits with a very special animal, like a Schnauzer, that has salt 'n' pepper hair and a little mustache -- very friendly and quick."

Republican -- "Try a Basset. It's a quiet, dignified, refined dog that's somewhat unflappable.

Independent -- "Definitely a Labrador -- goes where he wants, does what he pleases -- sits out in the rain. A good-natured dog, always ready for fun."

Secretary -- "Fits with a Dachshund. Alert, active, good natured -- but can be sharp when necessary -- and has a take-charge attitude."

Diplomat -- "A Great Dane. Impossing, dignified, formal. Would look great in a tuxedo."

Cab Driver -- "Needs a Scottie. Quick moving, quick thinking, crabby and feisty.

Intellectual -- "An old boxer. Has a certain air of dignity and can quite professorial with the right jaw for a pipe.

Jet-Setter -- "For a woman, a well-kept Cocker Spaniel with those liquid brown eyes and flowing hair; for a man an Afghan, exotic and pampered."

"Ordinary Folks" -- "A Beagle or Collie. Common but pleasant-looking, reasonably good-natured, not terribly fussy and will eat whatever's available."

Children -- "Belong with a big, wooly mutt. They're all fun and games and constantly on the go. They'll play in the water, roll in the mud, catch a frisbee. Whatever you want, they're game."