New Research Reveals a Dog’s Age More Likely to Be Factor in Finding New Home, Not Coat Colour

New research challenges the idea that black dogs are less likely to be adopted and finds age and breed of dog key factors in waiting time for adoption.

In the past, news reports have regularly quoted animal shelter personnel and spokespeople from various humane organisations, who state that it is harder to rehome black dogs compared to others. The idea is so entrenched that there’s even a name for it – Black Dog Syndrome – with various surveys appearing to support the concept.


Pictured above is Tansley, a 2 year old Labrador cross who is looking for a new home on dogsblog.com

However, new research not only challenges this view but has resulted in some surprising findings, claim Universities Federation for Animal Welfare (UFAW) who published a study in their scientific journal ‘Animal Welfare’.

The study aimed to determine whether the colour of a dog’s coat had a significant impact on its average length of availability for adoption in a shelter and on its likelihood of euthanasia and used four years of adoption and euthanasia data from two private, not-for-profit animal shelters located in the USA.

The data amounted to 16,692 records of dogs and was carried out by the Department of Animal Behaviour, Ecology and Conservation at Canisius College, New York.


Pictured above is Tilley, a 5 month old Border Collie who is looking for a new home

Only those dogs considered to have the potential to be rehomed were included in the analysis and so dogs under 1 year of age or over 13 years were excluded as well as those with missing or incomplete information relating to their coat colour, breed, sex or age.

The study determined the number of days which passed between when the dog first became available for adoption and the actual adoption date and this was defined as the ‘LOA’ or ‘length of availability’ for adoption.

Breeds were grouped into herding, hound, non-sporting, sporting, terrier, toy, bully and working. The bully breeds (American Pit bull, American Staffordshire Terrier or Staffordshire Bull Terrier) were considered separately from the other terrier breeds. Coat colour was also categorised and reduced to nine standard options – black, brindle, brown, grey, red, tan, white, yellow and multi-coloured.

Assistant Professor Christy Hoffman PhD who co-authored the study, said: “Approximately 3.9 million dogs each year are accepted into community animal shelters in the United States. Whilst the impetus for this study was to examine the impact of black coat colour on the length of availability for adoption (LOA) and the likelihood of euthanasia, our results indicated that it is in actual fact a brindle coloured coat that is associated with increased likelihood of euthanasia and increased LOA, not black.

Also, age and breed group were more consistent predictors of shelter outcomes than coat colour. Previous research has found that factors other than coat colour, such as age and breed or breed group, are better indicators in predicting the length of stay at a shelter and our study results support those findings.”


Pictured above is Nellie a 10 year old Standard Poodle who is looking for a new home on dogsblog.com

The study found that, in general, younger dogs were more quickly rehomed and had lower euthanasia rates than older dogs. They were also less likely to be classified as unhealthy or untreatable. The bully breeds had the longest waits prior to adoption, were euthanised at higher than expected rates, and were more likely than expected to be labelled as unhealthy/untreatable.


Pictured above is Honey, a 5 year old Staffordshire Bull Terrier who is looking for a new home on dogsblog.com

Findings from this study may provide shelters with insight regarding how best to use limited resources to market animals whose physical characteristics may place them at risk for euthanasia. Shelters may also benefit from applying some of the methods utilised in this study to take a closer look at their own adoption and euthanasia-related trends. Doing so may help them make informed changes that could potentially increase adoption success and reduce euthanasia rates within their organisations.

The full abstract of the study can be read at UFAW’s website HERE.

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