Why are black dogs not as readily adopted as dogs of other colors or markings?

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Black Dog Syndrome is a term that refers to the under-adoption rate of larger black or dark-coated dogs at shelters. They are often being passed up for the smaller dogs and ones with lighter coats and, as a result, these dogs are often euthanized or just turned away from shelters because of their low chances of being re-homed.

Breeds more affected by this “canine discrimination” include Labrador Retrievers, Chow Chows, Rottweilers, Pit Bull Terriers, German Shepherd Dogs, Newfoundlands and mixes of those breeds.

There are several theories as to why might be happening:

• Negative Connotation: The color black in Western society is typically representative of evil and other negative suggestions and, in many mythologies, black dogs are often the harbingers of death or emissaries of the Devil. Even the common “Beware of Dog” sign depicts a big, black dog with teeth bared and eyes bulging. The association between black dogs and the supernatural world has led black dogs in Western culture to be regarded as earthly omens of disaster, crime, and/or death, thus creating an aura of apprehension around large black dogs.
• Perception: Because light doesn’t reflect off black, the way it does other colors—in fact, light reflects the most off white—it’s hard to see and “read” the dog’s face and, as a result, one can’t interpret the dog’s personality—so she’s thought of as mean, sickly, damaged. In fact, even a playful grin can be seen as an angry grimace.
• The Psychology of Color: Kennels and shelters often have grey walls and other uninviting, contributing to the psychology of color. Gray kennels negatively affect the mood of potential adopters and cause black dogs to blend into the background. By blending into the background these dogs stand out less and are consequently adopted less than lighter-colored dogs.

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