Thursday, October 16, 2008

Shelters Fighting "Black Dog" Syndrome

In many shelters across the country, dogs with thick, dark black coats usually take longer to get adopted. The phenomenon is commonplace enough to have earned its own name: "black dog syndrome."

The worst part, is that because they are the hardest to adopt out, they’re in shelters the longest and are the most likely to be euthanized if nothing happens.

There is no exact reason as to why this occurs, but there are several theories. Could it be a subconscious thing, like the fear of black cats? Could it be that in some black dogs - the black pug comes to mind - that it's harder to see the dog's true features? Is it because they just look scarier?
Some people have actually turned in their black dog to a shelter because they've gotten new furniture and don't like the dark fur their pet sheds.

The sheer difficulty in marketing of a black dog is also one theory of why they stay in shelters the longest. Their black coats can make them invisible in poorly lit kennels. The same problem occurs with amateur photos on shelters' websites, which is how many people find the dog they intend to adopt.

And then, because a lot of these dogs may be at a shelter, a person thinks maybe they aren’t being adopted for a good reason – maybe there is something wrong with them.

Add that to the fact that in bigger breeds, such as Rottweilers, Dobermans, and pit bull mixes, the dogs just down right look big and scary.

But think twice when looking at black dogs. My family members did. The photo above is of their pit-bull mix they adopted. Ebony, as she has been adequately named, was just begging to be adopted. She was playful and friendly and had been found roaming the streets, all alone. Skinny to the point where you could see her ribs, the description read as follows: One-year-old terrier-mix is a very pretty girl. She has a very lean body that is accentuated by her beautiful black coat. She was found as a stray by a person that was not allowed to have pets in his home. He cared for her for three weeks while looking for her owner. She is a very polite young lady looking for her forever home.

The description was right-on. Although she may look big and mean, she is one of the nicest dogs I’ve ever been around. Loyal and loving, all she needed was someone to treat her right. After her adoption, she gained over 20 pounds, and is now a strong, playful, dog. I would use the old cliché that she is all bark with no bite…but she doesn’t even bark all that much. Not much of a guard dog, when someone walks in the house, all she wants to do is play. When she’s let out in the yard, she runs around to get her exercise, and then quickly returns home. Ebony has no desire to be lost again without a family.

As you can see by her place on the couch, she is a full-fledged family member.

So, the next time you’re at your local shelter, take a good long look at the black dogs. They may surprise you.

This post is part of Petside's Pet Net Adoption Event. Check out other great posts about pet adoption.


Tanny said...

Both my dogs are black, the female is 95% black with only few white spots and the male has black with brown legs and white belly. But when we went to pick him up he was completely black with few spots on the legs.
My female is a dog we found on the street and it was very easy to fall in love with her.

I never understand why people are afraid of black dog, maybe it got something to do with the black cat superstition.

My neighbor also have 2 beautiful completely black dogs, he found both of them on the street.

mrbill15 said...

I did not know this. Thanks for the information

Thoughts said...

Great post! I also have black dogs (and cats) in the family and there is absolutely nothing wrong with them. I have heard of this problem with adopting black dogs out before (and cats). I think its important and Im glad you called attention to the issue.

Glad to have a fellow blogger like you also participating in Pet Net today!


Anonymous said...

I had read about this before. Now as a volunteer at my Humane Society I am experiencing it. A dog we have worked with, big and black, has stayed too long at the shelter and has been going downhill for a while. Skinny, bad coat, etc. Now he has developed a snappy, lunging habit. He will be euthanized this week. We are all very sad.

I have two black dogs that I love.

Therese said...

Thanks for telling people about this very real phenomenon!

I first heard about the black dog syndrome when I met and fell in love with my dog Lydia, who I blog about often! I adopted her from the shelter here in Austin. When we chose each other the adoption counselor was so very happy and told me about the black dog syndrome.

When I think of how close Lydia was to being killed because of her color, it breaks my heart. And sadly there are so very many out there like her who are gone now simply because of their color.

Johann The Dog said...

Great post! Thanks for shining the light on the issue of black dog syndrome. Being a black dog, I understand!

Woofs, Johann

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Flo said...

I've only recently heard of this and it amazes me. I personally love dark dogs and black ones are my favorites. I don't really understand this phenomena at all. Oh, well, guess I'll just make sure to adopt all black dogs :)

BTW, Ebony is gorgeous.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for writing about me and my fellow black dogs.


Anonymous said...

It's amazing how we let looks get in the way of seeing the dogs true personality.