'Black Dog Syndrome' May Be a Thing of the Past

Black dogs actually spend less time in the pound now than pups of different hues. (Photo: PeopleImages.com/Getty Images)

Good news for black animal lovers! That notorious black dog syndrome that threatens the adoption prospects of black-furred pets may no longer be a concern. At least for dogs. Black cats, on the other hand, may still be at risk.

For the past several years, animal adoption experts have focused on something called "black dog syndrome" — a psuedo-myth that says black dogs have a harder time getting adopted and are more likely to be euthanized than their fairer-hued peers. And it didn't just stop at black dogs — black cats were likely to be affected too.

The myth was based on rumor and hearsay, but many gave it credence. After all, it is true that animals with black fur are more difficult to photograph. So it's possible that black dogs and cats don't get as much love on social media and animal shelter posters. Then there are the antiquated notions that black cats are bad luck and that black dogs are omens of death. (As the proud mom of both a black cat and a black dog, I call nonsense on both of these ideas.)

Black cat
Black cats have an undeserved reputation for being bearers of bad luck. (Photo: PixDeluxe/Shutterstock)

The bottom line is that for years, many in the pet adoption industry believed that black dogs and cats had a harder time getting adopted than animals of different colors. But a study published in the journal Animal Welfare has found that — for dogs at least — that's just not the case.

The study looked at four years worth of adoption data from two different animal shelters in the Pacific Northwest to compare the length of stay for black dogs and cats compared to their peers.

The results showed that black dogs actually had shorter stays in the shelter than other dogs. In the first shelter, the average length of time a dog was available for adoption was seven days, while in the second shelter it was 10.5 days. But the average length of stay for black dogs was 6.5 days at the first shelter and nine days at the second.

That turns the whole notion of "black dog syndrome" on its head!

While it was limited to only two animal shelters, the sample size for the study was large with more than 16,000 dogs. So while the researchers can't definitively conclude that black dog syndrome is a thing of the past (or possibly never existed at all), they can say that the ad campaigns directed toward making black dogs more adoptable have worked.

Brindled pit bull
It's hard to believe that a sweet dog like this pit bull with a brindle coat might have a hard time getting adopted at the animal shelter. (Photo: GoDog Photo/Shutterstock)

But now it may be time for the funds from those campaigns to be turned toward other animals that are still having a hard time making it out of the shelter. The study found that black cats are still less likely than cats of other colors to be adopted. And dogs with brindle coats — especially pit bulls (like the cutie above) — were the least likely dogs to be adopted and the most likely to be euthanized.

Let's get those PR wheels in motion to help these animals find their forever homes.