Whether you love tiny Chihuahuas or massive Great Danes, you’ve probably encountered a dog with a deep ebony hair coat. Even canines with long, fluffy hair sport that midnight hue. They look stunning, whether playing in the snow or dashing through a park. Yet shelters and rescues often struggle to find homes for black dogs. They’ve even created a name for the condition. What dodges the heels of these gorgeous pups? Why do rescues go to so much trouble picking out black dog names? The answer may surprise you. We’ll dive into the mystery behind these beauties, and then we’ll explore 111 perfect black dog name inspirations. Because every dog deserves a classy name, reflecting the majesty of their personality.
Believe it or not, black is a dominant hair coat color in dogs! Eumelanin is one of the pigments that controls the color of hair, eyes, and nose in the canine. When a dog carries two copies of the eumelanin gene – with no liver or dilution in the mix – you get black hair, brown eyes, and a black nose. If there’s any liver or dilution, you start to get grey, lilac, liver, or red variations.
And if the other pigment, phaeomelanin, shows up, you get variations of red to cream. Phaeomelanin only controls hair coat, though – it doesn’t impact the eyes or nose.
It’s a little more complicated than the genetics you see in cats. But dogs and cats? Definitely not the same.
Black Dog Mythology
Similar to black cats, black dogs have balanced good and bad luck through their mythology. Believe it or not, it’s why they endure some of the same prejudices as their feline counterparts. Superstition causes problems, and even if the myths and legends no longer hold, people have long memories. You’ll find people crossing the street to avoid walking in front of a black dog! It boggles the mind.
Unfortunately, the list of black dogs that harbor ill tidings goes on and on. Almost every culture has a story of a dark-colored hound with ill intent. J.K. Rowling capitalized on one such myth when she introduced the Grim in her Harry Potter series. The Grim is often portrayed as a black ghost dog heralding a death to come – a widespread belief throughout England and the Scandinavian region.
In fact, the British Isles have numerous black dogs symbolizing grave omens. The Black Shuck, in particular, roams the countryside. To catch of glimpse of it promises your death is on the horizon.
These legends predate the 12th-century witch hunts that condemned black cats to the negative side of people’s hearts. However, the dark coats dogs wore threw their lot in with the cats, ravens, crows, and other creatures. Wearing black hair or feathers didn’t grant you any favors.
Glimmers of Hope
Good thing some black dogs escaped the stigma! As with black cats, there are black dogs out there who represented GOOD symbols in old mythologies.
In Somerset, England, you’ll find the Gurt Dog. Children left outside to play on their own fell under this black dog’s careful supervision. Mothers knew their kids were safe while the Gurt roamed the hills. The Gurt also served as a guide and protector for travelers that found themselves alone in the Quantock Hills.
Since the 19th century, people in the Hanging Hills of Connecticut have noticed a little black dog. The pup never barks, and no one ever spots any paw prints when it bounces around. People who spot the Black Dog (original name, right?) always feel joy – the first time. Unfortunately, this myth comes with a twist:
- The first sighting? You get joy
- The second sighting brings a warning
- And the third is our old friend the death omen
Legend claims the Black Dog has six deaths credited to it, but there’s not any proof. But people love a spooky story. They fail to realize the harm stories can cause.
Black Dog Syndrome
In shelters and rescues, people tend to skip over dogs with dark coats. Black dogs often spend FOUR TIMES longer waiting for their forever home than pups with different hair colors. The phenomenon coined the term “Black Dog Syndrome.” And it breaks the hearts of shelter workers. They turn themselves inside out to find homes for these sable beauties.
Why the difference? After all, you find black hair in practically every dog breed! Some theories have cropped up over the years:
- The dark hair makes dogs hard to notice. Face it – they blend into the shadows!
- Black hair gets tricky to photograph. Most black dogs have dark eyes AND noses. The result? A blob on a photo. So rescues can’t always display the best “Pick Me!” pictures online.
- Facial expressions often disappear. Along the same lines, you lose those sweet eyes unless you look close.
- The dreaded shed. Black hair plus clothing and furniture? Not everyone wants to break out the vacuum or lint roller ALL the time.
- Our friend – superstition. It ruins things for black cats AND black dogs.
Rescuers and shelter workers want to break the stigma, though. So National Black Dog Day takes place on October 1st. With extra attention, fabulous black dog names that BREAK the horrible superstitions, and help from world-class photographers, more people are bringing these adorable canines home.
Black Dog Names
Choosing a name for any dog takes some thought. You don’t want to compromise potential training. (If your pup’s name sounds like the command, you’ll confuse everyone) And no one wants to sound ridiculous yelling out their back door. Trust me. (I’ll explain in a little bit)
At the same time, you don’t want to pick a name that’s predictable or boring. You want to look for black dog names that match the beauty and majesty of the pup you brought into your home. And we have PLENTY of inspiration for you to draw on – 111 black dog names, to be exact! If you’re not finding the spark here, look at our other name posts (yes, even the cat lists – names are names). Maybe something there will work. You want your dog to prick up their ears and wag their tail when you call.
Famous Black Dog Names
“Black Dog Syndrome” doesn’t just impact shelters – it impacts everywhere. While you often see other coat colors on television, in movies, and across social media, black dogs aren’t well-represented. Still, you’ll find a few sable pups that made a name for themselves. You can use these black dog names for inspiration – or simply admire them!
- Bo: You don’t get much better than Dog of the United States. This Portuguese Water Dog made headlines when he entered the White House.
- Holden: Gwyneth Paltrow adores dogs. Her black Labrador Retriever was a faithful companion, right until he passed in 2005.
- Padfoot: Harry Potter fans know this as Sirius Black’s transfigured form. An Irish Wolfhound played the black dog in the movies.
- Togo: Togo was a black Siberian Husky that participated in the “serum run” that saved Nome in 1925. (Balto gets more credit)
- Toto: Everyone remembers the Cairn Terrier from Wizard of Oz. She wore a black coat.
Black Dog Names Based on Coloring
It’s inevitable: when you have a dog with a specific coat color, you want to search for a name that reflects it. That doesn’t mean you have to pick something expected, though. Black dog names can go down more interesting routes. There are MUCH better options than “Blackie.” If you want to reflect your canine’s dark coloration and majesty but add a little flair, we have black dog names that’ll do the trick.
- Black Beauty
- Black Magic
- Nocturne (A musical composition inspired by night)
- Vesper (Archaic term for “evening”)
Black Dog Names Based on Food
How many food and drink items come in black or dark colors? When you start to think about it, they pile up. You can go the humorous or serious route with it, too. Whether you’re a foodie or find yourself with a chow-hound, food-based black dog names are fun and interesting. And they break with the usual stigma! You may want to make sure your pup doesn’t pack on the pounds (names DO become prophetic!), but there’s no harm with the culinary world providing your inspiration.
- Dr. Pepper
- Mr. Pibb
- Nori (This red seaweed turns black when dried)
- Porter (A dark beer)
- Stout (A dark beer – not a description of your dog’s size)
Black Dog Names Based on Nature
Plenty of natural substances come in dark or black colors. It’s a unique way to choose black dog names. And you’ll find a range of sizes, structures, and textures within the natural world. Does your black dog have an energetic personality, full of fire and pop? Or is your canine more quiet and subdued? As you explore the different aspects of the natural realm, you’ll notice comparisons between those deep sable eyes and possible names. It beats the old stand-bys!
- La Brea (After the tar pits – get it?)
- Pearl (Pearls DO come in black!)
Black Dog Names Based on Popular Culture
So you don’t find a lot of famous black dogs. Does that mean you’re out of luck on the pop culture side of things? Of course not! How many characters throughout literature, television, and movies adopt black or dark garb? TONS! You have your pick of heroes (or villains) to choose from. The ideas you can choose when considering black dog names are longer than you might think. And, in case you wondered, I made sure this list was completely different than the one for black cats. (My geek knowledge never runs out) Once you start down the rabbit hole, you’ll find plenty of black dog names to choose from.
- Batman/Batgirl (Do these names need an explanation?)
- Blackbeard (Pirates of the Caribbean based the character on the original man – Edward Teach)
- Bran (Not coincidentally, “Bran” means raven – and George R.R. Martin knew it)
- Cloak (The dark-caparisoned half of the Cloak and Dagger team)
- Gomez (The patriarch of The Addam’s Family)
- John Wick (Okay, the dog doesn’t fare so well in the movies – but there’s irony in using the name)
- Kirito (The Black Swordsman from the manga, light novels, and anime, Sword Art Online)
- Kylo Ren (Whether you want his dark side or prefer the redemption, you can’t go wrong with Star Wars names)
- Maleficent (This powerful fairy of the rebooted franchise makes for a gorgeous name)
- Morpheus (Who doesn’t want their black dog named for this character from The Matrix?)
- Poe (Edgar Allan Poe gets a little long, but Poe works!)
- Selene (She battled Lycans while dressed in black in the Underworld franchise)
- Severus Snape (Why, yes, I CAN work Harry Potter into almost every name post)
- Xena (Your kiddo deserves to be named for the Warrior Princess)
Unique Black Dog Names
Sometimes you want to go completely out of the box. Fantastic! Your precious pup deserves a name that sparks conversation. People will want to know how you came up with the idea, what it means – and they’ll wish they came up with something so unique! These black dog names hold true to your canine’s gorgeous dark coat, but they look at things from a different angle. It’s the perfect compromise for people tired of the same-old-same-old.
- Amaya (Japanese for “night rain”)
- Anubis (The Egyptian god of the afterlife)
- Duff (Celtic for “dark”)
- Erebus (Greek god of darkness)
- LBD (You got it – Little Black Dog)
- Nacht (Dutch and German for “night”)
- Nisha (Sanskrit for “night”)
- Sullivan (This Irish surname comes from the Gaelic for “dark eyes”)
- Swartz (A common last name, it comes from the German for “black”)
- Umbra (Latin for “shadow”)
Black Dog Names – Different Languages
When you feel like you’ve hit a brick wall on your creative process, you always have the option of looking to another language. Different words often SOUND like the perfect name. You can look to your heritage, the ancestry of your dog’s breed, or even a country you admire. Friends and family will wonder how you came up with something so unique, prompting conversations all around. And your dog can pick up their feet, knowing no one else has the same unusual name. These black dog names all mean “black” in the following languages.
- Beltza (Basque)
- Du (Welsh)
- Kuro (Japanese)
- Musta (Finnish)
- Noir/Noire (French)
- Pango (Maoria)
- Preta/Preto (Portuguese)
- Svart (Norwegian)
Our Black Dog
When you rescue an adult dog, they often come with a name attached. It’s a quandary: Do you keep the name, knowing they’ve heard it and recognize it? Or do you change it to something YOU want? You’re starting a new life for the canine, and a new name can represent part of that beginning. When you’re faced with a racing dog, the question gets a little more complicated. How often do the dogs hear their name? After all, they have an official “racing name,” and then there’s the name used in the kennel.
Our Greyhound’s racing name was TERRIBLE. She was named after an antibiotic! No way were we keeping that one. But her kennel name was “June.” Both of us decided standing on the porch and yelling “June” made it sound like we were hollering for a grandmother. Neither of us could stand the thought. But she was three years old. Teaching her a new name? How hard would that be? (Greyhounds aren’t the smartest dogs)
We started thinking of dog names that sounded CLOSE to “June.” If the sound was similar, we figured it would work. We’d be picking her up around Christmas, too. All of a sudden, Juniper came to mind. Junipers are evergreens. The berries? They’re almost black in color, especially when dried. It was perfect.
It also goes to show – even with an adult dog – you can work through names with enough time. (And use that back porch trick!)
Not as Grim
Black dogs wear one of the glossiest coats in the canine world. Short or long, tiny or tall, that ebony sheen begs for attention. Even with their mixed mythology and a tendency to disappear into the shadows at shelters, black dogs have something special. And when you add one to your home, you know you’ve added a touch of magic. Not to mention helping one more pup defeat “Black Dog Syndrome.”
These black dog names help your kiddo strut about with pride. They know they’re special and unique. Which is the most important part of naming any dog – no matter what coat they wear.