Dogs have been our best friends for thousands of years. We may think we know our canine friends, but they can sometimes act in mysterious ways, and certain canine behaviors can be alarming. When a dog’s aggression seems to be directed at people of a different race, the owner may get very distressed. An owner may wonder if their dog’s behavior is racist, especially if excessive barking or lunging at someone becomes a habit. Here’s what you need to know about the possibility of being the owner of a racist dog.
The First Point: What is Racism?
Racism is a belief that race determines the human capacities of people, and differences in races produce a race that’s genetically superior to others. People who are racist believe that people behave as they do based on their physical appearance. Racism may mean someone is prejudiced, discriminates against people, or is antagonistic toward someone because they’re of a different ethnicity or race.
Takeaways About Dogs and Racism
Dogs don’t exhibit behavior that’s racist. Canines don’t generalize about others the way humans do. Another difference is that dogs don’t feel emotions like hate. They primarily rely on scent.
When dogs negatively react to someone of a different race, it’s more of a novelty reaction than actual racism. Some dogs have neophobia, a phenomenon that may cause a negative response to someone that wears clothing they aren’t accustomed to or wears a different hairstyle.
The most effective way to curb adverse reactions to different people is by socializing your dog early. Introducing your dog to many different people at an early age can prevent behavior that can be mistaken for racism. If you have a dog that reacts adversely to anyone of another race, counter-conditioning and desensitization techniques can help to alleviate fears your dog may have.
Why Do Dogs Act Differently Around People of Different Races?
A dog’s adverse reaction to someone of a different race is likely based on fear since they haven’t met the person before. The point to remember is that it isn’t associated with another race. Dogs can tell the difference between different skin tones, but they don’t perceive skin color the way humans do. Dogs rely on scent more than sight.
Your dog’s reaction to someone they don’t know isn’t an indication of a negative encounter with someone of a different gender, religion, or race. Your dog is reacting because that person has a smell they aren’t accustomed to. If your dog is responding unusually, it’s more likely a cultural difference than a racial one. Long hair on a woman, facial hair, turbans, or headscarves may not be familiar to your dog. The dog may feel frightened or suspicious. The person’s skin tone likely has nothing to do with your dog’s reaction.
Could You Be the Problem?
The problem might be you and not your dog. If your dog is reacting in an adverse way to someone of a different race, the problem may be your negative attitude and energy. You must be honest about any biases or feelings you have. The problem may not even be a race issue. If you perceive someone unfamiliar to be menacing or threatening, your dog can pick up on your energy. Your biases may cause anxiety in your dog. However, if you exhibit discriminatory behavior, your dog will pick up on your feelings.
In a 2019 Sage Journals study, researchers found human caretakers that have implicit and explicit racial preferences, especially when caregivers have more positive attitudes toward white rather than black people. The study concluded that people that have positive attitudes toward white over black people reported their dogs were more positive around white people. However, fewer people reported their dogs having a preference for white people when there was interracial contact.
A Tip For All Dog Owners: No matter how your dog reacts to different people, your dog must behave well around everyone you encounter. Excellent canine manners are a “must.” Your dog should be on a leash and under your control at all times.
Can Dogs Distinguish Between Different Dog Breeds?
This question is not meant to equate dog breeds with different races of humans. It could be worth considering whether dogs can distinguish their breed from others in the canine species. To take it a step further, what about dogs distinguishing different human races? Do dogs actually prefer to be with other dogs of the same breed rather than different breeds?
For example, can a Beagle, Chihuahua, or Miniature Pinscher distinguish between their breed and other breeds? It’s not likely, so it can be assumed that none of these breeds can differentiate between different human races. A dog may see differences in people but don’t perceive them the way humans do. A dog isn’t capable of thinking like a human and making generalizations about certain races of people.
Some dog owners believe their dog has preferences like humans and prefers the company of his breed. Canine experts haven’t found any evidence of this claim. As intelligent as dogs are, they don’t have self-awareness and can’t pass a “mirror test.” When a dog looks in a mirror, it doesn’t understand that it’s seeing its reflection. It’s a bit of a stretch to assume a dog can recognize others of the same breed.
Most of a dog’s awareness skills come from their sense of smell. The dog’s skills come from an essential point because dogs have the ability to pass STSR tests, also known as a Sniff Test of Self-Recognition. The test is designed to prove that a dog can distinguish its scent from other scents. Although dogs can’t differentiate between different breeds, they can distinguish different smells. For example, if your dog is a Weimaraner and he had a close encounter with a Husky in the past, that doesn’t mean he’ll show animosity toward all Huskies.
Dogs may not be able to distinguish different breeds. However, they can recognize their own species by scent. In most interactions, an animal must determine if another animal is of the same species. The way dogs perceive other species may be visual and by category. The goal of a visual discrimination study in 2013 using nine dogs was to determine if dogs can discriminate the difference between canines and other species.
The study also wanted to determine if the dogs could categorize images of dogs into one group. The trainer used a clicker, rewards of dog food, and images on a computer screen. Each of the nine dogs was able to discriminate the differences between humans and other species of mammals. The dogs were successful in grouping all the images of dogs in the same category.
Can Dogs Recognize Their Owners In Photos?
In certain circumstances, dogs can recognize their owners in photographs. A study was conducted at the University of Helsinki in Finland where researchers determined that if a dog sees an image of their owner in a photo the way they usually look, they can recognize them. However, your dog may not be able to identify who you are in a childhood photo if you change your hairstyle or grow facial hair.
What To Do About a Racist Dog
The essential point to remember is if your dog is showing any type of aggression toward humans or other animals, canine experts recommend consulting a professional trainer for everyone’s safety. You don’t ever want to be in a situation where your dog or anyone else could be injured.
Some dogs don’t have aggressive tendencies but are fearful around certain people and other animals. When a dog is hesitant or scared, there’s a reason for the behavior, and you should curb it early. Some dogs are afraid of loud noises like thunder or fireworks. Other dogs may feel stress around strangers or animals that aren’t familiar. Other dogs may have separation anxiety when left home alone. Whatever the issue, dog desensitization may be the answer.
Dog Desensitization Techniques
Desensitization is a modification behavior technique that’s useful in response to things that frighten dogs. To modify a dog’s behavior, a positive incentive, usually in the form of a dog treat, is part of the process. When a dog has exposure to the frightening trigger, a treat changes the negative experience into a positive one.
The trick is to keep the dog below the threshold at which fear takes over during a desensitization session for the plan to work effectively. Different techniques may be called for, depending on what triggers the behavior. A professional trainer can develop an effective desensitization plan for your dog.
How To Prevent Having a “Racist” Dog
If your dog already has issues with certain people, it’s best to address the problem as soon as possible. Dogs should be socialized as puppies, and it’s never too early to start. Your puppy should have all the core vaccines before exposure to many people and other animals.
The critical socialization period for puppies is between three and 12 to 16 weeks. Even if your puppy is a little older, socialization is essential. After getting the core vaccines, you should introduce your puppy to new people and different situations each week. You could begin by inviting a friend or two to your home to meet the puppy. It’s a good idea to start leash training your puppy early. Your puppy will enjoy exploring the sights and scents of your neighborhood. Plan on taking your puppy to at least one new place each week. Your puppy will be better adjusted and well-behaved as an adult dog if socialization begins early. Bring plenty of your dog’s favorite treats as rewards for good behavior.
1. Can dogs be racist?
There can be different reasons for a dog to seem biased toward certain people. For example, if a white family raises a dog and goes into another predominantly black neighborhood, the dog may bark or get agitated. The same thing may happen with a dog raised by a black family that comes into a white community. Does this mean the dog is racist? The answer is no. In this case, the problem is that the dog wasn’t properly socialized as a puppy.
When a puppy is socialized and exposed to new experiences and people, as an adult dog, it will be well-adjusted and have a positive or neutral reaction when meeting people of a different race. The key to raising a well-adjusted dog is exposure to new experiences and people. Dog owners should set a good example for their pets with a positive and calm demeanor.
Dogs are very receptive and can pick up on an owner’s bias against another person. You want the emotions your dog picks up from you to be upbeat. When you encounter anyone of a different race or ethnicity, be friendly and courteous. Your dog will soon understand there’s nothing to fear from someone who appears to be different.
2. What is racism?
Racism is a belief that what determines the capacities and traits of all humans is determined by their race. While humans understand the concept of racism, dogs, fortunately, don’t grasp the fundamental concept of being racist.