Black Dog Syndrome

training-lab-puppies You be the judge.

Based on initial reaction, were you drawn to the Yellow Lab, more than the Chocolate or Black Lab.

For years the theory has been circulating that black dogs who enter shelters languish unwanted longer than dogs with lighter coats. Just ask a rescue worker and they will be able to tell many tales of black dogs left behind in their kennels after their lighter furred companions have been taken to new homes. There is Wikipedia page devoted to this phenomenon (here’s the link Black Dog Syndrome), and Petfinders talks about it in an article that can be found here.

According to the Petfinder article BDS may be caused by a combination of the following factors with black dogs –

  • Size
  • Unclear facial features
  • Dimly lit kennels
  • The “genericness” of black pets
  • Negative portrayals of black pets in books, movies and other popular media. A big, frightening black dog can be seen in The Hound of the Baskervilles, the Harry Potter series, both movie versions of The Omen, and even on the common “Beware of Dog” sign.

Added to the above is the fact that black dogs do not photograph well, giving the advantage to light-colored dogs on adoptions websites that depend heavily on heart stirring photographs to seal the deal.

Just as there are numerous articles written discussing BDS, there are articles that debunk Black Dog Syndrome as an urban myth. Dr Emily Weiss from the ASPCA discusses the BDS phenomenon in “Black is the New White”. Her results, based on analysis of data from 2013, that included 300,00 dogs and cats, concluded that although 30% of dogs entering shelters were black, they made up 32% of the dogs that were adopted.

Myth or fact, a cautionary note is that the larger number of black dogs entering shelters means there are a larger number of black dogs that need to find a home.


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