Sunday, March 13, 2011


If I told you that Karina had a syndrome you could help cure just by changing the way you think, would you? [This is where you say yes.]

You see, I'm beginning to think Karina has a case of Big Black Dog syndrome, or BBD for short. Have you ever heard of it? Large, black dogs are often the last to be adopted out of shelters and rescues. As a result, they have a disproportionately high euthanasia rate. It's especially true of black labs and lab mixes. They are a dime a dozen in most places because litter sizes are usually quite large.

I started to sense this bias at adoption day, specifically with children and their parents. One child came to pet Karina, and the mother shrieked, pulled her away, and directed her toward the puppies. While our dogs at adoption day have great temperaments, I think there's a much greater likelihood of a puppy nipping at the child's fingers than Karina giving anything but kisses. (Did I mention Karina is great with kids?)

So, what is with the human perception of black dogs?
• Black dogs are difficult to photograph. Their pictures appear dark and blurry on Petfinder.
• In dimly-lit shelters, they are often difficult to see.
• Many large, black dog breeds, like Rottweilers and Dobermans, have bad reputations as aggressive dogs.
• They often appear older than they really are because gray hair shows on their muzzles more easily.
• Different forms of media have created a negative bias toward big, black dogs. Think movies, books, and folklore/mythology. (I'm looking at you, Jo Rowling, for portraying the Grim, the omen of death, in the form of a big, black dog.)

I'll admit it. In the past, my heart would skip a beat if I saw a big, black dog approaching. And I've even been thinking about this on the other end of the leash too. I was walking Karina around 3 a.m. a few nights ago and saw a man walking from afar. While I'm sure he was just stumbling back from a bar, my gut reaction was that I would be safer because I had this big, black lovebug of a dog with me.

Take this test, and be honest. Which of these labs would you choose?
I borrowed this test from this website.
Will you do Karina a favor? The next time you see an oversized, black dog, do what you would do with any other dog. Ask the owner if the dog is friendly and if you can pet her/him. Then shower him/her with love. Karina thanks you.


  1. Are the dogs allowed to wear T-shirts on adoption day? If so, I will make her the cutest, most irresistible, doggie T-shirt you ever saw!!

  2. I have the same experience with Carly. She's much larger than Karina-a 90 pound lab/boxer/chow mix. People cross the street when I walk her and she's one of the goofiest, friendliest dogs around. My meanie yellow lab often gets a lot of attention abnd she's the one I have to be careful with because of her aggression issues! BTW, Carly came from a kill shelter in South Carolina.....Sandy from Cattitude.

  3. What a great ambassador Karina is, as are you!

    Before we adopted Buckley we had hoped to find a small dog from a local no kill shelter. I immediately was drawn to Jade, a black pit bull. When we did the meet and greet walk with our dogs she wasn't so great with them, so we ended up not adopting her. The workers at the shelter were surprised we picked her from the internet though, because of BBD. I never even considered that just the color of her coat would deter people from wanting to meet her.

    She was a lovebug by the way, just didn't like my dogs.

  4. We've seen this before, for sure! For instance at our Mama's shelter there was a litter of mixed breed puppies of all different colors... several light brown ones, and a few black and brown ones that looked like german shepherd markings, plus one complete black one. Which one do you think was still waiting to be adopted, WEEKS after his litter mates got adopted???!!!

  5. Your right, Kim. Most "black dogs" have a bad rep. Our last foster " Ebony" was a large black lab, whom we had for 13 weeks before she got adopted by a great family in Somerset. People were afraid of her, even though she was the sweetest lab you would like to meet.

  6. Just as it's unfair for people to make this judgement about BBD, it's also unfair of me to say that everyone holds this bias. For plenty of people, this thought hasn't crossed their minds.

    Trixie, Lily, and Sammy-Joe, it's funny you bring up the puppies. I thought the same stigma might not hold entirely true when they are small black dogs who will grow to be big. I also wonder if it's the same of say pure-bred labs from a breeder.