Monday, August 25, 2014

Black Dog Syndrome

I have heard about this before, but Slate reminded me of the Black Dog Syndrome.  Americans love our pets.  And I love mine.  But there is a serious form of discrimination in the pet world.  People do not adopt black dogs.  Compared to their brown or golden cousins, the black dogs remain in the pounds and sadly end up being euthanized far more frequently.

Cultural stories cast black dogs (and black cats) in a negative light but it has a lot to do with the aspects of being a black dog.  Black dogs do not take good pictures.  We have far more pictures of the photogenic Augi than of the monochrome Charlie.  That's because Charlie's pictures don't turn out very well.  You only see his tongue or his outline.  I have to use the special filters on Instagram to get anything to show up.  This is true to animal shelter websites.  They post pictures of the animals up for adoption and people make their choices based on those images.  Making it hard for the black puppies.

So is it blatant racism?  Well not really.  It is all about connections - immediate connections.  Especially in the form of facial expressions.  Humans are hardwired to recognized faces and to understand what those expressions mean.  A brown dog can show a wider range of facial expressions which take advantage of our evolution.  It's also why puppies have big eyes.  Black pups simply can't demonstrate many facial expressions through their dark fur.  But that doesn't mean they don't feel or can't make great pets.  They have a marketing problem.

And now for gratuitous pictures of my dogs.
Charlie (Charles Robert Darwin)
Augi (Augustus Caesar)

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