Black dog syndrome
Truman has been accepted into the Bronson Hospital Therapy Dog program. Henry, my landseer has been one for the past three years so we are pretty excited about having two therapy dogs in the household.
Truman had his first official visit a few weeks ago and I noticed something about big, hairy, solid black dogs. People seemed more wary of Truman as we walked the hallways. More people asked if he was friendly before engaging with him. One of the nurses on the floor we were visiting left the nurses station quite suddenly to avoid being near the scary big dog.
I never had this type of reaction while visiting the hospital with Henry but being a landseer, Henry is a black and white pattern. Could this really be the difference?
Out of curiosity, I did a web search on black dogs and discovered the term "black dog syndrome". Yes that is an official term used for this issue. Animal welfare experts believe the discrimination arises from several factors.
The mythology around black dogs is grim. (The Grim, from Harry Potter is a "large, black, spectral dog that haunts churchyards" and augurs death.) A 2013 study by Penn State psychologist revealed that people find images of black dogs scarier than photos of yellow or brown dogs - respondents rated the dark furred animals less adoptable, less friendly and more intimidating.
It is harder to read a black dog's facial expressions. When one cannot see eyebrows it becomes harder to humanize them and to connect on an emotional level.
So Truman has three factors going against him for that first good impression. He's big, he's hairy and he is black. Gosh they didn't even mention drool and Truman does do plenty of that as well. Truman wore a bib on his first visit but it wasn't a very bright one and it just had his name on it.
So on our next visit, I put on a bright colored drool bib with a friendly message on it that invited interaction. This seemed to help with that first impression. It didn't make him look as intimidating. More people were willing to approach him. Maybe it even helped to break up all that black color.
This is a good reason to use drool bibs even if your black newfie doesn't drool. A drool bib may be just the thing you need on your next therapy visit or social outing to put more people at ease when they see your big black hairy dog. I have many brightly colored bibs on sale right now in the "In Stock" section of my store.