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National Black Dog Day: What’s it all about and what is Black Dog Syndrome?

From ancient superstitions to the idea they’re just too ordinary, OMD! looks at the reasons why black dogs are overlooked.

Credit: Jonathan Cosens Photography

Black dogs: they’re just like any other pup - loving, excitable, super speedy. So why is there a National Day on October 1 dedicated to them?

Well, it seems that black dogs that end up in shelters find it particularly hard to find their forever home - and according to rescues, it’s down to the colour of their fur.

Looking back in time, it could well be down to some old fashioned superstitions that have carried over into modern day, with the common misperception that black animals are bad luck.

During the 17th century, black animals - specifically cats - were singled out for being associated with witchcraft, with black dogs being connected to the supernatural or demonic entities.

In English folklore, a black dog is considered sinister and an omen of death. In fact, one of the most famous literary pieces from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes mystery novel series is The Hound of the Baskervilles, which tells the story of a murderous black dog.

Fiction aside, black pooches can also be rather tricky to spot at night, with their coats blending in well to dark surroundings on night-time walks. However, this can be easily combated with illuminated collars and leashes.

Black Pearl Dogs, an advocacy website for black dogs, says that for whatever reason, a phenomenon called Black Dog Syndrome has swept shelters and rescues across the world, leaving many ebony pups unadopted.

They describe BDS simply as “the idea that people often pass over black dogs”, with it receiving mainstream attention in the early 2000s when researchers discovered black dogs just weren’t being adopted at the same rate as their lighter-coloured pound mates.

As well as harmful superstitions, the website says that an unconscious fear of black dogs, the idea they heat up quicker in the summer sun and the fact that some potential owners view them as “too ordinary” are other reasons why adopters may shun a black pooch.

According to Vancouver’s BCSPCA Branch Manager Jodi Dunlop, black pups are often overlooked simply because they aren’t colourful enough.

“A lot of people aren't seeing past the fact that they're black, and they're not looking at their personality,” Jodi says. “We'll have people that will come in and say, ‘I want a colourful animal because I just like the look of this one this better’, but it may not have as nice of a personality [for the potential adopter] as a black animal.”

Jodi adds that to combat this misconception about black dogs, her team have to alter their approach when photographing dogs for their online profiles, including colourful neckties, toys and headbands to draw people’s attention to them.

The National Black Dog Day website, founded by Pet & Family Lifestyle Expert, Author, Animal Behaviorist and Rescue Advocate, Colleen Paige, hopes to inspire potential rescuers across the world to consider an ebony pup when they adopt a new furry friend.

According to their website, “black animals altogether, are the least adoptable pets in shelters because of their colour” and are usually “the first to be euthanized in overcrowded conditions”.

Colleen herself rescued an emaciated and abused black pup called Sailor, inspiring her mission to encourage others to do the same.

The website’s goal is to eventually raise enough donations to run the first online “black dog only” adoption portal.

Why you should make room for a black dog in your heart

If you’re looking to adopt but aren’t too sure if a black pup would be the one for you, read these reasons, pulled together by Black Pearl Dogs, on why you should make an ebony pooch your new best friend:

  1. Family photos get an instant upgrade with a shiny black pup

  2. Black goes with everything - whatever you’re wearing plus whatever you want to dress them in

  3. Black dogs look cleaner for longer periods of time

  4. They make fantastic snow dogs and are easy to spot

  5. Black dogs have been waiting significantly longer to find their forever home


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