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Why Are Black Dogs Adopted Less?

If you follow me on Facebook, chances are you have heard me wax on about the sweet lab mix that we are fostering. Jenna had a rough start. A local no-kill shelter rescued her from a hoarder, where she had spent her first 6 months living in a crate with no freedom at all, so she needs lots of extra love and care.

It’s a good thing that a no-kill shelter rescued her, because, as it turns out, black dogs have it rough out there. Black dogs are often the last adopted and the first in line for euthanization. Shelter and rescue workers call the problem “Black Dog Syndrome,” and experts have a few theories about why black dogs are harder to adopt out than other dogs.

Some think it’s because black dogs look more threatening than other dogs.

Black dogs are also tougher to photograph well. This may seem like a silly reason behind Black Dog Syndrome, but it’s actually a big deal. Many potential owners search shelter websites before coming in to meet the dogs, and a bad photograph can sometimes make or break a dog’s chances of getting adopted.

While skeptics say that Black Dog Syndrome is a myth, rescue and shelter organizations insist that it is all too real. Yes, there are more black dogs out there than lighter-colored dogs, but workers who deal with dog adoptions day in and day out say that they see perfectly adoptable dogs get rejected by potential owners simply because of the color of their coat. USA Today spoke to Inge Fricke, director of the Humane Society in Washington D.C., who said:

…it is not a hoax. There is definitely anecdotal evidence. There haven’t been any definitive studies to absolutely prove that the phenomenon exists but it is something commonly accepted by shelter workers as truth.

Dogs aren’t the only black animals that have a tough time of it. Black cats are harder to adopt out, as well. Like black dogs, black cats are difficult to photograph. There’s also that old superstition that black cats are unlucky. This video from Petopia goes into Black Dog Syndrome a little bit further:

Of course, adopting any animal is a serious commitment, and you shouldn’t go out and adopt a dog if you’re not ready for the extra responsibility. If you’re thinking about adding a new fur kid to your family, though, I hope you’ll consider adopting a black dog! The color of a dog’s coat doesn’t say anything about her personality, and a black dog can be as good a friend as a dog of any other color. Let’s kick Black Dog Syndrome to the curb!

Find Adoptable Pets!
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Becky Striepe

Becky Striepe is a freelance writer and vegan crafter living in Atlanta, Georgia. Her life’s mission is to make green crafting and vegan food accessible to everyone! Like this article? You can follow Becky on Twitter or find her on Facebook!


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5:09PM PDT on May 27, 2014

Best dog I've ever owned was a senior black Lab-Newfoundland cross who was NINE when I adopted her. For a full six and one-half years she helped me through some of the most difficult and most joyous time of my life. I (because of her loving and understanding nature) was able to survive the death of my partner of over 30 years---when all I could manage was staying inside and shunning contact, she understood; and when it was "let's go for a very long walk and then play ball to burn off the blahs", she was right there for whatever and whenever. When my current wife came on scene a year and some later, there was a strong and loving bond developed both between dog and the new lady, as well as with the children who arrived with her (ages twelve and up.) When she finally could go no longer, there were tears shed by all to accompany her on her journey over the Rainbow Bridge.

6:34AM PDT on May 27, 2014

For the same reason Humans do not want black cats , they have some weird idea that they bring bad luck. I bottle feed kittens for a Rescue Group and they am always able the adopt the kittens out except for the solid black ones. I kept the solid black one from the last litter i bottle fed and she is the best cat ever !

5:00AM PDT on May 27, 2014

Never judge only by one's appearance

11:37AM PDT on May 25, 2014

When I adopted my dog the rescue was very happy because she's a large brindle, and they said that they have as much trouble homing dogs like her as they do black dogs. Many people think that brindle=pitbull, and there are many municipalities in our metro area that have banned them or require very stringent insurance proofs. She's actually not bully at all, nor does she look like one really, but even on walks I get the question all of the time.

11:16AM PDT on May 25, 2014

Of the five dogs on property now, four are black, and each was adopted from a local no-kill shelter because they had been by-passed over and over again. The Bigger, the Blacker, the longer is a truism every shelter worker knows. If you have the heart - go for the animals that have been in shelter the longest, and you'll be blessing both them and you.

6:47AM PDT on May 25, 2014

at this moment, I am owned by TWO black dogs (sisters) adopted from a shelter about a year and a half ago. THEY ARE THE BEST!!! they cheer me when I come home from a horrible day at work - and give me wake-up kisses! In addition, I am also owned by TWO all-black cats and THREE tuxedo cats. I have ahd - and PREFER the black fur children, all my life. ALL fur babies are each special and uniquely wonderful - but there is an extra magic to my black feline/canine companions. They are funny, deep thinkers, firmly bonded to me They have that extra sense of living LIFE to the fullest. I will ALWAYS adopt the black coated furbabies FIRST!!!!!!

6:04AM PDT on Apr 19, 2014

I had a black she-cat. She sure brought me all the luck in the world during 15 beautiful years. The was the most wondrous cat I ever met. The rejection of black pets is absolutely no mythos, though. Even galgos (martyr dogs from Spain) suffer from this syndrome, and one could think that when you're ready to adopt such a broken angel his/her coat should really hold no importance at all. But... the numbers speak, and prove that the problem exist, even when it comes to dogs that are usually adopted by people really deeply involved in advocacy for their case. Strange, and sad.

6:07AM PST on Nov 8, 2013

Weird phenomenon. Thanks for sharing.

6:07AM PST on Nov 8, 2013

Weird phenomenon. Thanks for sharing.

3:42AM PST on Nov 8, 2013

I have both a black and blond Labrador and I love them both. They have very different personalities and it is my black Bella who is the really loyal girl. She will not go anywhere without me in view while Caly will hop into any car and go with anyone. I would not hesitate to rescue another black dog if and when the time comes. Something I don't even want to think about now.

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