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Did you know that black dogs are the last to be adopted? Especially if they are large black dogs? Destined for death in many shelters they are passed up for whatever the reason. In our experience, black dogs are the ones that shelters are most often begging rescues to take before they have to be put down for overcrowding. It seems that blondes have more fun even in a dog's world. This is true even in regards to designer dogs. In fact many breeders are trying to avoid breeding black dogs altogether because they don't sell as well as lighter colored dogs.

For many dogs awaiting adoption, the speed with which they find a home may rest not on their breed, gender or age but on one trait that has no bearing on their personality or temperament. The fact that they are black is enough to discourage adopters.

Shelter officials have dubbed it "Black Dog Syndrome" -- the propensity of dark-coated animals to be passed over for adoption in favor of their lighter counterparts. The first two words of that phrase seem self explanatory: black + dog. A syndrome is defined as "a group of things or events that form a recognizable pattern, especially of something undesirable". To the uninitiated, the idea seems so strange — doggie discrimination?

Skeptics say the syndrome is an urban legend, but shelter and rescue leaders insist the phenomenon is very, very real.The title seems to fit the bill: There are increased "observable occurences" that many (not all) shelters are experiencing in a recognizable way: Dark coated canines are being euthanized more frequently and adopted less.

Based on research many shelters and rescues have come to the conclusion that there are a few reasons for this.....

1) Stigmas Associated With Certain Coat Colors; Folklore; In British folklore, such as stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Sir Walter Scott, the black dog is a creepy, spectral figure that haunts cemeteries and is an omen of death. (Non-lit geeks who've never heard of those stories have at least seen "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban," in which a big black dog called the Grim stalks Harry.) Another Englishman, Winston Churchill, battled serious bouts of depression which he called "the black dog."

Madeline Bernstein, president of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles. says: "Light is good and dark is evil. The light-versus-dark thing is so ingrained in our consciousness in books and movies. It transfers subliminally in picking out a dog."

2) Black Dogs Photograph Poorly. It doesn't help that many would-be pet owners now start their search on shelter and rescue websites where each tear jerking dog bio is accompanied by a canine glamour shot. Facial features disappear, and black dogs can appear less expressive. "You can't see their eyes very well, and people seem to connect with the eyes," said Ricky Whitman, spokeswoman for Pasadena Humane Society & SPCA.

3) Poorly Lit Kennels in Shelters: When prospective adopters do venture to a shelter, black dogs sometimes fade away into the kennel shadows. "They almost become invisible," Madeline Bernstein said.

4) Fear-There is a misperception that black dogs are mean.They are perceived as menacing and there are even those who believe black dogs will bring them bad luck.

5) Black Dogs Can Overheat Faster Than Light Colored Dogs; in the sun with outdoor canine sporting activities and this becomes a "hassle factor" to many potential adopters who don't want to deal with it.

Whitman says the question isn't whether a black dog will get adopted, but how long it will take. The average wait at her shelter is two weeks."Black dogs may linger two months." she says

The lengthened stays create additional problems: Because black dogs are harder to place in homes, shelters often have a glut. "Then you have the problem of people thinking they're ordinary and common, not unusual and interesting," Bernstein said.

Most black dogs have to rely on shelter staff and volunteers to steer potential adoptors their way. And indeed, many shelters take extra steps to make black dogs more adoptable. To combat the problem, savvy shelters keep their black dogs in their best-lighted kennels. A bright bandanna around the neck helps a dark animal stand out, and colorful toys can lessen the fear factor.


Tamara Delaney has taken the plight of Black Dogs one step further. After trying to find a home for a black Lab mix, who languished at a rescue group for three years, Delaney set up a website devoted entirely to BBD’s. Her site, Contrary to Ordinary: The Black Pearls of the Dog World acts as a clearinghouse for shelters and rescue groups by placing pictures and stories of their black dogs on the website.

If you are looking to adopt a Doodle pay special attention to the beautiful black dogs waiting to be noticed. Please consider adopting a black doodle from a rescue or shelter near you.Give them a chance to find their way into your heart and home.

You will TRULY be saving a life!

Thank You!

Discussion Forum


BLACK DOODLE SYNDROME  Did you know that black dogs are the last to be adopted? Especially if they are large black dogs? Destined for death in many shelters they are passed up for whatever the…Continue

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Started by Jacquie Yorke - DRC Director. Last reply by Anne D Papianni Apr 3, 2013.

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Comment by lynn zazzi on December 3, 2014 at 1:19pm

I adored my black goldendoodle. My next one will be black as well. She was beautiful and I personally think most black dogs are stunning. I never realized that there was a stigma against the black pets. How silly. I hope that I am able to find another black doodle via DRC when it is my time for a new dog. I just lost mine to cancer 2 months ago and there is not a day that goes by that I do not miss her like crazy! Funny.. There were only 2 black dogs in the litter I picked mine from and I gravitated right to both of them. They were all beautiful, but there was just something about those little black furry balls of love!!!

Comment by Mona Moloney on February 12, 2014 at 12:27pm

Nancy and Liz, thanks for the explanation.  I didn't even think about the misperception of meanness and didn't know that black labs aren't as popular as chocolate and yellow ones.  What a shame.  I've had two wonderful black labs - both purchased from a local kill shelter. 

Comment by Liz and Seamus on February 12, 2014 at 7:30am

Mona, I agree with Nancy in that people often have the misconception that black dogs are mean.  Also I've been told that especially in a shelter setting that since black dogs don't photograph so well that also adds to people not seeing their beautiful faces and expressions.  Black labs are less popular than yellow or chocolate, I found that when a litter of labs was dropped at my doorstep..... sweet black Sully stayed with mefor a year until I was able to find a good home for him, while the chocolate boys went quickly.....

Comment by Ned, Clancy, Charlie, Jinkxy on February 11, 2014 at 8:38pm

Mona, people often think black dogs are mean.

Comment by Mona Moloney on February 11, 2014 at 7:43pm

Our Sammy (pictured) came from DRC and he is a sweetie - and a social butterfly.  Do people not want black doodles because it is hard to photograph their expressions?  Black labs and black poodles are both very popular.  Sammy's hair has a shimmer to it that is gorgeous.  People can't believe he was a rescue.

Comment by Amy on January 12, 2014 at 8:50pm
I miss our big black Labradoodle! She was awesome!!!! Truly the best dog !
I am keeping my eye out for another F1 or F1b black female ! We are in Columbus oh ! Anything out this way????
Comment by carolyn bain on April 7, 2013 at 6:49pm
Hello, I have just joined this group as we move toward looking for another dog. Our chocolate Standard Poodle passed almost 2 years ago. Now, we have only Our beautiful black fiesty cat named Lucy whom we adopted in 2007. I would like to share that the stigma on black cats is also severe. So silly!!! We now have a fan club "FFBC" Friends of Fuzzy Black Cats." We welcome the opportunity to start the "BBD" Beautiful Black Doodle fan club. Thanks for shring the experiences. CBain
Comment by Lisa S on October 22, 2011 at 8:42am
I had a black Poodle-chow mix growing up, and she was the darn cutest thing ever - and also such a great dog.  I think it's crazy that people wouldn't consider a dog just because it's got a dark coat.  Thanks for raising awareness of this trend.
Comment by Amy Butt on July 18, 2011 at 8:24am
I was unaware that black dogs are the last to be adopted: so sad.
Thanks for making me aware!!!
Comment by Kathy Janes on June 25, 2011 at 8:48am

We just got a new Goldendoodle puppy and had to search the country for a black one!  Of course, now there is a cute black rescue posted.  But, goodness, black may be hard to photograph but those coats look like black velvet!  I love thack doods!



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