Black Dog Syndrome

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My soul mate dog Sophie was a mostly black shepherd/Doberman mix.  I always thought she was beautiful.  People were always leery of her.

When I started volunteering as a dog walker at my local shelter, I kept hearing about Black Dog Syndrome.  This is a phenomenon mostly seen in shelter and rescue environments where  black dogs get passed over for adoption time and time again for no fault of their own.  I could not find any supporting statistics for this, so just decided to see what experience showed.   Over the years, I did see several  black dogs up for adoption and honestly, I think they did stay at the shelter longer than their lighter counterparts.  Mostly what I saw was that it seemed to affect larger breeds the most.  The  black dogs that took longer to adopt were usually Dobermans, Rottweilers,  or Labradors.  The breeds themselves
are more difficult to adopt because they require an experienced dog owner, but what I saw was that people would walk right past the sweetest black lab and want to look at the high energy chocolate lab a few kennels down.   Some find it more intimidating to look into a kennel and see a large black dog.  Some people think black dogs shed more than any other color.  I can tell you from experience that my pure white dog sheds much more than my black dog.   If you volunteer at a shelter, there are a few things you can do to help beat this syndrome and help these dogs find homes more quickly.

  1. Lighten up the area – the light does not reflect as well off of a
    black coat, so the dog does not “show well” in a shaded kennel.
  2. Put a bright colored bandanna around the dogs’ neck – the color
    will brighten the face.
  3. Take a picture of the dog in a well-lit area, or outside to post
    on the kennel so he is seen in a more favorable setting.
  4. Lots of people browse the internet these days looking for a pet – make sure that if your shelter takes pictures to post on their website that they are taken in a setting that shows the dogs’ best qualities – use props – hats, sunglasses, balls, toys to show the dog off.
  5. Take advantage of walking the dog to show off any tricks or training the dog knows – I found that lots of dogs sparked interest to adopters while being walked vs being in the kennels.  It allows their personality to show – and their good manners.

If you in the market for a new dog (or an additional one), check out your local shelter or local rescues and keep your eyes peeled for that shiny black coat.  You won’t be disappointed.

Terry Meeks is a dog trainer, APDT Member an CGC Evaluator in Pinellas County, Florida.  Find Four on the Floor Dog Training at and on Facebook.

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