Black Dog Syndrome

Black Dog Syndrome is contributing to the death of many dogs, due to them being euthanised to make room for new dogs in shelters.

Black Dog Syndrome (or BDS, also known as black dog bias) is a phenomenon now being recognised by many lost dogs homes, in which black dogs are passed over for adoption in favour of lighter-coloured animals. Back dogs (as well as cats) are commonly the last, if at all, to be adopted, therefore have a much greater chance of being euthanised.

Negative portrayals of black pets in books, movies and other popular media haven’t helped. 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.

Another reason people don’t tend to adopt black dogs is guilt by association. Black cats, and other dark animals, have always had negative superstitions associated with them. Black cats are readily associated with witches, superstition, and bad luck. This negative association seems to carry over to dogs as well, since almost all dogs used for security purposes have dark coats to make them appear more menacing.

The concept of black for evil and white for good in many things from books to movies might also have an impact on some people. Hollywood seems to favour this approach, possibly because black dogs are harder to photograph. Also, ‘the black dog’ is a term applied to depression, making some people associate black dogs with feeling down.

When asked, people said they felt light coloured dogs were more trustworthy because their facial expressions was more easy to read than that of black dogs, so they could easily see the friendly expression on the dogs face. The dark colour of the black dog made it’s facial expression unclear, so people were naturally more cautious of it.

Another reason people don’t tend to adopt large black dogs, is that they ‘go gray’ in the muzzle area earlier. This makes them look older than they really are, and most people don’t want to adopt a dog ‘past his prime’.

Black dogs are also thought to shed more hair than lighter coloured dogs. This is untrue, but since the black hair may be more visible on light surfaces, this ‘nuisance factor’ is yet another reason people don’t adopt black dogs.

With technology at our fingertips, many people are using the internet to search for their next best friend. They scan through pictures looking for a face to fall in love with. The features of black dogs do not show as well in photographs and it is much more difficult to get a good photo of a black dog than a dog of lighter colour.

When looking at a black lab and a golden retriever, most people will choose the golden retriever as the ‘safe’ dog.

A dogs coat colour has no affect on the dogs temperament and personality. Black dogs are just as playful and loving and fun as dogs of other colours. And for that matter a black cats as well – I know, I’ve adopted both.

If you are thinking of adopting your next best friend, please be aware that Black Dog Syndrome is real and you may have a tendency to overlook the black dogs. Take a second look and make an effort to see ALL of the dogs available. Don’t walk out of the shelter thinking that there is no dog for you because you overlooked the black dogs. Make your decision based solely on the dog that will be the best fit for your family regardless of the colour of his coat.