Journal article Open Access

Give a Dog a Bad Name and Hang Him: Evaluating Big, Black Dog Syndrome

Woodward, Lucinda; Milliken, Jennifer; Humy, Sonya

Two studies examined human perceptions of dog personality attributes based upon exposure to pictures of dogs of select breeds. The proposed hypotheses assessed the validity of "black dog syndrome"—whereby large, black dog breeds are reportedly spurned for adoption due to negatively perceived personality attributes—by assessing each dog's relative trait dominance and affiliation based upon a taxonomy drawn from the eight-factor interpersonal circumplex. Results of two separate studies indicated that breed specific differences were better indicators of interpersonal trait attributions than color or size of dog. In general, with exception of the golden retriever, black labs were perceived as consistently less dominant and less hostile than other large breeds. Keywords: canines, personality, black dog syndrome, interpersonal circumplex

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