“Can’t we all just get along?” We know that’s simply not possible. Not everyone can get on ALL of the time. This can also be said of our dogs. Your dog might not like certain breeds, sexes, or ages of dog. But one common challenge for many dogs is getting on with black dogs. While to us they just look like another potential friend, to our dogs they can be a bit more difficult to read.
The main form of communication between dogs is through body language. Dogs read each other’s facial and body language the way we read text. Everything is important. Dogs consider the position of the tail, the ears, and the gaze of the other dog, amongst other things. As the majority of their communication is visual, understanding how they see the world is integral.
Dogs are red-green colour blind. Their range of colour vision is limited to blues, yellows, white, black, and grey. However, compared to us, they have better low light vision and peripheral vision. Whilst we can see the expression on a black dog’s face, it is more difficult for our dogs. Their vision simply isn’t set up for the task. This is especially true in bright light.
Doggy facial expressions can sometimes be subtle and micro-expressions can be fleeting. The intricacies can be lost in the gorgeous 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? Is the dog squinting at the light or offering slow blinks? It can be difficult to tell, even for our canine companions. These expressions are easier to see on lighter coloured dogs and even more difficult on brachycephalic breeds like Pugs and French bulldogs.
A couple of things to think about if your dog dislikes black dogs. Does it appear to hate every black dog or just specific ones? Do they have a problem with a certain breed? Sometimes we see dogs that have had issues in the past with one black dog, that they generalise this dislike to other similar looking dogs. For instance, if your dog was bounced on by an exuberant black puppy, they may have developed an emotional response to all black puppies. Is your dog feeling anxious or threatened? Being able to learn the underlying emotion in your dog helps with your understanding of their behaviour.
It may also be worth considering your own dog’s breed. Some breeds were chosen for an independent character trait – the ability of the dog to work with one the person or on their own to complete their task. Think of a border collie herding sheep. They listen to the shepherd, but may also use instinct to round up their herd. In contrast, breeds like Labradors and beagles are meant to work in a group with dogs they have never met before. This can cause some friction when the two meet in the park. That collie might lie down as another dog approaches – that Labrador might rush up enthusiastically, ready to make a new friend.
It’s still not understood if dogs experience the emotion of “hatred”. What we may interpret as hate may come from a different emotion, such as fear. Our view of dog emotions is skewed by our own emotions, and sadly the dogs can’t tell us in a way we truly understand.
If you’re struggling to understand the motivations behind your dog’s behaviour or need support in helping them have a different view of the world, book a consultation with our behaviour expert to put a plan in place.