Black dogs are being overlooked by adopters because they don’t photograph well

Rehoming an animal in need is extremely rewarding – but it isn’t something you should jump in to on a whim. When adopting a dog from a rescue centre, you’re committing to fulfil that animal’s mental, physical and emotional needs until their final day.

Some dogs spend less than a week in kennels before being adopted, while others end up spending years inside the same building waiting for somebody to come along and take them home. Sadly, black dogs are more likely to spend longer in shelters than lighter-coloured pets because they’re “difficult to photograph” and have a “fear stigma” attached to them.

Black dog syndrome, also known as BDS, is a phenomenon in pet adoption that sees animals with black fur being overlooked by adopters – and it isn’t only dogs who feel the impact, as it is known to happen to black cats too.

A statement on The Spruce Pet, a vet-reviewed website, reads: “Adopters might pass by black dogs because of a 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-coloured dogs, on the other hand, do.

“When shelters or rescues photograph their adoptable animals to post on their website or on social media, lighter-coloured dogs may have the upper hand.”

Dr Stanley Coren, who works in research and instructs in psychology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, studied the history of black dogs and discovered how some people associate them with “the devil”.

He told the American Kennel Club : “The idea that a black dog might be the devil probably accounts for the superstition in Ireland that says if a black dog visits the grave of a priest it means he had been untrue to his vows.

“This superstition manifests in what animal shelter people call ‘black dog syndrome,’ implying that black dogs are the least likely to get new homes.

“They argue that this is perhaps because those negative superstitions hover at the back of the minds of people looking for a pet.”

“There seems to be some scientific support for their notions that black dogs are not viewed positively.

“In a study conducted in my laboratory, we had people rate photographs of dogs, including a set of labrador retrievers that differed only in colour.

“We found that black labs were rated 27 percent less friendly than yellow labs, and that black dogs were twice as likely to be rated as being aggressive.”

If you want to give a black dog a chance, visit RSPCA, Dogs Trust, Battersea or your local rehoming centre.