Adopt a Black Dog
Although the problem has never been studied, there is anecdotal evidence from animal shelters and humane societies around the country that suggests that black dogs, especially big black dogs (BBDs), are the hardest dogs to place in new homes. The phenomenon has become so widespread that among animal rescue professionals it even has a name: "Black Dog Syndrome."
My family has owned three big black rescue dogs in my lifetime. Jack, Critter, and Kaleah were among the lucky black dogs who found new homes after being abandoned at the shelter, but too many of their compatriots do not.
Possible Causes of Black Dog Syndrome
- Black dogs photograph poorly. Especially since the onset of internet pet adoptions, photographs have become important ways for prospective pet owners to get a first look at their potential pets. Unfortunately, it is often harder to see the facial features and expressions of black dogs in photographs, making people potentially less likely to click through for more information.
- Black dogs are harder to see in dim kennel conditions. A similar problem may afflict some black dogs in animal shelters. In dimmer lighting, black dogs stand out less than lighter dogs and may have a harder time working the puppy eyes.
- Black dogs can look old. For many shelters, the only dogs harder to place than black dogs are old black dogs. People want a cute puppy, or an energetic young dog to play with, and they're wary of potential vet bills and the prospect of losing a beloved pet too soon. Unfortunately, many black dogs gray more quickly than lighter dogs, so even relatively young dogs can look old.
- Black dogs are stigmatized. Black dogs,especially large black dogs, have long been associated with death. In British mythology, a Black Dog is a spectral creature whose appearance is a harbinger of death. Hellhounds are often portrayed as black dogs with glowing red eyes, as is Cerberus. Popular culture from Sherlock Holmes's Hound of the Baskervilles to the Grim of Harry Potter has also commonly associated black dogs with death.
- Black dogs are feared. Although many modern people would laugh at the old legends of the black dog that carries your soul to Hell, black dogs are still perceived by many to be fiercer and more dangerous than lighter colored dogs. This may be because several of the most commonly used police and attack breeds, including the Rottweiler and the Doberman Pinscher, are black. Vicious dogs, however, are nearly always the result of poor socialization and training on the part of the owner, not of coat color, or even breed. Pit bulls (which can be black, but are generally light or mixed color), the most feared dogs in America, make excellent family dogs with proper socialization.
Take Me Home
- Black Pearl Dogs
After learning about the plight of black dogs in shelters, Tamara Delany founded this site to educate people about Black Dog Syndrome and encourage adotptions.
- Start Seeing Black Dogs
Start Seeing Black Dogs provides education and marketing assistance for shelters and potential adopters of black dogs
How To Help
For shelter employees and volunteers, read this excellent post by Shel of the Saving Pets blog: Beating the Black Dog Blues. Many shelters offer special events or discounts to draw more attention to their black dogs, especially those who are slow to be adopted.
For potential adopters, the most important thing is to give black dogs a chance. Black labs and mixes in particular are so common at pounds that it's easy for them to run together when you're browsing the aisles of a kennel. Try to pay attention to each dog and find something unique and special to help differentiate them when you're trying to decide which dogs to meet and, later, which to adopt.
Most importantly, don't add to the problem! Unless you are a professional breeder, spay or neuter your black dog, even if you think you'll be able to find homes for a whole litter of puppies. Encourage friends and family who are considering getting a pet to visit their local humane society first.
This hub was written for the HubMob challenge, week five: All About Pets: The different stories, advice and tips that have to do with them.
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