Black dogsLiz Mallia
Dogs are beautiful; no matter what the colour; but for some reason black dogs seem to have a harder time finding homes. But why is this?
There are some unfortunate superstitions about black dogs. In many parts of the Western world, black dogs are associated with death and bad fortune. There are countless legends and stories involving terrifying black dogs, from Black Shuck to the Hound of the Baskervilles. Black dogs have unfortunately earned an unjust reputation as being unlucky and aggressive.
Black Dog syndrome?
Even if we disregard superstitions, black dogs still have a poor public image. Researchers and various animal rescues have coined the term “black dog syndrome” to describe the difficulty the black dogs face in finding loving homes.
Due to their appearance, black dogs (especially large ones) may appear more intimidating or aggressive to prospective owners. They may look “scarier” than their lighter counterparts, so the latter are far more likely to be adopted first. In several studies where participants looked at dogs of different colours, black dogs were labelled as the least friendly and the most aggressive dogs. Black cats faced similar problems in these studies. The participants just could not ignore their bias against black dogs. This negative image has been reinforced by many films and books, where black dogs often star as the monster of the story.
Black dogs tend to “grey out” faster. You can spot grey hairs around their muzzles much earlier in life than in lighter dogs. This can make them look old, which can put off people looking for a young dog.
Black dogs also face a more practical problem: they can be difficult to photograph. To get a good photograph of a darker dog, the photographer will need to spend more time finding a good background and proper lighting. Without this time and attention to detail, black dogs often fade into the photo’s background and are easily overlooked.
What to do?
What can you do to help black dogs? First of all, if you’re looking for a puppy or a dog, don’t ignore the black ones! Colour has nothing to do with whether a particular dog is right for you. Personality is a much more important factor when choosing a dog, so take time to get to know the dog you’re interested in before you choose.
You can also help by working to change the negative perception of black dogs. If you have one, show him or her off! Tell everyone just how wonderful your black dog is. Find a nice colourful background and take plenty of photos of your canine companion. When you share these photos, point out all your dog’s good qualities, such as their friendliness, playfulness, and affection.