I get this question a lot. It's embarassing when your dog barks or negatively reacts to someone of a different race. While training and more socialization would certainly help your dog get over this, the good news is your dog is not racist.
The truth is, most dogs who react negatively to people of color do so because they lack exposure to these people. Think about it, has your dog ever been afraid of a big trash can on the side of the road and barked at it, not knowing what it is? Maybe it wasn't a trash can, maybe it was halloween decorations in someone's yard. I've personally known families of color who have dogs who don't respond well to caucasian people and caucasian families who's dogs don't respond well to african americans so I think it's safe to say this is an exposure issue.
Just because a person of a different race is a living being and not an inatimate object, doesn't mean that person is immune to your dog's irrational fears or lack of socialization.
"But Tara, I have lots of friends of many races and my dog has been socialized to them. Why would he still act this way?" There could be lots of answers to this. Maybe your dog isn't reacting to the person's race at all. Dogs can react negatively to someone's cologne, gender, their demeanor or even their clothing, amongst other things.
I assure you that your dog is not racist because racism requires hate which is an emotion most dogs don't posses. What can help, however, is to leash your dog up and get them out more. When you see someone who is a different race than you, ask them if they'd be willing to give your dog a treat. Be honest, tell the person that your dog isn't reacting well to people of other races and you're trying to get them over it (because frankly it's quite embarassing!) If you don't have any friends of a different race, get some! Maybe your dog isn't the only one who needs to branch out of their comfort zone. ;)
Most people tend to befriend their own race. I don't think this is racist, it's just human behavior. We tend to stick to what we're most familiar with. But by befriending some people of different races you will not only help your dog, but you'll probably learn some things too! Also remember that sometimes a dog isn't responding to someone's color, sometimes they're responding to how you feel at the time. If you get nervous around people of different races because your dog behaves badly when around them, your dog may misinterpret that and take it out on the person.
In my experience, when socializing your dog to different races, it's usually best to start with women since dogs tend to take to women better. If your dog doesn't do well with men in general, trying to get them to greet a man of a different race may not go as well as if you had started with women first. Let the person talk to the dog so the dog can realize they're no different than you, they just look different.
If you're afraid your dog may bite, muzzle them, but don't neglect to socialize them. This will only make the problem worse.
Is your dog afraid of people of a different race? Tell us about it in the comments below.
Until next time,
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Tara is a dog trainer helping struggling dog owners have extraordinary dogs in the Navarre, Milton and Pensacola areas. She got her start as a struggling dog owner herself which was her fuel to learn the skills to help others. Today, she's helped nearly two thousand dog owners all over Northwest Florida learn how to be better leaders to their pets so that their dogs can be better companions for the family. Hire Tara or learn more at www.happyhoundfl.com