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Two black dogs behind cage in a shelter

Black Dog Syndrome: Are We Treating Black Shelter Dogs Unfairly?

If you've ever wondered why black dogs seem overlooked more often than other shelter animals, you've come to the right place. This article will explore the truth behind Black Dog Syndrome and its impact on our furry friends. We'll also discuss some steps we can take to ensure all shelter animals have a fair chance of adoption.

No matter your dog's color, every pup deserves an opportunity to live a happy and healthy life with a loving family. So let's dive in and find out what we can do to make sure all of our four-legged companions have a shot at finding their forever home.

What Is Black Dog Syndrome?

Black Dog Syndrome (BDS) is the theory that black doggies are passed over for adoption due to societal beliefs that they look more intimidating or scary. This is further perpetuated by the media (where black dogs are often portrayed as aggressive), which has led to an unfortunate stereotype of these pups being more dangerous or unfriendly and harder to train.

These stereotypes have real-world consequences. Black shelter dogs often spend much longer in animal shelters waiting for a suitable home, and many never get adopted. BDS also affects how black pups are treated once adopted—they may be less likely to get socialized, groomed, or taken to the vet regularly.

This doesn't mean that all potential adopters avoid black pets. However, it does mean adopters who choose them may receive less support than those who adopt lighter-colored animals due to stereotypes surrounding their perceived temperament or behavior.

Reasons Why Darker Dogs Get Overlooked

When it comes to adoption, black canines are often overlooked in favor of their lighter-colored counterparts. It can feel like an unfair prejudice, but there are legitimate reasons why this could be happening. 

Poor Visibility In Pictures

When potential adopters browse the available rescue dogs online, the dark coloring of many black doggies can make it difficult for them to be seen in photographs. It's a problem compounded by poor lighting and digital cameras' inability to pick up the details of a dark-colored coat.

Vague Descriptions

Black dog outdoors panting

Advertising for black pups often fails to mention any features about them beyond their coat color, so potential adopters won't be able to access information about size, age, or personality from the listing alone. This lack of detail means many adopters don't consider these dogs when browsing for a new pet.

Human Bias

People have their own biases and preferences regarding certain breed types or colors. Some may have an aversion towards animals with dark coats based on superstition or personal belief systems. Unfortunately, these stigmas translate into real-life adoption rates and a lack of interest in these beautiful pups who deserve homes just as much as everyone else!

Debunking Myths

Though there are many theories about why black shelter dogs get adopted less, it's important to dispel some of the most common myths about Black Dog Syndrome.

Myth 1: Black Dogs Are Unfriendly

The idea that big black dogs are more aggressive or unapproachable is simply untrue. In reality, their physical appearance is irrelevant to their personality. Like all other dogs, they come with unique traits and characteristics that make them who they arenot the color of their fur!

Myth 2: Black Dogs Don't Photograph Well

This myth has been used to explain why people don't perceive certain breeds of black dogs as adoptable. In truth, though taking professional photos of darker-colored pets can be challenging, most shelters have the necessary equipment and experience to ensure potential adoptees get the best possible picture to represent their new furry friend.

Myth 3: People Associate Black Dogs With Bad Luck

Though this might be true for some people, it's certainly not a universal opinion. Plenty of myths associated with different breeds and colors of dogs have nothing to do with how well-adjusted or friendly they'll be in a home. It's all about choosing the right pet for your lifestyle, not what you've heard about any particular breed or color!

Want to learn more about Black Dog Syndrome? Check out this moving video about the plight of black shelter dogs (and cats!):

What Shelters Can Do

The good news is that many shelters can take steps to combat Black Dog Syndrome. Here are just a few things shelter workers and volunteers can do to increase adoption rates for black shelter dogs:

Adoptive Parent Education

Educating the public on the negative stereotypes surrounding certain breeds, especially black dogs, can help them overcome their reservations. This could include educational material on the shelter/rescue website, workshops, and events.

Creative Promotions

Creating unique marketing campaigns tailored towards individual black dogs can help draw attention to them. This should include quality photos or videos of each dog showing off its personality and well-crafted descriptions about why each dog deserves a home.


Placing black dogs in visible locations within the shelter/rescue facility can also help increase their chances of being adopted. This includes having them at the front desk when possible and creating special 'adopt me' vests and t-shirts to draw attention to them more readily. Ensuring potential adopters have plenty of opportunities to interact with these dogs is essential for helping them find loving homes!


Do pets with black coats languish longer in shelters?

Black dog behind cage in a shelter

Certain studies indicate that, yes, they do. A case study at the Guelph Humane Society found that black cats take longer to be adopted compared to cats with other coat colors. Similarly, an article by ABC News discusses how black-colored pets are often ignored in shelters.

Is Black Dog Syndrome real?

While researchers are still divided on the cold, hard numbers for this issue, we can say that there will undoubtedly be people who only prefer to adopt lighter-colored pets. Biases on darker-colored pets are real and affect the chances of these creatures being adopted in a forever home.

What can I do to help fight against Black Dog Syndrome?

Besides choosing to adopt black dogs, you also can combat BSD by quelling misinformation about black pets. You can also wear some cool dog merch and spread how black dogs deserve as much love as any other pet!

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watsonolivia - November 27, 2023

This article sheds light on the concerning issue of black dog syndrome. It’s disheartening to know that black shelter dogs are often overlooked due to unfair biases. As animal lovers, we must actively challenge these stereotypes and give these wonderful dogs the love and care they deserve. Let’s promote awareness and support adoption initiatives to ensure every dog finds a loving home, regardless of their coat color. Kudos to Animal Hearted for raising awareness on this important topic!

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