Dog days of summer: Black dog syndrome

Posted at 11:31 PM, Jul 07, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-08 20:03:43-04
Black dog owners are quick to point out, color doesn't matter.
"I got him at the shelter when he was 8 weeks old. He's got my heart," said Kimberly Wood with her 7-year-old dog, Mac.
"Black dogs are wonderful. They have just great personalities," said Karen Stahlecker, the owner of 11-year-old, Lily. 
But some animal shelters say black dogs face a tough time, waiting to be adopted. It's known as 'black dog syndrome' and groups like Spay/Neuter Idaho Pets are trying to bring awareness to the issue. 
"In a lot of shelters, more than 50 percent of the dogs and cats are black. Because there's such an abundance of them, they're the last adopted," said SNIP Executive Director Diane Ayres.
"The dogs that tend to wait the longest for homes are often black lab/pit bull mixes, or some sort of black pit bull mix," explained Allison Maier from the Idaho Humane Society.
Why would a light coated dog be picked over one with a dark coat?
"Some people are superstitious. Some people think black dogs overheat when it's hot because black absorbs the heat," explained Ayres. 
And with pictures online, now encouraging people to adopt, black dogs are often hard to photograph.
"They don't show as well. Their eyes are dark, their hair is dark so you don't see the expression you would see in another dog," Ayres said.
"When adopters are looking through kennels, they're looking for facial expressions. That's how they bond with potential dogs. I think that's where black dogs sometimes have a disadvantage," Maier continued.
Black dog syndrome is often disputed. Most shelters agree, the breed, age and size of a dog are bigger determining factors in how long it will take a dog to be adopted, than color. But it's a prevalent issue at the Idaho Humane Society. The shelter offers a lower adoption fee for black animals to help them find a home.
Even Lucy, a two-year-old black lab/doberman pinscher mix and graduate of the Idaho prison inmate training program, is still waiting. 
"Our average time that a dog waits here to find a home is two weeks. Lucy graduated back in May from our Inmate Dog Alliance Project of Idaho (IDAPI) training program, and they tend to be very high demand dogs. She's been waiting to find a home since then. So sometimes it can be a month or more before the dogs find homes," said Maier.
Maier and Ayres both remind potential adopters to choose an animal based on it's personality, not it's appearance.
"A lot of times people will come to the humane society with a visual idea of what they want. They are basing a decision on appearance and it really should be about the dog who's personality best fits your lifestyle. We really encourage people to spend a lot of time here, get to know different dogs, and that's how you're going to have a successful adoption," Maier said.
Nancy Shallat agrees. She says her 9-year-old dog, Henry, is a valuable member of the family.
"We just like the same things. He's a good trail dog and loves hiking. He's my buddy," explained Shallat.
SNIP hosts black dog walks throughout the year on the Boise Greenbelt. All dogs are welcome. For more information, visit
UPDATE: Lucy was adopted Friday morning after this story aired on 6 On Your Side. For more adoption information contact the Idaho Humane Society at (208) 342-3508, or visit