No Evidence Found to Support 'Black Dog Syndrome'

Posted by Tori Holmes

Have you heard of "Black Dog Syndrome"? A recent study suggests there might not be as much truth behind it as we thought.

Those working in the animal adoption field have likely heard the phrase "Black Dog Syndrome." The premise behind this syndrome is that black dogs do not get adopted as quickly as dogs of other colors.

Researchers at Canisus College were curious to see if there was, in fact, any truth behind this belief. To determine this, their team examined four years worth of adoption records at two shelters in the Pacific Northwest. The records of dogs under the age of one were excluded from the study, as they are already known to be adopted more quickly.


After analyzing nearly 16,700 records, the researchers came to some surprising conclusions. When compared to dogs of other colors, black dogs actually had quicker adoption rates. While the adoption rates different between the two shelters, black dogs came out on top in both.

In shelter #1, the average length of time it took a dog to be adopted was seven days, but black dogs were adopted in just 6.5. In shelter #2, the average shelter stay was 10.5 days, and black dogs found their forever homes in nine.

Dog Forum
Dog Forum

When these results were analyzed further, the researchers determined that the age and breed of the dog played a much larger role in their adoption time than the color of their coat.

Unfortunately, breeds like the American Staffordshire Terrier and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier (pit bulls) face disproportionately longer shelter stays than other breeds. Sometimes these stays could be up to two-and-a-half or three times longer than average.

Go Pitbull
Go Pitbull

While these results are very exciting to hear, the researchers want to stress that it doesn't mean that black dog syndrome hasn't existed in the past. They want shelters to use these results so that they can make more accurate decisions about where their budget is distributed.

Where some shelters may have historically put more money into promoting black dogs, today these funds may be better used for different efforts, such as putting a spotlight on senior or hard-to-home breeds.

This study is quite small but we really hope that the results are consistent among all shelters in the United States and beyond. Hopefully a future study can confirm this, but for now we're happy to celebrate this win in these two shelters.

We love you, black dogs!

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