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Black, White, Does Color Really Matter?

Color Discrimination in Dogs




by Victoria Heuer


There is a secret that pet rescue and shelter workers know that most people do not, and one they are eager to tell you. Ready? Black dogs are not scary. Really!


You may scoff at the seeming simplicity of this statement, but the reality is that in shelters and rescue centers across the nation, workers are accustomed to having a glut of black dogs that are sometimes never adopted and, at best, wait far longer to be adopted than dogs of other colors. In fact, there is a name that has been coined for this phenomenon: black dog syndrome.


Unfortunately, it is not only black dogs that face discrimination. White dogs, too, have problems with acceptance in the canine community, and most would agree that they have it even worse. White colored dogs are rarely even given the chance to be adopted, since the standard method is to end their lives soon after birth.


Naturally, one might be skeptical of the veracity of these statements, but think about how many all black or all white dogs you see when you go out to the dog park. While there are no hard numbers on how many black dogs sit languishing in rescue centers and shelters, certainly there are some that are euthanized due to lack of space, and others, still waiting for the chance to be adopted, die of natural causes. All the while, shelter workers are lamenting the persistence of this discriminatory fall-out.


There are also no easy answers as to why black dogs are bypassed in favor of dogs of other colors, but the ideas range from long-held negative superstitions to a more innocent, but no less harmful, belief that black dogs are just not as pretty.


Likewise, there are no solid numbers on how many white dogs are terminated each year because of breed industry standards that require their deaths. Why must they die? Mainly, to cover up that fact that they were born, since the existence of an all white dog in a litter of pups (in most breeds) is viewed as a defect in the lineage, therefore tarnishing a breeder's reputation. People believe, some breeders say erroneously, that white dogs will be deaf, that they are hyperactive, or that they are plainly daft.


For those who have a deep affection for all dogs, regardless of color or breed, these facts and perceptions are unnerving. In searching for an answer to why these practices exist -- and indeed, persist -- the common observation is that people are simply uninformed about the plight of these animals.



Comments  5

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  • Black dogs give love too
    10/15/2013 03:56pm

    Two of my last three dogs have been German Shepherds and mostly black ---I never seriously though about color--it didn't matter-- I love them anyway. I let them find me, I didn't find them--it was a win, win for all of us !

  • Hot dog!
    10/15/2013 05:20pm

    My only hesitation to adopting a black dog is that I live in the desert and drive small cars with big windows. Even with the air conditioner blasting, the sun powering through the glass can make a person in dark clothing or a dog in dark fur very uncomfortable. When I have owned black or dark colored dogs in the past I kept a white sheet in the back seat to throw over them for car rides. In terms of temperament, two of my six Great Danes have been black, two fawn, one blue and one harlequin, and I have fostered a black and a blue merle. I have not been able to discern any relationship between color and personality with these dogs. If you like buying fancy collars and other bling for your dog, a solid black or a solid white dog can wear any color!

  • Never heard of this!
    10/15/2013 06:58pm

    This is completely news to me, had no idea. I thought the problem in shelters was breed-specific -- pit bulls and chihuahuas -- so this is interesting. I don't find black dogs intimidating or white dogs undesirable at all. I can offer that I do have what is probably a misconception of black Labs specifically: I grew up across the street from neighbors who had a black Lab who was very wild and ran away all the time. Other dogs in the neighborhood I never got that perception. So in the back of my mind I've always wondered about all black Labs. Since then I've read that color does not dictate personality in Labs (or probably any dog), although I'm always finding myself looking at Labs in dog parks and trying to discern any personality difference between colors. Have not been fortunate to own a black or white (or black + white!) dog before -- my one and only dog, whom I have now, is red. But I'll keep this idea in my head for the future.

  • WHAT???!!!
    10/16/2013 12:16am


  • just nuts
    10/16/2013 02:40am

    Most of us are aware of the plight of black cats and the thought they're evil or bad lick - they're not, I have two - but black dogs is something I' not aware of. Like the bad rap black cats get ... this is just plain nuts.