October 1 was National Black Dog day. A day created to bring light to the fact that black-coated dogs are adopted far less frequently than other dogs. It’s not uncommon to hear stories about dogs languishing in shelters for 8 or 9 months, or even a year before finally being adopted. This syndrome is so common, it has been given a name: Big Black Dog Syndrome, and rescuers across the country can attest to the countless numbers of unadopted black dogs. Especially big black dogs breeds like Chows, Labs, and Rotweilers.
So what’s the problem? Of course, there’s no way to say for sure, but there are several theories. First, there is a perception that black dogs might be dangerous or aggressive. Take a look at movie history and books, and you’ll find dog villains are typically black dogs (hello, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban! and Cujo). It’s no wonder people subconsciously feel disconnected.
Sadly, many shelter employees will also tell you black dogs tend to just blend in to the shelter environment – people just don’t notice them. I hear stories all the time about shelter staff going to great lengths to black dogs stand out just a little by using bright colored toys and blankets in kennels.
It’s true that black dogs are harder to photograph. Many times, their features simply blend into the shadows, making these black beauties harder to adopt because they don’t stand out on adoption websites. I know for sure that capturing a dog’s personality in my photographs is key to making an emotional connection with pet parents, so when potential adopters can’t connect, they scroll on to the next one.
So what can you do? If you’re looking to adopt, consider a black dog. You can also share this information with your friends. In my heart, I believe that people just don’t know that it’s happening – that these prejudices are subconscious. And the more we make people aware, the more likely they will look beyond the dog’s coat and find a beautiful creature with lots of love to share.
Do you have a black dog? Please share your story of how he or she came into your home.