Hard To Adopt

Make A Dogs Day

More than 90 percent of rescue organizations have pets who are “hard to adopt”.  One third of shelters state they have had pets posted on their adoptable pages for one to two years.  The average pet spends approximately 12 weeks on a site; many pets with black coats, special needs, or seniors wait four times as long.  There are events specifically created for these harder to adopt pets: National Black Dog Day, Less Adoptable Pets Week, and now Subaru has created National Make a Dog’s Day.


Approximately 6.5 million companion animals enter U.S. animal shelters nationwide every year. Of those, approximately 3.3 million are dogs and 3.2 million are cats.

Each year, 1.5 million shelter animals are euthanized (670,000 dogs and 860,000 cats).

Many animal advocates know the real underdogs of the rescue world are black dogs (cats). Whether it’s because of old wives’ tales or because they are more difficult to photograph, Black Dog Syndrome is a real phenomenon and makes them less adoptable.

Black Dog Syndrome

Black dogs (and cats) are not adopted because of one thing, their color.  This phenomenon is known as Black Dog Syndrome.  Several theories exist as to why these pets don’t get a second look; they look scary or angry, their features and facial expressions aren’t as easily seen as lighter colored dogs, they don’t look as good in photos.  When I just had a fawn and black Pug it is far more challenging to get a good picture of Duke.  It’s all about the lighting.

Abandon the Stereotypes 

How could these animals be less adoptable? Stereotypes? Why are they overlooked?

  • Black dogs don’t stand out. Some people want a dog that doesn’t blend into the background.  Although black isn’t the most common color of dog.
  • Black dogs are often associated with danger or aggression. Even though there is no evidence to support this theory.  Add to this the fact that black dogs are portrayed negatively in many books and movies (picture the fearsome black dogs in The Hounds of the Baskervilles or Harry Potter)
  • Black dogs don’t photography well.

Let’s move past that and adopt these amazing dogs.

My Black Shelter Dog

Click this link to read my blog post on National Black Dog Day and read more about my 95-pound heart, my Black Labrador Stella Luna.  I’m thankful to Unleashed Rescue for taking good photos of their available pets.  They consistently have good lighting and get on the pets’ level and get them resting.


There are so many preconceived notions regarding pets with special needs. This makes it even more challenging for these pets to be adopted. Blind, an amputee, paralyzed, deaf or those with chronic medical conditions all sit in the hard-to-adopt category.  Make A Dog’s Day has one emotional campaign to highlight that, and I love it!


Challenges can be overcome with a little planning, education, and of course love.  Deaf dogs can easily learn American Sign Language (ASL) commands. Sit, Sit-stay, down, down-stay, come, leave-it are all possible with a little time and effort.  Here is a link to an ASL video that teaches some basic commands you can use to work with your newly-deaf or always deaf animal.

Our 12-year-old Pug has become deaf in the past year.  We use some basic commands with him.  Although he was hearing in the past and now deaf, he has adapted to his new reality and navigates the world much as he did before.  The one exception is probably he sleeps much sounder than before.


Visually impaired or blind pets can navigate the world, quite literally, with a little education.  No matter how or when a pet has lost it’s sight they thrive in a home with love and consistency. The Blind dog Rescue Alliance has some great tips for pet parents.  Click the link and learn some easy things you can learn from veteran pet parents of blind pets.

Although they can’t see you, the can hear you and feel the safety and love you give.

Wondering how you can get involved in helping the less adoptable pets in your community? Volunteer for your local animal shelter to care for and promote the hard to place pets, those pets who can’t seem to catch a break and find the home they deserve. If you are interested in bringing a new dog or cat home, consider adopting one of the “less adoptables” — it just might be the best decision you could make.  It certainly was for me.

Happy Pet Parenting!

Leslie the Pet Nurse

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