Black Dog Syndrome

Have you ever heard of black dog syndrome (BDS)?  Maybe you think it’s just a myth, but the sad truth of the matter is, it is a real phenomenon.  In fact, black dogs (and cats as well), actually spend longer periods of time in shelters awaiting adoption than other animals do.  What are the reasons that this is happening?  I’ve done some research and here are some of the most common reasons.


They seem more “generic.” For whatever reason, black animals just seem more common and less unique in some way.  For example, black Labrador retrievers are one of the most common and familiar breeds there is.  But there’s absolutely nothing wrong with having a black Lab.  In fact, they areone of the most versatile pets in the world.  Not only are they great hunting dogs, but they also make fantastic therapy dogs, and their friendly temperament and loyalty make them the perfect family pets.  As I’ve mentioned before, my son’s first therapy dog was Cherokee, a black lab.  You can read more about her in my older posts.

Size:  Oftentimes black dogs seem to be more common in larger sizes, and unfortunately people picture big black dogs as being threatening or intimidating.  Think Rottweilers, Dobermans, Newfoundlands, etc.   No it’s not fair, but they often get a bad reputation.


Black dogs are harder to spot in dimly lit kennels, so they just don’t stand out as much as other dogs.  An all black animal can be harder to photograph because their facial features aren’t always as clear.  In these days of Instagram, Twitter, etc., that can be discouraging for pet owners who want to show off their furry family members.

Black pets have been portrayed negatively many times in books, movies, and other popular media, such as the Harry Potter series, or the classic “Hound of the Baskervilles.”  Have you ever noticed how common it is to see a “Beware of Dog” sign with a likeness of a black dog on it?

Black Cats:  When it comes to cats, we’re all familiar with how black cats are associated with witches, superstitions, and bad luck.



What can be done about it?

First of all, you may not even be aware that you or your friends  subconsciously harbor some of these misconceptions yourself.  So becoming aware of BDS is the first step.  Learn to work past your first impressions and get to know the animal before jumping to any conclusions.  In overcoming any prejudice, you must look below the surface and get to know the real personality of a prospective pet before you make a decision.

According to, the average adoptable pet spends 12.5 weeks in a shelter before being adopted out, but less adoptable pets, which include black animals, seniors, and special needs pets, spend up to four times longer before getting adopted.

If you are thinking of adopting a pet, please don’t automatically bypass that sweet black dog or cat that is waiting for their fur-ever home.  Spend some time getting to know the animal, give them a chance.  If you don’t, you may be passing up a real sweetheart of a pet that could just end up being the love of your life.


Do you currently have a black dog or cat that turned out to be a real gem, the best thing that ever happened to you?  If so please, share your story.

And please come back again next time when I’ll be talking more about other hard to adopt pets that deserve a second chance as well.

P.S.  I apologize for the long absence.  I had a lot of things going on for awhile and blogging got put on the back burner.  But I”m back now with new ideas, and plan to add new posts twice a week, probably every Wednesday and Saturday or Sunday.


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