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One of the theories to explain the bias against black dogs is that people find them to be intimidating, and even frightening. Superstitions and wayward ideas about large black dogs abound, from ancient lore of black dogs being harbingers of death and doom, to malevolent black dogs in films and novels — think The Omen from , which used Rottweilers as cohorts of the devil, to The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, to the countless depictions of Doberman Pinschers as vicious attack dogs.

From a more benign point of view, it has been suggested that people may be bypassing black dogs because they blend into the shadows, or because their facial features are not as discernible as their lighter-colored counterparts.

Black dog / White Dog Illusion

Shelter and rescue workers have responded to these suggestions by brightening up their black dogs with colorful scarves and toys, placing them in spaces that are lit more brightly, and holding regular black dog events, such as fashion shows and half-price adoption days. Owners who contacted her with meet with her in secret lest they be found out by the council.

These restrictions were the same for American breeders, and for a long time these breeders had no other options available to them. Fortunately, the resistance to killing white puppies grew until the breed councils on both continents loosened restrictions, allowing neutered and spayed pups to be gifted to friendly homes or rescue centers.

Nonetheless, because of the breed council restrictions on white born Boxers , most people have the misconception that these dogs will be deaf , are difficult to train, or will suffer from a host of other health problems. Not only the Boxer, but other dog breeds that are born white suffer this bias as well — Bulldogs , Dalmatians , and German Shepherds , to name but a few. Dawson refutes the preponderance of deafness in the white Boxer or any other white dog as being no more likely to occur than dogs of any color, and she says that even dogs that are deaf are more than capable of being trained.

Of course, there are health-related issues that must be taken into account for most any breed.


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With white colored dogs, owners must be sure that they protect their canine companion from excessive sun by using sunscreen and cover-ups so as to avoid skin lesions , and black colored dogs tend to need more hydration when they spend time in the sun, as they overheat easily. Because black dogs are harder to photograph than lighter pooches, they might not be selected as frequently online. The thing is, there might just be more black animals in shelters to begin with. That could be a matter of genetics: black fur is a dominant genetic trait. Just as having brown eyes is a dominant trait in humans, leading to the fact that nearly 80 percent of the world's population has brown eyes , black fur being dominant in dogs and cats likely means that there are just more black pets in the world, period.

When a Black Cat Crosses Your Path ...

So if four black dogs and one white dog appear on the same day, and both the white dog and one black dog gets adopted, three black dogs will remain. But that doesn't necessarily mean people prefer the white dog.

Studies are pretty clear: People don't consider color very strongly when they think about adopting pets. But those who work in shelters still seem to think there's a prejudice surrounding black animals.


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Weiss says this could have to do with how close those shelter workers are to the animals. And as other ASPCA research shows , adoption choices might just come down to which animal stands out most from the others. Imagine a shelter with 10 white dogs and one black dog and another shelter with 10 black dogs and one white dog.

Black dog (ghost)

In the end, it's a complicated issue without a single answer. Whether "black dog syndrome" exists or not, the truth remains that more black cats and dogs remain in shelters. And because of that, you might be able to get a deal if you choose to adopt one. That sounds like a no-lose situation: You get a sweet pet, you save a little money, and there's one less animal in a shelter. Get stories like this one in your inbox or your headphones: Sign up for our daily email and subscribe to the Curiosity Daily podcast.

Samuel Johnson it is then. This article was first published in the November 10, issue of the New Zealand Listener.

Are Black Cats and Dogs Really Adopted Less Often?

Where the black dog metaphor for depression comes from. The idea for this column comes from a conversation with a few of my colleagues on a project looking at pet ownership and mental health. Macro alias: ModuleRenderer. Psychology See more. Why horror movies are curiously addictive. The psychological snags to eating less meat. How to help your child handle the stress of NCEA exams.


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