About Adopting

Black Dog Syndrome: Is It Real?


Have you ever heard about the term “Black Dog Syndrome”? Although it might sound like a mythical disease, it is not, neither is it contagious. It is a phenomenon in the shelter and rescue community that is quite alarming: black-colored dogs often get left behind when it comes to adopting dogs from shelters. Sad, isn’t it?

Many professionals, as well as ordinary dog-lovers, are pretty much aware that black dogs nowadays don’t always attract attention because of their color and reputation. They end up usually being euthanized first, but adopted the last. Even people who come for dog adoption prefer light-colored ones such as white, brown, or similar colors. To clarify, here are some reasons why black dogs are subconsciously treated as outcasts by some people:

Black Dog Syndrome

  • Their black color doesn’t do well with the public in general. Some prefer lighter coats because they are more eye-catching.
  • Most owners find it hard to read a black dog’s expression and what it wants.
  • Because they are black, they may be difficult to see at night or when they are in darker places. This can be a hassle if they get lost or suddenly ran off in the middle of the night. It can also be dangerous to them and to other people because not many people will notice them. They might suddenly attack people or get hit by speeding vehicles during those hours.
  • In popular media and culture, black dogs are stuck with the bad negative image of being the villain and being aggressive.
  • Similar to the reason above, black has always been the color most commonly used to represent negativity, evil and misfortune. For this reason, some people tend to believe that black dogs are unlucky.
  • Many black dogs are known as dangerous dogs and are prone to aggression. Some of which are Pit bulls, Doberman Pinchers, black Labradors, Chows and Rottweilers.

For the stated reasons, black dogs seem to be discriminated against. And it’s not just dogs; even black cats experience the same kind of sad fate. These pets are in great need and danger if they do not find love and care from human owners.

An excerpt from a Wikipedia article gives some further understanding of the phenomenon:

The phenomenon may be due to a number of factors, including fear stigma against certain breed types, and the fact that large, black dogs are often portrayed as aggressive in film and on television.

Some people believe that during the pet adoption process some potential owners associate the color black with evil or misfortune (similar to the common superstition surrounding black cats), and this bias transfers over to their choice of dog. Additionally, many shelters feature photo profiles of their dogs on the shelter website. Because black dogs do not photograph well, lighter-colored dogs have an advantage with potential adopters browsing the site.

The bottom line is that, dogs and cats need love and care, regardless of color, size, or breed. As owners and dog lovers, we should also do something to further prevent Black Dog Syndrome from lingering in the community.

Do you have any ideas to help combat this phenomenon? If so, please share your thoughts below.



  1. Spike

    Apr 2, 2016 at 1:36 am

    I agree with having them in the first kennels. In addition, take them out and parade them around with bright scarves around their necks, showing how sweet they are.
    I had a wonderful black dog who was so nice she was stolen from me. I now have another who is a rescue dog. Color doesn’t matter!

  2. Annie Dooley

    Feb 26, 2016 at 8:54 am

    I have 3 black dogs and love them all very much.
    They are kind, loving, and always make me feel better when I have a bad day.
    It is so unfair to judge dogs based on color.

  3. DC

    Feb 17, 2016 at 1:48 am

    In my opinion, locate the black animals on front, as on the fist cages or on the first lines and not at the end. I think people are more likely to get the firsts animals than the lasts ones (personal opinion). Other thing that MIGHT help is get them some shinny and/or funny accessory; such as, pointy birthday hat. A red colored collar would do too, such as red cowboy-like-bandana-collar. Or a white/red/green/electric blue (any catchy color) clothing. Lastly, the cage where there are located, probably would be a good idea to paint in a catchy color or put a big sign with some funny words or touching story or some funny pictures of the animal. The personal can help a little by introducing the black animal. A person who goes to a shelter to adopt an animal are more likely accept any color. Try to “sell” the black animal. Hope these can help.
    I have a black cat and I came from a VERY superstitious culture and family. I love this rescued-fully black-kitty and will never ever leave him. So, against my will I had to dye part of his body in gold (blond) so he is not fully black (to fool the bad luck) and got him a red collar with a big red bell on it; so I can hear where he is to avoid accidents.

  4. Macpoetsgirl

    Feb 15, 2016 at 10:20 pm

    I have had dogs all my life and all but 2 were black. Right now I have 2 black dogs. There is nothing more beautiful than a black dog. My first dog was a black spaniel and she was so black she looked blue. She was my first, best and the most beautiful dog ever.

  5. Lucie

    Feb 14, 2016 at 10:59 pm

    “Many black dogs are known as dangerous dogs and are prone to aggression. Some of which are Pit bulls, Doberman Pinchers, black Labradors, Chows and Rottweilers.” Black Labs are on the list??? Really? I thought they had a reputation for being the best family dogs, one of the reason they’re not used for police work is their gentleness.

  6. Michelle

    Feb 14, 2016 at 2:47 pm

    When I was in high school my family adopted a black lab/rottweiler mix from the shelter. She was the sweetest dog we’ve ever had. We never had an issue with aggression. We lost her last year to bone cancer at 10 years old and we all still get choked up when we talk about her. But on a lighter note, the only thing in this article I agree with is that we have tripped over her at night many, many times. It’s hard to see a black dog laying down on dark hardwood floors at night with no lights on and even worse, the black carpet in my old bedroom.

  7. LabMom

    Feb 14, 2016 at 10:22 am

    The “black Labradors” as an aggressive breed is hilarious.
    The LABRADOR is the breed and can be identified as either American or English.
    The COLOR of a lab is NOT a differentiating characteristic in the “breed type”.

    Perhaps the author should double check his facts and do a little education on genetics before listing “black Labrador” as a breed


    Additionally, Labradors are the NUMBER ONE service, canine support, and therapy dogs in the WORLD….color aside. One reason……their SOFT MOUTH…….they are capable of picking things up and working delicate switches with damaging things……. same reason why they are so desired as hunting dogs (specifically for water fowl and other birds) where they have to go get what was shot ….hence the 2nd half of their name “retriever”.

    I personally think the author was stretching for reasons…….to make people seem less superficial. Ask any shelter worker or dog rescue and the truth is “black dogs are common” and people often do not spay or neuter their mixed breed dogs and many dogs get labelled as “lab” based on appearance only.

    Got to say this article was quite a let down……just someone else’s OP of what we all know……people are superficial and often think of dogs as a thing or a status symbol.


  8. Anette Wulff

    Feb 14, 2016 at 3:28 am

    I was very surprised at reading the article. Thought black dogs were prefered over other colours. They are beautiful.

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