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

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Abstract Two studies examined human perceptions of dog personality attributes based upon exposure to pictures of dogs of select breeds. The proposed hypotheses evaluated the validity of “big, 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 among participants’ ratings, breed-specific differences were more powerful predictors of interpersonal trait attributions than the color or size of the dog. In general, with the exception of the golden retriever, black labs were perceived as consistently less dominant and less hostile than other large breeds, contrary to the assumption that large, black dogs are viewed negatively.


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