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I've been thinking lately about all the times we say stuff like "watch out for those red girls" or that "red boys are the sweetest." In cats, there are several studies that suggest that color is linked, in some ways, to temperament. I've found that to be at least somewhat true, in my experience with cats (foster cats beyond counting, plus my own). Calico cats tend to be crazy, gray cats are calm and gentle, etc. Obviously it doesn't always hold true, but the studies are pretty interesting. There are also some really interesting studies on fox color and temperament.

Anyway, it got me to thinking about those types of comments we often see here on DT. Is there any truth to the different colors having somewhat similar temperament traits? I don't have enough experience in the breed to answer, although I will say Simon (red male) is a big mushball mama's boy.

What do you all say?
 

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That's a very interesting thought! I have only had one dobe, and it's my 5 month old red female. Everyone who meets Scarlet says she is just "sweet" or she has kind eyes, there is no other way to describe her personality. :) Same with her mother Cajun who is red, the moment I met her she just came right over to me and rested her head on my lap. Everyone who know's Cajun knows her as the sweetie out of Monica's dobes.... hmm she is also the only red one too! Interested to see what others will say!
 

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My Mysti was one of the sweetest, most attached dogs I have ever had, she always wanted to be close to me, and she was a black. Bella is a red and she is even worse than Mysti, she will sit outside the bathroom and scratch the door and whine when I go in, most of the time she tries to follow me in! She follows me from room to room, lays by my chair when Im in here on the comp, comes out to the living room if I go out there, always wants to be by my side. She is a huge snuggler, loves to cuddle with me. Nexus, my other black girl, is content to spend most of the day outside, or in the other room laying in her chair, but if I am sitting in the chair she has to be in it with me and does not want Bella by me, she is jealous and if Bella is by me, or in the chair with me Nexus sits on her, or pushes her out of the way.
 

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I don't know about generally speaking but my 2 red girls are night and day.

Fiona is a huge goofball and attention whore with people but a big BITCH to other dogs as she's matured. Tali is reserved and thoughtful with people but a wiggly little silly butt with most other dogs. Not only are they both red females, but they're half-sisters.

I'm inclined to think it just depends on the individual dog combined with how they're raised.

Also, observer bias can be a powerful thing. (Observer bias - observers overemphasize behaviors they expect to find and fail to notice behaviors they do not expect to find.) If you hold a bias of how you expect their personality to be then you're going to treat them accordingly which will impact what behaviors are amplified and which ones are discouraged. It will also affect what you're perceptive to in their personality. You're far more likely to see something when you're looking for it.
 

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Also, observer bias can be a powerful thing. (Observer bias - observers overemphasize behaviors they expect to find and fail to notice behaviors they do not expect to find.) If you hold a bias of how you expect their personality to be then you're going to treat them accordingly which will impact what behaviors are amplified and which ones are discouraged. It will also affect what you're perceptive to in their personality. You're far more likely to see something when you're looking for it.
I think you are absolutely right on this, Bridgette. Without reading the studies themselves I don't know how well designed they were (at least about cats). The links in foxes between temperament and color are pretty well established. But I think you're right that it's probably impossible to know. I just found it an interesting thing to think about, though.

As an aside, one of the cat studies seemed to suggest that one particular color of cat was also healthier: black cats. I found that intriguing.
 

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I've read studies that seem to show some evidence that red (liver?) Cocker Spaniels are prone to being more aggressive than the other colors. I've also read the same thing about Aussies- that red and red merles are more prone to aggression than blacks or blue merles. I wish I could remember who did the studies. I remember thinking it was interesting that reds seemed to be more aggressive in both breeds. I've never heard anything about color and temperament in Dobes though!
 

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From what I have heard (have not actually researched myself), the genetics surrounding cat colours are very complicated compared to dogs so wouldn't be surprised if there was some weird associations there (aren't tortishell cats normally females and gingers normally males?). On another dog forum I'm on this topic was being discussed a few days ago, I will have to try and find it....

IMO though, colour doesn't have anything to do with temperament, it's just fun to say that red girls are bitches cos they are too darn cute for their own good :p
 

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From what I have heard (have not actually researched myself), the genetics surrounding cat colours are very complicated compared to dogs so wouldn't be surprised if there was some weird associations there (aren't tortishell cats normally females and gingers normally males?)
I suspect you're right about that. When someone told me that some 97% of calico cats are females I thought it was really weird. There are definitely males out there, but all the calicos I've known in my life have been female.
 

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I think you are absolutely right on this, Bridgette. Without reading the studies themselves I don't know how well designed they were (at least about cats). The links in foxes between temperament and color are pretty well established. But I think you're right that it's probably impossible to know. I just found it an interesting thing to think about, though.

As an aside, one of the cat studies seemed to suggest that one particular color of cat was also healthier: black cats. I found that intriguing.
RE: feline health as it relates to coat color. There are a few possibilities here. Gene linkage - 2 or more genes are connected and inherited together. Pleiotropy - a single gene effects many phenotypic traits. Epistasis - one gene masks the phenotypic expression of another gene. Epistasis is what's occurring in albinism. The dog actually inherits a typical set of color genes but the albino gene masks the expression and makes a black/red/blue/fawn Doberman look white.

Personality...as far as we know to date...doesn't have specific genes. Personality is conceptual in it's very nature. Not tangible. We can't point to a gene or group of genes and say, "Oh, that's responsible for 'dry humor' and this one is responsible for 'heightened emotional sensitivity'." Since we can't identify personality genes to begin with, we aren't able to link them to any known genes - color or otherwise.
 
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RE: feline health as it relates to coat color. There are a few possibilities here. Gene linkage - 2 or more genes are connected and inherited together. Pleiotropy - a single gene effects many phenotypic traits. Epistasis - one gene masks the phenotypic expression of another gene. Epistasis is what's occurring in albinism. The dog actually inherits a typical set of color genes but the albino gene masks the expression and makes a black/red/blue/fawn Doberman look white.

Personality...as far as we know to date...doesn't have specific genes. Personality is conceptual in it's very nature. Not tangible. We can't point to a gene or group of genes and say, "Oh, that's responsible for 'dry humor' and this one is responsible for 'heightened emotional sensitivity'." Since we can't identify personality genes to begin with, we aren't able to link them to any known genes - color or otherwise.
Really interesting - thank you! I'm going to have to do some reading on this stuff. I don't have a great biology background so a lot of it is new to me, but I find the topic quite fascinating.
 

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If you look at who's doing what...

i have been observing a class at Leader Dog for the Blind for some months. A couple of Goldens, a few German Shepherds, a small handful of yellow Labradors, a giant pack of black Labradors... not a chocolate Labrador to be seen (I am going to ask about this tonight, and report back). Of the dogs at work who have given me The Look ("I dare you!"), more than half have been chocolate Labradors.

The Sheepdog Nationals were held a couple of weeks ago... black and white dogs... all I saw was black and white dogs, and Border Collies come in all sorts of other pretty colors.

Thinking about Dobermans who have done working sports, only one red dog comes to mind.

Obviously, there is more in play than genetics... but, I suspect genetics is more in play than most folks suspect.
 

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Personality...as far as we know to date...doesn't have specific genes. Personality is conceptual in it's very nature. Not tangible. We can't point to a gene or group of genes and say, "Oh, that's responsible for 'dry humor' and this one is responsible for 'heightened emotional sensitivity'." Since we can't identify personality genes to begin with, we aren't able to link them to any known genes - color or otherwise.
Don't have time to poke around right now, but I do not think that this is necessarily true. Personality is a whole constructed of who-knows-how-many fragments. The fragments may indeed be largly heritable. How experience is incorporated in the formation of "personality" or "temperament" or whatever ephermeral term may be largly dependant on what fragments and combination of fragments are hard-wired to begin with.
 

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My Mysti was one of the sweetest, most attached dogs I have ever had, she always wanted to be close to me, and she was a black. Bella is a red and she is even worse than Mysti, she will sit outside the bathroom and scratch the door and whine when I go in, most of the time she tries to follow me in!
Wait a minute! You don't use the bathroom with a dobe in there?? ;)
 

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My red female would kick anyone's butt if she could...............we did alot of walking the yard and talking to her firmlywhen she first arrived. I spanked her one time with my houseshoe one spat. Now if she's outside and we call I just get her leash and she is ready to work or walk around the yard in training.She is one smart cookie.I always praise her and she is one happy doberman.............
 

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I'm inclined to agree that biased expectations toward color has more influence over behavior than the color itself.

Lots of people have a bias against black cats and dogs, and it makes them aloof or stand offish towards those animals. Often making them perceive the animals themselves as being aloof, indifferent or attributing their weariness or distrust as being the result of the animal's demeanor rather than their perception of the animal based on its coloring. And of course, animals may respond to them differently based off of that treatment.

I can't think of any behavioral trends based on color / markings in the animals I know, have known and have met.

But, there used to be a saying in horses about colors & markings. I don't remember the color sayings but the markings were something along the lines of "one white sock try 'em, two white socks buy 'em, three white socks look well about 'em, four white socks forget 'em." Or something of that nature, its been a long while since I've heard it. There were others about various other markings like blazes and such.

However, I fully agree and believe to a strong extent that temperament and personality are linked to both genetics (nature), not solely Nurture (how one is raised, trained and shaped by experiences). I'm not inclined to agree that those genetics are expressed in color.

Especially when discussing a breed with very limited expression of color, like the Doberman, yet a huge spectrum of personalities and temperaments among those colors.
 

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Watch the reds!

We've spoken to several trainers while Levi was a pup and in obedience. The general consensus was that red/brown dogs were in general decidedly more wild and less biddable. Black or golden labs are sweet, and the two chocolate labs I've known were certainly sweet, but beyond hyper.

Out first dobe was black, and was sweet and gentle. Levi is a red, and while sweet and loving he's such a handful. He's five now, and highly trained, yet he simply will NOT walk on leash calmly. Too many good things to lunge after; so bad he almost put my mother in law in the hospital diving after a bicycle...
 

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From what I have heard (have not actually researched myself), the genetics surrounding cat colours are very complicated compared to dogs so wouldn't be surprised if there was some weird associations there (aren't tortishell cats normally females and gingers normally males?). On another dog forum I'm on this topic was being discussed a few days ago, I will have to try and find it....

IMO though, colour doesn't have anything to do with temperament, it's just fun to say that red girls are bitches cos they are too darn cute for their own good :p
Most calico cats are females because most of the stuff having to do with color is on the X chromesome. Since females are XX they have the ability to have one with orange and one with black. It can happen with males, but it's really rare and I honestly don't remember how it happens. I used to know.

As for color being associated with temperament, I think it's possible when you stop and think about how different breeds came about in the first place. Heck even when you look at the domestication process it seems possible. To make a long story short, many domestic dog breeds have floppy ears and other neonatal (puppy-like) characteristics because the wolves that were selected tended to remain more puppy like (in terms of attachment, playfullness, etc) throughout life. Many breeds that retained the more primal temperament (sled dog breeds, for example) also retained more of the wolf like physical characteristics.

Along the same lines, I think it was on National Geographic, where they did a super sped up version of domestication with some black foxes. They would select the ones with a more docile temperament and breed them together and continued to breed the regular ones to one another. Within a matter of a relatively few breedings, the docile ones started creating different colors, as well as coat type. I think it's a very complicated puzzle with all the genetic craziness with the domestic dog and there might not be a 100% set explanation that fits for all colors in all breeds, but I do think there could be something there.
 

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I know my Red Boy is the Sweetest dog EVER! And I would put him up against any dog out there lol... There is no beating his personality honestly. (Albeit maybe not the best Dobe personality) Cuddly, easy to train, never met a stranger, no dog issues, greats every foster with no problems... I love my red boy

My Baby Jade, was also super sweet (Black)
 
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