What is Black Dog Syndrome?
Coal, Raven, Licorice, Pepper, Ebony, and Shadow are all common names for black dogs. As a mom to a black lab mix and an admirer of all black dogs, I was amazed when I heard of Black Dog Syndrome. While it is not a major problem here in New England, it is a very real problem in Southern high-kill shelters. Sadly, in those shelters, black dogs are the last considered for adoption and the first to be euthanized.
When asked why people overlook these beautiful dogs, the most common response is that they are too plain or they look aggressive. The majority of black dogs tend to have very dark eyes instead of the big brown eyes we all melt over. So, maybe the dark eyes contribute to their “aggressive” look.
Working at a shelter, my feeling is that they are overlooked due to the combination of their darkness and low lighting, common in kennels, making it difficult to actually see the dog. We've tried different techniques to help make black dogs stand out, such as light colored bedding or accessorizing them with colorful bandanas. But, still when the shelter is overloaded with resident dogs, the lighter colored dogs or the multi-colored dogs still seem to be the first adopted. So, even here in Maine, these dogs need the opportunity to show visiting families their unique personalities and how fun and loving they can be.
People often first choose a dog because they like their appearance. Really not a big surprise, considering most people do the same when they enter a room of strangers; they are often drawn to people they feel are more attractive. Not that this is a bad thing, but in the shelter world it can mean life or death. It is really more important for a family to consider the whole dog when choosing the right fit for their lifestyle. A dog’s personality is very important, as well as energy level, age and health and whether they have experience with young children, cats, and other dogs.
Though we are speaking of dogs, let us not forget the black cats of the world. There are many in shelters looking for forever homes. Not only do they need to deal with the effects of Black Cat Syndrome, they are also the subject of pranks and horrible acts of cruelty, especially during the Halloween season.
I stand behind the phrase; Black is Beautiful and will always have a special place in my heart for all the black dogs out there struggling to compete with the more "fashionable" pups of the world.