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Does it take longer for black dogs to get adopted?

Black dogs might have a harder time getting adopted simply because of their color. This logic mostly applies to big, black dogs. And also black cats. I’ve written about the topic before on this blog and for other publications.

But lately as I look at the black beauty sleeping at my feet I wonder if this “black dog syndrome” really exists.

Are black dogs truly harder to place into homes? Or is “black dog syndrome” another animal sheltering myth? Is it a way for us rescue volunteers to put the blame on the public?

“It’s not our fault he hasn’t been adopted yet,” a shelter volunteer might say. “No one wants a big, black dog.”

Shelters and rescues are not doing black dogs any good by spreading these negative messages.

People want to hear positive messages. Something like, “Did you know our rescue saved 100 black dogs from the pound last year? We have 20 black beauties waiting to be adopted today.”

Positive energy goes a long way.

The problem with “black dog syndrome” is not whether it exists – it very well might. The problem is how shelter and rescue workers don’t even question it.

There are no professional statistics to back up “black dog syndrome.” (If you have some, show me.) Black dog syndrome is nothing more than an urban legend.

Questioning big, black dog syndrome

Do people really seek out lighter-colored dogs? Spotted dogs?

Is the American dream to own a golden retriever or a golden lab?

I don’t think so.

The KC Dog Blog did a nice job questioning this very issue of “black dog syndrome.” It asks: Could it be that it seems like shelters are full of black dogs because there are so many of them in the first place?

We do know, for example, that the Labrador is the most popular breed in the United States, according to the American Kennel Club. It has been the most popular breed for years. Not only that, but black is the most common color for Labs because black is a dominant gene for the breed.

It’s safe to say the black lab is the most popular dog in the United States.

People are obtaining their black labs somewhere. Perhaps rescues and shelters need to work harder to compete with breeders, pet shops and people re-homing their dogs. There is definitely a demand for black labs. We need to step up our game.

How to help black dogs get adopted

For the sake of argument, let’s just assume black dogs are harder to get adopted. If that is the case, then it’s just a reason for rescues and shelters to try harder.

That means making it easier for people to adopt by getting these big, black dogs out into public every day of the week, lowering adoption fees and offering adoptions during convenient hours. Getting rid of the “home visit” would also make adopting more appealing.

Rescues should offer reduced adoption fees on any long-term animals, regardless of color.

They should offer adoption specials on black animals for at least a month each year.

They could also create a fun photo contest with judges to see who can get the best pictures of the black dogs up for adoption. That could be a lot of fun!

A costume contest for black dogs could also make an entertaining fundraiser.

Obstacles for big, black dogs

Cute black lab mix for adoption in Fargo


There are, of course, certain points I just can’t argue.

Black dogs are definitely harder to photograph.

This is not an excuse, though. It just means shelters need to make sure to get better photos of the black dogs. It’s not that hard to get a good pic of a black dog outside with good lighting. I do this every day.

Another factor is that black pets have a distinguished look even if they have just a hint of gray. They look old. Few people want to adopt old dogs. Right, Cosmo? 🙂

It certainly does seem like black dogs and cats are overlooked. I’ve known many black dogs locally that waited years to get adopted. There are also black cats in our local shelters that have been waiting for homes just as long.

I chose a “big, black dog” from a local rescue to sponsor, and I hope to sponsor another big, black dog after this sweet boy named Dex gets adopted.

Nearly every shelter, pound or rescue worker I talk to will back up “black dog syndrome” based on her experience that black dogs do get adopted last.

Some shelters will even kill black animals as quickly as they legally are allowed because they “know they won’t be adopted.” Why waste money on a dog that will sit in the shelter for months? It’s better to “euthanize” and open up space for “more adoptable” animals.

That’s just as bad as killing a healthy dog (of any color) based solely on her breed.

My black mutt

Whether big, black dogs are truly harder to get adopted or not, they have a special place in my heart. I love my big, black mutt Ace. Black is beautiful. I am attracted to black dogs and cats. Sleek, black dogs tend to be my favorites. I’m a “black dog person.”

When the time comes for me to adopt another dog, I’m going to have a hard time not adopting a “black lab mix” that looks exactly like Ace.

My “black pearl.” My beautiful boy.

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