Black Dog Awareness Month is More than Just Awareness for Underdogs

February is Black Dog Awareness Month, and today - the last day of the month - is a great opportunity to really take in what that means. We hope this basic primer on the problems facing black dogs (with adoption data from our rescue's archives) inspires you to think about how your choices and actions affect the dogs in your community.

It is no surprise that many adolescent black dogs spend extra time in the pound and in rescues when they are young and more rambunctious (the puppy stage is adorable, but many humans aren't trained on how to handle the teen stages!). Larger-sized black dogs also tend to wait longer for an adopter. One big problem in shelters is that photographing black dogs can be challenging - black dogs' features and expression can be hard to capture in photos and shelters are often poorly lit. Potential families can miss out on falling in love with the perfect dog for them, because they can't see the dog's adorable face clearly.

Three characteristics put a pet at an increased risk of "Black Dog Syndrome": larger size, teenage stages, and an ebony coat - paraphrased from Marika Bell, Director of the Humane Society of Washington, D.C.(1)

If you've followed us for a while, you know that Astro is not the first dog in our rescue to suffer from what we refer to as "BHBBC Dog Syndrome" or Big Headed Blended Breed and Coat Dog Syndrome. Dogs who are larger, have blended coats (darker or weird markings), big ol' heads/smiles, and/or are of a higher weight, often have trouble finding their forever family. Dogs that are made up of multiple breeds, are breeds that people normally don't seek out, and dogs that look too "bully breed-like" also struggle to catch adopters' attention.

Brief Review of Examples of Dogs we have had in our rescue that took longer to be adopted or had lower interest that are All or Mixtures of the Syndrome with Chart 1:

Chart 2: Percentage of "long-timers" in relation to size (Out of 44 Dogs Total):

Chart 3: Percentage of "long-timers" in relation to coat description (Total of 44 Dogs):

Chart 4: Percentage of dogs who spent less than 45 days or more than 45 days in For Our Underdogs (as of February 2022, total of 137 individual dogs):

Since our founding date in July 2019, we have rescued over 137 dogs from shelters and owners who could no longer care for them. Out of the 44 dogs that stayed in our rescue for over 45 days (32% of our rescued dogs), 64% of those dogs were primarily black or brindle coated. 100% of the 44 "long-timers" were medium to extra large in size.

Here are some of our long-term residents that eventually found their forever homes and got their capes, thanks to the financial, emotional, mental, and physical support of our amazing community of Underdog supporters and families!!

Wow... that was a lot of amazing Underdogs!!!

“The effect [of Black Dog Syndrome] is very real,” says Mirah Horowitz, executive director and founder of Lucky Dog Animal Rescue. “We recently had a litter of five very cute, very fluffy puppies, two yellow and three black. And the yellow ones all went immediately, but for the black ones it took weeks.”

Now... let's talk about who's left!

As you may have noticed, we have been slowing down the rescue. This has been done for the sake of our hardworking volunteers, who can be at high risk of burnout, and for the sake of our dogs -- we are focused on adoption QUALITY not adoption QUANTITY.

Astro has been looking for so so long -- he's so full of love and good with other dogs.

Here's our shiny, water-lovin', cuddlin' goofball, Astro!

Astro is believed to be an American Staffordshire Terrier mix (likely with a Doberman Pinscher or a Great Dane). He has a big ol' face that sports the biggest smiles when he sees his foster mom, and he has the softest, shiniest ebony coat (as long as he doesn't eat chicken protein). His big personality and size means GINORMOUS cuddles and he's happy to pitch in when you take him camping! When Astro gets sad, he makes little alligator-piggy squeals, so we try to keep him happy as much as possible. When Astro is excited, his eyes get SO big and bright -- his smile is guaranteed to brighten up any room! Astro doesn't need to be crated, but easily learns any routine.

“I think it comes down to facial expressions...People attach to dogs when they can read their facial expressions, and on black dogs those are harder to make out. You can barely see their eyebrows, and it becomes harder to humanize them and connect on an emotional level.”

- paraphrased from Marika Bell, Director of the Humane Society of Washington, D.C.(1)

Please help us share this gorgeous shiny-coated goofball! Astro is currently studying up on how to be a calmer doggy citizen with our partner non-profit, Free To Be Dog Training & Behavior. He is in a foster home, and his foster parents can tell you anything you might want to know about this sweet boy.

You can help by:

- Sharing Astro's Facebook posts here:

- Share Astro's information on Pinterest. He's SUPER Instagram-worthy, too!

- Share Astro with others via email -- let's see how many emails you can forward!



  2. Data straight from For Our Underdogs Refuge database.

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