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Black Dog Syndrome

Adopt-a-Shelter-Dog Month

Black Dog Rescue Stanley
4 year old Stanley found his forever home in Eagan.
Photo courtesy of Amy Aldrich

The month of October is Adopt-a-Shelter-Dog month! If you are considering adding a new member to your family, pay special attention to black dogs while you search for your new best friend. While all dogs in shelters face challenges, black dogs are the most vulnerable, experiencing what is known as “Black Dog Syndrome.”

What is “Black Dog Syndrome”? Studies find that dogs (and cats) with black coats are often adopted last from shelters, putting them at higher risk of euthanasia. Who is the most at risk? Medium sized black dogs aged 2-3 years. Rescue organizations suspect several factors play a role in this phenomenon, including:

  1. Negative portrayals in movies, books and folklore
  2. Superstition, fear or negative symbolism
  3. They overheat more easily
  4. They are more difficult to photograph without special lighting

Others believe that it’s harder to see a dog’s personality shine through in their black faces. With black eyes and brows that blend into a black face, they often look less expressive and are lost in the shadows of their kennels when prospective adopters pass by. Rescue workers are doing their best to give black dogs an added edge in shelters. Sometimes they teach them tricks or place signs near the dog to highlight their personalities, other times they avoid placing black dogs in kennels next to each other. Additional attention is being drawn to their plight thanks to efforts like The Black Dogs Project and media coverage like this from the NBC Nightly News:

Help fight Black Dog Syndrome by sharing this information with others. And if you are ready to adopt a dog, do your part by giving a black dog a second chance.

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