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Big Black Dog Syndrome

13 Dec

I learned about something recently that surprised me. Evidently, many people do not want big black dogs.

As the owner of a black Lab, I found this to be surprising. But a newsletter from the Heartland Lab Rescue had an article about how big black dogs are the hardest dogs to adopt out for shelters.

Theories abound as to why. Black dogs are difficult to see in their crates and cages at shelters. It’s hard to see their faces. They don’t photograph easily for online listings. There is a cultural bias against big black dogs because of irresponsible Rottie, Lab, Chow, Pitt and Doberman owners. People are more afraid of big black dogs because it’s hard to read their expressions when you can’t see their eyes and faces very well. Black dogs are too common or “ordinary” and prospective pet owners prefer a more unique coat color or pattern.

The theories vary, but the statistics don’t. Consistently across the country at shelter after shelter, the wait time for big black dogs — especially males — is longer than for any other type of dog. The adoption rate is lower. The surrender rate is higher.

“Our yellow and chocolate puppies rarely last more than a week before being adopted by loving families,” says Amy Serrata, Hertland Lab Rescue Co-Chair. “But the black puppies simply get passed up.”

Here are some ways to keep black dogs out of shelters:

  • Spay and neuter.
  • Adopt, foster or sponsor a big black dog.
  • If you can take decent pictures, volunteer your time to take photos of big black dogs for posting on adoption sites; the photo can make all the difference. (Hint: Take pictures outdoors on an overcast day.)
  • Spread the word about adoptable dogs to friends and family.
  • If you hear of someone who’s looking for a family dog, encourage them to get a black dog.

To find a big black dog waiting for adoption, go to www.blackpearldogs.com or www.heartlandlabrescue.com

I’m involved with Big Brothers/Big Sisters and I’ve been matched with a fourth grade boy. He is definitely more afraid of my black Lab than he was of my Collie. I always chalked it up to Boudain’s high energy level. But maybe there is a bias, especially in urban cultures.

What are your experiences with big black dogs? Are you more afraid of them when you pass them on the street? Do you keep a closer eye out on your dog at the dog park when he/she plays with or around big black dogs? Have you witnessed bias against big black dogs?

Listen to the Lucky Dog Show for more information about Big Black Dogs. Click here for more info.

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33 Comments

Posted by on December 13, 2007 in In the News

 

33 responses to “Big Black Dog Syndrome

  1. dog training toronto

    December 20, 2007 at 2:59 pm

    Thanks for the dog tips on your blog

    Dog Training Toronto

     
  2. Anna Kuperberg

    December 24, 2007 at 12:48 am

    Hello!

    What a great post – it is nice to see someone calling attention to this issue. I photograph dogs and post the photos on my blog site at http://www.slobberspace.com. I think all dogs are beautiful, including the black dog variety!

    Anna Kuperberg

     
  3. Sam Mancuso

    December 25, 2007 at 1:10 pm

    This is a pretty crazy assertion. Are there more black dogs in shelters simply because there are more black dogs?

    Editor’s Note: I thought it was nuts, too. I’d never heard of such a thing. But the more shelters I talk to, the more I hear that black dogs take more time to be adopted out, especially if they’re big and male. Shelter after shelter says the same thing. How sad, huh? – LW

     
  4. karen deines

    January 9, 2008 at 10:09 am

    Regarding Sam’s question, some years more black dogs and cats are born, then others. Someone involved with genetics could probably comment on this better than I. However, that being said, if you have a litter of kittens or pups for adoption, and half are say yellow/orange and half are black, the yellow/orange babies will be adopted first, most times. I have watched people at adoption days who are viewing the available pets, and it doesn’t seem to be a deliberate passing over of the black babies, I think it is more about their eyes being drawn to color.

     
  5. Mookie and Sam

    January 24, 2008 at 5:58 pm

    Hey! Check out the latest adventure of Mookie and Sam! The new video is called “Sam goes to Texas” and it’s really cute and funny!

    Don’t forget to check our their website at http://www.mookieandsam.com

     
  6. Melania

    January 27, 2008 at 4:57 pm

    Unfortunately, this is NOT just a CRAZY ASSERTION. It is the truth. The Horrible truth. And I being a volunteer and advocate myself, I am SO happy to see that there are others out there being the voice for these sweet helpless animals.
    I have 2 (black lab, males) rescues myself and I COULD NOT imagine my life without them. Life with my dogs is BY FAR more fulfilling than life without them could EVER be.

     
  7. De Akin

    February 10, 2008 at 8:35 pm

    I like this! The 3 shelter that go to PetSmart in Columbus, Ga try to do a black out weekend the last weekend of each month. This way the black & mostly black ones get a chance to shine without the competition of the others that get adopted all the time. We tend to have good luck in adoptions. Claws & Paws in Buena Vista, GA is the one in which I volunteer. Currently we have about a dozen or more mostly black dogs & they are not moving. Please look on http://www.petfinder.com & give these beautiful unique babies a chance. Thanks! In my home I have a 10 year old black lab mix that insists on stealing my pillow at night. Bubba is still a baby & pees with all feet on the floor. I tend to go for the ones no one else looks at.

     
  8. The big black dog owner

    March 4, 2008 at 11:19 am

    If you were photographing a big black dog , for example, you would find a part of its fur that was reflecting the sunlight so it wasn’t completely opaque, but not an area that was shining most glossily. You are interested in recording the range of tones on the animal’s body, not the range of tones in the background. Metering on a “greyish” area of the dog’s fur by reflection; if dog is the same black colour all over this would probably be your best hope of achieving that. (I am deliberately oversimplifying here.)

    To be honest, this is not the only technique you can applie to capture that the texture of the dog’s coat. Use fast (1600ASA), contrasty (Fujifilm NEOPAN), true black-and-white film. This will exaggerate mid-range differences in reflected light, but, only if correctly exposed. What you lose in truth you gain in beauty.you can also shot the dog in fairly strong, angled sunlight. The intensity and slight tilt of the sun’s rays helped to throw the surface of the dog’s coat into relief.

    If the film is a little grainy and you wanted sharpness around the dog’s eyes, chose too large an aperture and left more of the dog out of focus perhaps is best for capturing the look of the whole animal, but this does have the advantage of “pushing the dog’s head out of the frame” into the viewer’s face. I could have chosen a smaller aperture setting and focused on the end of the dog’s nose.

    hope it will help,
    The big black dog owner

     
  9. Pet Strollers

    May 27, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    Wow, I never realized this. I love black labs. We currently have a very old german shepard who we love very much. He is very patient and can get irritated with our 2 year old. I had plans to get a black lab for my daughter once our older dog passes. Now I will definitely make sure we get a black dog from the shelter. Thanks for bringing this to the forefront.

     
  10. Terry

    June 27, 2008 at 2:40 pm

    One of my BEST dogs ever is a big black retriever mix. For almost a year, there was very little interest in him and finally we adopted him. If you love black dogs, you should check out Pamela Townsend’s book Black is Beautiful. She’s offering it to benefit her local SPCA. http://www.pgspca.org. Thanks for bringing awareness to this important issue.

     
  11. Heather

    August 21, 2008 at 7:06 pm

    We’ve launched a new website http://www.startseeingblackdogs.com with free rescources that rescue groups and shelters can use to increase the number of black dog adoptions. We also provide information to increase public awareness about black dog syndrome. Come check us out and drop us a line at info@startseeingblackdogs.com.

    Best wishes,

    Heather Rosenwald / startseeingblackdogs.com

     
  12. Joseph

    August 30, 2008 at 11:42 pm

    Our dog “Buddy” is a pure black Retreiver/Shepherd mix. He is a big boy at 110 pounds. (His vet says he is a little slender for his height).
    He is a gentle & playful dog. Thie little girl next door loves to reach up & pet him on the nose.
    We love our big Bud & would not trade him for the world.

    I hope others out there will realize there are a lot of good natured big black dogs waiting to give their unconditional affection.

     
  13. Marilou

    January 14, 2009 at 9:51 am

    We at Pet Haven (a foster-based animal rescue in the Twin Cities) are doing everything we possibly can to advocate on behalf of these gorgeous big black dogs. I personally have 3 big black dogs …. right now Pet Haven has 16 black dogs up for adoption. We are having a special black dog adoption event on Saturday, 1/31/2009. For more information visit our blog at http://pethavendogs.blogspot.com/2009/01/advocating-for-underdogs.html and visit our website (www.pethavenmn.org) to learn more about Pet Haven.

     
  14. AN

    February 6, 2009 at 2:23 am

    My mom read me an LA TImes story about black dogs recently. It made me cry. We found our rescue on our doorstep when she adopted us. When we are ready to adopt again we will only look at the black dogs. It’s so sad humans can be so confused!

     
  15. Cargo Carrier

    February 20, 2009 at 11:24 am

    How true! I have a big black dog who looks just like the dog in your last picture except he has a black spotted tongue (part chow). He doesn’t look so fierce until he gets his hiar cut for the summer. What a difference, but he’s still just a big baby, although the person we adopted him from thought he had the devil in him, lol.

     
  16. Jackie Brown

    June 6, 2009 at 12:23 am

    “But maybe there is a bias, especially in urban cultures.”

    What’s that supposed to mean?

     
  17. BlindGoldfish

    June 27, 2009 at 12:38 am

    aww i don’t see how any black dog can be of any harm. i mean most of the time they are just adorable. i love them and i think they are cute. yeah they are hard to take pictures of but so are black cars and there are a ton of pictures of those -_-

     
  18. AH

    August 12, 2009 at 4:17 pm

    Interesting, i have heard about this from everyone who meets my dog. She is the sweetest, cutest thing according to everyone, including myself. She was the first dog I found at the shelter and I took her right home… she is an all black Lab/Pitt Bull/Chow mix! People should not judge a dog by their color!

     
  19. German Rottweiler breeders

    August 18, 2009 at 2:50 pm

    Big black dogs are simply great and are definitely overlooked by some unfortunately.

    Alex,
    Vom Bullenfeld German Rottweilers

     
  20. Deb

    January 24, 2010 at 10:24 pm

    That explains a lot… 4 months ago on a rainy night a big black dog showed up at my home. I live just on the edge of town and from time to time a stray will show up. It was dark but I couldn’t help but notice how thin he was, after watching him I could tell he was very young and very hungry. He sat at the gate and waited as if to say please help me. I gave in and took him whatever I could dig out of my fridge (corn beef). The next morning I thought he would be gone but he was there patiently waiting. In the light I could see he was a beautiful male Lab, big sweet brown eyes with just a small amount of black freckled white on all four paws and chest. You could also see how painfully thin he was, his back was arched he was drawn up so much. I’m happy to say he is Gods sent and a hug part of the family now. I have often thought how could anyone dump such a beautiful animal, but maybe this explains it. Had he been taken to a shelter chances are he would have been put down. I also know he would never have lived through the winter he was just too young. I discovered later that he was surviving on grasshoppers… Sad to think how he would have died if he had not found his way to my home.

     
  21. gary Wilson

    May 6, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    for 29 yrs I’ve had black labs .. this is my 4th … so shiny, so elegant, so classy .. so well mannered, so protective

     
  22. Amanda

    May 21, 2010 at 8:20 pm

    I’ve got a GORGEOUS black lab–only moderately large (about 75 lbs) and the sweetest dog you could ever care to meet: never meets a stranger, a good instinct for people who need gentleness (young, elderly, frail and fearful). Walks around with a big goofy smile on his face and tail going like a metronome, so when we’re out, he generally gets smiles in return. But if I pass members of the local Hare Krishna temple (which includes a wide array of young people from various ethnic–and I assume national–backgrounds), they inevitably say something about black dogs being ‘evil’ or ‘bad luck’. I just thought it was a quirk, but you’ve offered a new perspective on their attitutde.

     
  23. Poodley

    September 27, 2010 at 7:32 pm

    We humans also think black cats are bad luck

     
  24. Kimberly

    March 23, 2011 at 11:33 am

    I adopted a male black lab almost 6 years ago and it was literally love at first site. His cage was next to a puppy but I was still drawn to the black lab. Before I walked out of the building, I told them I was interested in him and he was taken off of the adoption list and I picked him up a week later. He unexpected passed away in his sleep 3 days ago and I’m completely heart broken about it. We loved each other more than anything and the fact that people don’t notice black dogs, is so crazy. I guess I am in the rare crowd, but I will always own a black dog as I feel more comfortable with them, especially when they become your shadow! 🙂 🙂

     
  25. Ria

    May 10, 2011 at 6:23 pm

    Personally, I love black dogs, coz at night they make a good watch dog, they cant be seen easily…and at night their eyes are glowing…haha, scares me sometimes…

     
  26. Pingback: Nice Dog photos

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