Are Dogs Racist? Canine Experts Explain Odd Behavior

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Animals just seem too innocent and furry to hold prejudices, but many dog owners worry that their pet is racist based on its behavior. According to Gawker, canines can react differently to varying races, but it is not fair to label it as racism.

The issue arises for most owners when they are walking their pooches and encounter a person of a different race on the street. Their usually friendly dog may begin to bark and carry on until the stranger is out of sight. But is this canine racism?

"Although a dog may appear to be 'racist,' that's not possible. Racism requires complex thinking and other higher cognitive functions that canines simply don't possess," shared dog psychologist Linda Michaels. "A dog may react in fear-based aggression to a person of color for two reasons: 1. Insufficient positive associations in early socialization to people of all races; 2. A traumatic incident with a person of color that has now generalized to all people of color."

Other experts agree, reinforcing the idea that these pooches are not reacting from a place of hate but one of uncertainty. Additionally, sometimes it is the stranger who worsens the situation. If an individual approaches your dog with a sense of fear, your pet will sense that.

"Dogs ... react to the immense differences in the human races. Just like a great many of the dogs I work with are aggressive only to men, but love women; sometimes the other way around. Also, each of the races of humans literally smell, act and look differently from one another and the energy we give off is almost always different from one another," explained Suzi Schaefers of the Canine Psychology Center.

Now that it is clear that dogs are not racist, is there a way to alleviate this somewhat embarrassing behavior? Yes, WebVet recommends training your dog to look at you when he is approached by a person whose race he often reacts strongly to. Every time your dog listens to the command to look at you and keep quiet instead of barking at the stranger, reward him with a treat. If you continue to do this over time, your dog will become calmer in these situations and begin to associate the race it previously barked at with good things, like treats. If you have a friend of the race your dog is having issues with, set up meet-ups in public places between the two. During these encounters, have your friend calmly approach your dog and offer him treats. After several of these doggie dates, your pet should becoming increasingly more accepting.

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Annette Rf

BTW notice how only White people suffering from unimaginable White guilt obsess about things like this? The rest of us couldn't care less if our dogs seem to hate other races. With all the IMPORTANT things to worry about in society today, we get THIS?

January 14 2013 at 4:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Annette Rf

I've done volunteer work for animal shelters for many years, and I always found it remarkable that the overwhelming number of people who volunteer in animal rescue work are White, with a few Asians. The only time blacks would come in to ask about adopting was when they wanted fight or attack dogs. Dogs can sense this.

January 14 2013 at 4:06 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Kevin Lerton

“Racism requires complex thinking and other higher cognitive functions…..”
Hmmmm. Now we know why only White people can me “racist”.

January 12 2013 at 8:40 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

What about Black people who have dogs?
Are those dogs upset for being with a Black person? Do they bark at their owners for being "of Color"??
After being a mailman for 18 years, I am suspicious of all dogs because they--like many animals---are "Territorial"! They think ALL belongs to them!
I remember passing a dog in a car in a Walmart parking lot, it was angry (windows were down, and it was not suffering in any way), and it's bark told me that I was in it's territory!!
I said to myself: "Oh, now this Walmart parking lot is YOUR territory now huh!?
I then said out loud as I left the scene: "Get a life!" But I don't think it understood English, since it was barking at everyone that passed!! Selfish greed!

January 05 2013 at 4:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

"Also, each of the races of humans literally smell, act and look differently from one another and the energy we give off is almost always different from one another," explained Suzi Schaefers of the Canine Psychology Center."

How racist is that comment? All people smell differently due to hygiene, stress, type of soap, cologne, perfume, deodorant, etc., irrespective of the "race." Does she think all Caucasians smell, act and look the same?

January 05 2013 at 3:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Big Jim

My dog is an english springer spaniel, who just loves attention from anyone. He will accept any loving he can get from whomever will give it. We live on a street that seems to be segregated down the middle, but when Rusty and I go for a walk he doesn't seem to be bothered by most. The only time he will bark at someone, usually a child and predominately African American, is when there are sudden movements made in front of us (such as a child dashing across the street while playing, or a sudden approach). This has nothing to do with race, because it happens to ALL children in the neighborhood. There just happen to be more of one race that are a bit more active than another. No iPads, maybe?

January 05 2013 at 1:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Gia Rengaw

I have to agree with the "different" logic. Many years ago I lived alone and had a wonderful "fur baby" who was an equal opportunity dog. She loved woman of any race,creed, national origin etc., but barked ferociously at ANY man, welcome or not, even my male relatives!

January 05 2013 at 11:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tony Mendolia

Oh God, go get Al Sharpton.

January 05 2013 at 9:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Bill H

Sorry, I can't go with all the psychological stuff.

You have a dog and you are white. Your dog is use to you visually. He is also use to your aroma. The smells you produce are you, a person who cooks or lives in a particular ethnic way? Your dog senses that by sight, smell, and sound.

Your approach to someone who is of another race will illicit a waning from your dog because something is different about the person approaching. Does this person have dark skin and a smell different than what he/she is used to? Once acquainted with persons of this ethnic background your dog will no longer be bothered by sight and smell and will focus more on the "vibes" coming off the person coming towards you. Is the person afraid or angry? Dogs will pick up on the most prominent difference in something else and warn you of it. That is part of his job.

I find a discussion that stares off with a racial overtone somewhat offensive to everyone in my mind. People are saying, " That dog is growling at me because I am asian, caucasian, african, etc. The dog only cares that there is a difference from the "norm" of his life and that he must send up some form of warning to the rest of the pack. Once he becomes accustomed to this difference there will be no reaction.

Quit over thinking this.

I have been a handler, trainer, and supervisor of dogs for many years. For me and my training methods the best socialization is parks and streets where people are all the time. If you start them as puppies and allow folks to talk to the and pet them under your control they will not be so specific about their alarms. Some of the best places is where Teenagers are.. Young kids like this travel in large very integrated groups. You can always get kids to pet and play with a pup.Try walking around a carnival, a movie theater, a candy store. Just about anywhere you can get kids help you socialize you buddy. If you tell them why you are doing this with your dog I assure you that you will get very enthusiastic response from the Teens and your pup.

I am Hispanic, I live with my wife and children in a quiet neighborhood. We have a medium sized mixed breed dog. He has lived with us since he was four months old. He is with my kids after school and my wife all day while everyone else is at school or work.

Our new neighbor family is white. He gets in the back yard and barks towards their house all the time unless my wife brings him in. I saw my new neighbor on Saturday and went over. We talked a while and I asked if he would meet my dog. I told him why. He called his wife out so they could both meet the dog. they let my dog determine how the greeting would go and it ended with a lot of petting and sloppy kisses. When they are by their drive way or in the back they talk ti him now. He has never barked at them or in their directs since.

January 05 2013 at 5:57 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Horse-puckey. It's not about racism per se, it's about smell. Dogs use their noses to recognize friend or foe. People of different races have different odors. The dog will interpret any odor different than it's owner's as an "intruder" and sound off. Get over it.

January 05 2013 at 2:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
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