What is Black Dog Syndrome?

Picture yourself shopping at an outdoor mall. You see two pet owners walking toward you. One is walking a smaller, blonde dog; the other is walking a large, black dog. Most people around you are going to approach the smaller dog first. Your first thought may be that it’s simply size: smaller dogs are more approachable, right? That’s where you’d be wrong.

Animal shelters and rescue groups report high percentages of what’s known as Black Dog Syndrome, or BDS, which is basically a prejudice against black dogs. On average, black dogs spend up to four times more time in shelters and in foster care than do their lighter-colored counterparts. In fact, so do black cats. But why, you may ask?

  • Size
  • Unclear facial features
  • Badly lit kennels
  • The “genericness” of black pets
  • Negative portrayals of black pets in books, movies, and pop culture

The color of an animal has no impact on their behavior or personality, just like humans. Much of what is to blame in this scenario is simple superstition. Black, while it is a very popular color in fashion magazines, is widely considered an evil, unlucky, or even mean and unfriendly color. It’s deemed “unapproachable.”

When we approach a black pet, we need to set aside superstition or old beliefs. Just as you would with a person, you need to avoid judging a pet based on looks alone. BDS is easily avoidable, if we are only willing to work past our superficial personalities. If we can all work together to move away from this, then we can save many more animals’ lives.