Last updated September 21, 2020
From Labrador retrievers to Newfoundlands to Scottish Terriers, black dogs have been loyal friends and companions, as well as hardworking service pups. Unfortunately, shelters have noticed that these dogs suffer from common stereotypes that leave them homeless longer simply because they “look scary,” or their photos don’t show their cute faces clearly enough. Much like black cats, there’s an unfair stigma attached to these pups, and we’re here to break it.
What is Black Dog Syndrome (BDS), or Big Black Dog (BBD)?
“Black dog syndrome” or “big black dog syndrome” is the phenomenon where black dogs are passed over for adoption in favor of lighter-colored canines. Petfinder administered a survey where shelter and rescue groups reported that while most pets are listed for 12.5 weeks, “less-adoptable pets” – which includes black, senior, and special needs pets – spent almost four times as long on their site. They reiterated in their report that black pups have a hard time getting adopted due to their size, unclear photos of the animal, and sadly, negative portrayals in movies, TV shows, and books.
Chewy reported similar findings in a 2013 study from Penn State University where psychologists determined that people find images of black dogs scarier than photos of yellow or brown dogs. Furthermore, “the participants rated the black animals less friendly and less adoptable, which is a problem in a world where adoption searches usually begin online.”
What Can We Do to Help Black Pups?
It’s what’s inside that counts: If you’re looking to adopt a dog, don’t discount one based on their appearance. Take the time to see if your physical needs will mesh – if you like hiking, you’d want an athletic dog to keep up; if you want to hang out watching Netflix, research cuddly dog breeds that want to chill out.
Share with friends: Tell people about BDS and encourage them to disregard stereotypes. If you have a friend or family member looking to adopt a pet, suggest dark-coated cats and dogs. Some sites state that it’s an unconscious prejudice, so talking about it may help future pet parents move past it once they’re aware.
Don’t blame black dogs: Bad omens or “evil dogs” exist in stories, but your neighborhood pooch probably isn’t ushering in the hounds of hell. Many behavioral issues can be traced back to poor training or worse, neglect or abuse. If you suspect unkind treatment to an animal, please contact your local humane society or SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals).
Black dog pet parents: Take great pics of your dog either in front of backgrounds where they pop or during the “golden hour” so you can catch those nuances in their pretty puppy dog eyes. Additionally, make sure your dog is well-behaved – because unfortunately, the only way to prove people wrong is to see what a sweetheart your pup is!
At Healthy Paws, we love all dogs! Share a pic of your bold and beautiful black dog by tagging @gohealthypaws. And if you aren’t already a pet parent with us, look into getting a free quote to help safeguard not just your special pup, but your wallet too.