What Is Black Dog Syndrome?

Apr 11, 2023 | Tips and Tricks

Happy Wednesday everyone!  Today we are talking about Black Dog Syndrome, also known as BDS, and what it means.  I have always loved black dogs and have never been afraid of them but some people are because of a fear stigma due to a specific breed such as pitbulls.  Myself and my family have always had black or black and white dogs since I can remember.  Whether they were adopted from a shelter or simply just showed up at our house, it didn’t matter.  If they had four legs and needed our love, we gave them a home.  We never discriminated against black cats either.  Shelters typically have a lower success rate in adoptions of black dogs and cats due to the fact they are hard to photograph and are simply overlooked for a friendlier looking animal.  Black dogs can look more intimating simply because they are black never mind they are a certain breed such as German Shepherds, Pittbulls, Dobermans, Rottweilers, etc.  My last two shelter dogs were both jet black and combinations of 110 pound shepherd/doberman and 105 pound pit/Rottweiler mixes and they were sweet, funny, adorable, and incredibly intelligent.   

Jake and Maggie enjoying the goodies in their Easter basket 🙂

Jake and Maggie's Easter Basket
Black dog syndrome is a phenomenon in pet adoption in which black dogs are ignored in favor of light-colored ones. Observed by shelters and rescue groups across the world, BDS is an issue negatively affecting the adoption rates of black pets. The reason behind the phenomenon is unclear.  There are many contradicting studies out there so we have no real answer.

Easter Basket Goodies

For the last couple of years, we have done an Easter Egg Hunt with Jake and Maggie.  This year I decided to make them each an Easter basket.  I bought these small pink and blue wicker baskets at Walmart for $1.47 a piece.  I filled each basket with two of each:

Chew’n Clean Dental Duo Bone Bacon Flavor

Chomp and Tug Buddy Dog Toy

BARK Puppy Side Up Egg

They spent a good part of the morning tearing up their toys.  I don’t buy anything expensive anymore because they can tear up a toy in seconds.  The Dental Bone lasted the longest!

Jake and Maggie's Easter Basket
Even thought science cannot prove exactly why BDS exists, here are a few reasons why black dogs and cats get overlooked:
*Fear stigma against certain breed types—like pit bulls, for instance. 
*Movies and television shows often portray big, black dogs as aggressive and intimidating, which could also convince potential adopters to avoid them. 
*Some believe it could come down to how photogenic dogs are. Notoriously, black dogs do not photograph well. Lighter-colored dogs, on the other hand, do. When shelters or rescues photograph their adoptable animals to post on their website or on social media, lighter-colored dogs may have the upper hand.
*Geographic location
*History of the black dog.  Activists began publicly addressing this issue since the 2000s.
*In mythology and folklore, black dogs are regularly portrayed as guardians of the underworld. They’re also represented as bad omens in general.  Potential adopters might associate the color black with evil.
*Size of the dog can have a negative impact on a potential adoption.  A large black dog can seem intimidating or aggressive even when they are not.  
*Many black shelter dogs get euthanized faster than light colored dogs.
Jake and Maggie's Easter Basket
Black Cat Syndrome:
Black cats are in a similar situation and are often subject to the same phenomenon, also known as black cat syndrome. Some believe black cats are in a tougher position due to the added stigma of superstition and their association with witchcraft, which could deter potential owners.  For all the reasons why black dogs are not adopted easily, the same reasons apply to black cats.  
Jake and Maggie's Easter Basket
Black Shelter Dogs:
*They don’t show well in their cages.  While bright white and yellow pooches catch people’s eye.  Darker-haired pups tend to get lost in a crate’s shadows.
*People attach to dogs when they can read their facial expressions, and on black dogs those are harder to make out. You can barely see their eyebrows, and it becomes harder to humanize them and connect on an emotional level.
*Would-be owners worry that a black dog will shed too noticeably on the furniture.
*Black dogs get overheated more easily at adoption events and don’t introduce themselves.
*Black dogs look older.
*Black dogs strike people as boring. 
*Studies suggest that people tend to choose pooches that bear some resemblance to them.
Jake and Maggie's Easter Basket
If you are thinking of adopting, spend some time getting to know a black dog or cat.  Don’t let their looks full you.  They are amazing!
If you are looking for more information on this topic, check out my older posts here:

I’m Bobbi Jo, a lab-lover who took my passion for animals and dogs and turned it into something bigger.  When I adopted Jake and Maggie, my love for them became the driving force behind Two Adorable Labs, and my blog was born.  My hope is to not only share them with the world, but to help educate others on the importance of animal health and well-being. 

I love hearing from all of you and do my best to respond to each and every one of you.  I always enjoy your comments, feedback, and suggestions so keep them coming!  If I’ve posted a recipe (for our human and our furry friends) and you try it, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram @twoadorablelabs and use #twoadorablelabs​.

If you do try and love my recipes, I would greatly appreciate a comment and rating.  I read every single one and respond to them.  It also lets Google know that the website contains quality content.  The more comments and 5-star ratings, the more Google will show my blog in search results!  Thank you so much! 

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Our mom loves cooking for us and our dad so much that she started a brand new food blog called www.magnoliadelights.com.  

Jump over and check it out!

Love, Jake and Maggie

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What Do You Think? Let Us Know!


  1. Sharon Crnko

    Looks like Jake and Maggie had a happy Easter. Innsbrook had their first doggie Easter egg hunt. I would say at least 50 gigs showed up. The huge field was devided into small dogs/large dogs. Dogs and their people were on leashes at all times. It was fun! Hundreds of eggs with one small milk bone hidden in each egg. Emily’s George sniffed and carefully opened each egg without breaking it and them gobbled up each surprise. We stopped after awhile because we were afraid he’d get a tummy ache. Gus stayed back at our house with Tim. He was happy with the eggs George brought back with him!

    • Two Adorable Labs

      I always try to make the holidays fun for Jake and Maggie. I was mad I forgot to put their Easter bows on them. Your Doggie Easter Egg Hunt sound soooo fun and adorable. I’m sure it was a delight watching the dogs find the eggs.

  2. Barbara Bolduc

    I’ve always had black dogs or black and white. I had 3 that were solid black which were the greatest fur babies..I just love Jake and Maggie’s Easter basket. I didn’t think about doing that for Milo but thanks to you Bobbi Jo it’ll definitely get done next year. You always have such good and unique ideas that you share with all of us. It is sad that people shy away from black dogs or cats. They may be missing out on the best forever friend…

    • Two Adorable Labs

      Thank you! Jake and Maggie were a bit unsure at first as to what those baskets were. Once they figured it out, their tails were wagging a mile a minute. Honestly, BDS is just crazy to me too but it is real. If I had judged all of our dogs, we would have never experienced such joy in having them.


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