Search Our Site

Search form


Black Dog Syndrome

August 23, 2010 | Dogs / Cats

By Michele C. Hollow, Pet News and Views

When I first heard about Black Dog Syndrome, I thought it was an Internet hoax. A trainer who rescued a black Labrador retriever told me that the shelter workers where she adopted her black Lab from were thrilled that she chose a black Lab over a yellow one.

If you are unaware, Black Dog Syndrome is when people don't adopt dogs with black or dark fur. I grew up with a German Shepherd/Collie/Beagle mix who was mostly black and dark brown. He was extremely handsome, and quite intelligent, which made me think that Black Dog Syndrome just couldn't exist.

Yet, I kept on hearing about it on chat rooms, on the Internet, from friends who do rescue work, and from people who work at animal shelters. One person told me that when she was looking to adopt a Labrador retriever, she was astounded at the disparity between available yellow dogs versus black dogs. The wait for a yellow lab from a rescue group could be months or years, while there were plenty of black labs available.

Why Black Dogs are Overlooked

Black dogs are often overlooked. When you place a bunch of black dogs in a shelter amongst tan, red, yellow, mixed and other colored fur, people's gaze goes towards the lighter or brighter animals.

"As a brand marketing professional, I can tell you color is a powerful perception tool," says Steven Vena, owner of The Nimble Group, Inc., a brand marketing and advertising agency. "If I am walking down the street, I would bet more people would pet the tan dog versus the black dog."

I was able to see his point-even though I didn't like it. I grew up in New York, and have a lot of black clothes in my closet. I remember attending an expo at the Javits Center; the majority of men dressed in black suits and the women wore black dresses. I came along in a bright orange blazer, and got lots of comments. Many people thanked me for wearing a sunny color.

Still when it comes to fur or skin color, I think black is more interesting because it's not just black. Look at a cat, dog, or person with black coloring and you will see reds, browns, and a nice mix of other tones thrown in. Maybe because I'm extremely fair skinned, I appreciate other colors. I was thankful for my freckles; otherwise I would have a ghostlike complexion!

Photos of Black Dogs

Take a look at photos of adoptable dogs and cats on line. Often shelter workers, not professional photographers, snap quick photos and post them. Unfortunately they are not very good, and all too often the black ones are blurry. Thankfully, many shelters are using professional photographers to show off these dogs and cats. Some shelters are adding color to these adoptable animals. You might see a black dog or cat with a colorful bandanna or attractive colored collar. It makes the pet stand out.

Black Cats

Black cats also have a hard time getting adopted. A lot of that has to do with superstitions. Personally, I had a black cat, and everyone loved him. He was the sweetest, and had a playful personality. His green eyes stood out against his expressive face.

I have trouble understanding this, but there are some people who regard black cats as witches' familiars. It has gotten so bad that shelters won't adopt out a black cat around Halloween time. It seems that people want to use black cats for rituals around that time. So a good number of shelters refuse to adopt out their black cats from the end of September to the beginning of November.

And I know this is going to sound screwy, but some people believe that vampires transform themselves into black dogs as a way of traveling unnoticed at night. (I just don't get some people.) So unfortunately, black cats and dogs are the last, if at all, to be adopted.

Black Dog and Black Cat Syndrome are real. The next time you are looking to adopt a dog or cat, take personality into account. Talk to the shelter workers or the workers at the rescue group, and make an informed decision.

Michele C. Hollow writes Pet News and Views, a blog devoted to the positive side of animal welfare. Stories cover news about people who work with and for animals and animal nonprofits.


Its sad but true. I have seen this myself over and over, and even worse sick individuals use this as another excuse to harm and innocent animal. It's disgusting. Gets me so angry I could pummel one of those ignorant fools. I have personally had 4 Black Cats, and now a Dark near black Torti that is beautiful and very sweet although fearful as she was mistreated as a kitten. I also had a Black Lab named Bear some years ago. They were all very loving animals that were some of the best pets I've had. In fact, a feral had a litter that has one little male almost all black with a little mask. He looks like Batman and is very friendly. I think Batman will be joining my family.

My daughter always wanted a dog,so one day my husband say yes, he bought the most beautiful black poodle his name is Tono and we love this little black thing, he is so gentle and loving. One day a had a garage sale, and a lady come and ask me if I want another dog, thinking maybe I will give to my friend I say yes, the little dog was mix York and pug , she is blond , yes she is beautiful , for me have one of each color don't make any differences I love my two little crazy dogs!!! I don't care the color of them I just love them dearly. Helen Cofone

I wonder if it's different with terriers. Black schnauzers especially seem to stand out, but maybe I'm just thinking of my childhood buddy Max. He was jolly, jaunty and overflowing with love. All he needed to look perfect would have been a little bow tie. Never shed, either. Speaking of which, Suzy is right--light hair can be just as bad. I have a beautiful seal-point ragdoll cat whose fawn-colored hair shows up white all over the red furniture. But what are you going to do? Adopt an animal in some bizarre shade guaranteed to match the upholstery? I guess you could try for a punk look, if that's what you want.;)

I was eight years old and playing in my back yard when the neighborhood bully showed up with a baseball bat and swung it at me. My dog Ruthie shot out of the house; punching a hole in the screen door in her haste, and grabbed the bat out of the bully's hands. She was a little border collie mix and solid black. Every dog my sister and I have ever owned has been black; newfoundlands and labs mostly. I live on a farm right now and I have five black cats. (tabbys, tourties and calicos too...) Send your black critters to Iowa. They are welcome.

I have 3 small dogs 1 white & tan shihtzu mixed rescued from yard sale. she has been with us 12 yrs. a black & gray 6 yrs. yorkie poo black chihuahua adopted after foster care & after her 6 puppies were born & returned to shelter. they allow my husband & I to sleep in the bed with them. we are so glad to have them .they give so love. P.S.will be adopting black mixed puppy in 8 weeks . GO BLACK DOGS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Add new comment