Effects of What We Wear on Dogs

We know that prey animals use defensive measures that mimic other dangerous animals in order to fool predators. For example, the Scarlet Kingmaker’s stripes help him look like the poisonous coral snake to avoid predators.

Called “Aposemitism”, it means warning coloration in which prey use adaptations of color and/or color patterns to mislead predators.

At the Massey University of New Zealand, Dr. Arnold Chamone in the Psychology Department conducted experiments to see how aposematic patterns affect dogs and their reactions. The experiments used solid colors as controls .

Results showed that stripes can cause dogs to feel anxious while solid colors elicited no response. Stripes, narrow or wide, any spacing, vertical or horizontal made the dogs uncomfortable.

In nature, dogs avoid striped prey as experience has taught them that this pattern could mean poison or bad-tasting. Apparently it’s part of their DNA through ancestral experiences. This discovery might mean we should avoid wearing stripes around dogs.

On a personal note: Although this may not be related to aposemitism, I know that my dogs are very well aware when I’m going to leave the house without them by the clothing and shoes that I wear. They become very quiet and watch my every move. I’m sure many of you have had similar experiences. To ease their tension, they each get a treat just before I leave which by now they know is their reward.

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