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.

  Next >