The Curious Case of Black Dog Syndrome

August 4, 2016 | We Learn | Story by Andrea Smith
You may have heard of Black Dog Syndrome in which big, black dogs are adopted less than lighter, smaller breeds. A bit of good news is that there are non-profits launched with a mission focused on finding homes for black pets. There are three traits that put these animals at a disadvantage; a dark coat, size, and being aged 2-3 years.

Animal welfare experts weigh in on this behavior and suggest a theory for the myth. A Penn state study concluded that people are more intimidated by photos of black dogs than yellow or brown dogs. The participants judged them to be less friendly, less adoptable, and more aggressive. There is also the stigma during the time of Samuel Johnson and Winston Churchill that defines depression as a coal-colored hound.


“The participants judged them to be less friendly, less adoptable, and more aggressive.”

Shelter workers must take steps to make black dogs more appealing to potential adopters; teaching black dogs’ special tricks, displaying signs noting their endearing traits, or offering discounts on adoption fees.

Shelters are overflowing with black canines. A shelter manager at one of Atlanta’s oldest and largest no-kill facilities predicts that for every 3 dogs that are adopted it takes that long for a black dog to find a home The public may also not recognize black dogs fates are largely sealed once they are surrendered. Tamara Delaney saw the rising problem and took initiative to be their voice. Her website,, is dedicated to big black dogs, resulting in saving these animals from death row. She receives emails from shelters and rescue groups who request to post pictures of endangered animals

One reason for this discrimination is simply that they are harder to photograph. For photo centric adoption services, like Petfinder, it is nearly impossible to give the jet-hued animal that great photo finish. It is hard to capture a facial expression and their eyes. What you usually see is a black silhouette and a big tongue, which can be endearing but is often not enough to capture adopters hearts. Shelters are using other options when showcasing black dog qualities like using a charcoal background for photographs or using videos to record their amazing abilities.

What are your thoughts on black pups? Please share a comment.

Black and White Dog by namaste04-Flikr

Leave a comment!


  • Tarquin / August 4, 2016

    Poor black dogs! Sad to hear that they have a tougher time getting adopted, because my two black dogs are probably the sweetest I’ve ever met!! Glad that there are groups out there trying to help.

    • admin / August 28, 2016

      It is surprising, as a dog lover, to hear about this. I specifically share adoption notices for black pups for this very reason.

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