In this era of Black Lives Matter, it is a fact that so many specifically black dogs are misunderstood and may even be victimised by other dogs. Why should this be so?
Communication between different dogs utilises all of their senses, but the importance of visual signals is key to their behaviour towards one another. All the details count so facial expressions, posture, tail movements, hair erection and the like are all important. The pigmentation of dog’s lips varies greatly because it has been subject to artificial selection by breeders over time to now differ from the expressive features and colouration that we find in ancestral dogs, specifically in wolves.
Dogs are also colour blind to red and green so their range of vision is limited. Compared to humans, dogs usually have superior low light sensitivity and peripheral vision. For these reasons, it is more difficult for dogs to recognise the facial expressions of a black dog.
Take a look at the pigmentation of your dog’s lower lips, where in most cases, the skin is black with areas of pink, topped by facial hair. Now imagine if the dog has black hair and black skin, it just blends into a featureless face that neither humans nor other dogs can differentiate. Is this black dog smiling or grimacing, threatening or anxious?
Canine facial expressions are extremely subtle, where micro-expressions can be fleeting and whose tiny details will be lost in the beautiful lips, fur and eyes of a black dog. Are they panting from exercise or are the corners of the mouth pulled back? Do they have alert ears or relaxed ears? It can be difficult to tell!
What you can do about it
What you need to think about, as a responsible dog owner is that this behavioural issue isn’t just “one of those things” or that it’ll go away. Black dogs are just like any other and the problem needs addressing. Think about the nature of your dog’s hatred or fear. Does he or she dislike every black dog or just particular individuals? Is it always a particular breeds, size, or types?
The key to resolving this problem is to ensure that your puppy is well socialised to all types of dogs, black included! Make these early contacts with a variety of young and old dogs rewarding by praise and well timed tit-bits. Play is the great precursor to love!
If you have a black puppy it is really important that you invest time in these early socialisation experiences. Sign up for puppy classes that include reward-linked introductions to dogs of every description. However, if your dog has already formed a definite dislike of black dogs then seek help or advice from a qualified behaviourist or experienced trainer.
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