Most of us have heard tendencies of dogs to exhibit hostility or aggression towards certain races. But why is this? According to Linda Michaels, a dog psychologist and Victoria Stilwell dog trainer, dogs lack the degree of cognitive sophistication to be truly racist. However, a dog may not have had enough association with people of different races to become sufficiently familiar with them, and therefore may react to such unfamiliar races with fear and aggression. They may also have experienced traumatic encounters with people of a specific race, or a combination of these two things. However, dogs can be properly socialized to accept people of all races, and she recommends allowing them to frequently encounter people of all races at around 8 weeks of age in order to properly socialize them so that they do not grow up to be racist.
According to Renee Payne, another expect in dog behavior therapy, suggests that certain dog breeds see poorly at night, and therefore may react poorly to those with darker skin, causing them to appear to the dog as though they had appeared out of nowhere, which may startle the canine. Furthermore, she notes that cultures associated with certain races oftentimes tend not to own dogs. This may cause the humans of different races themselves to react with fear or discomfort towards the dogs. When dogs sense fear (and they do sense it well), they interpret it as danger. This may cause the dog to react in an aggressive manner.
According to Suzi Schaefers, “Colorado’s Own Dog Whisperer” of the Canine Psychology Center, a dog’s insecurity may have something to do with it. Since most dog owners do not understand dog psychology, particularly the importance of being a strong pack leader to the dog, the dog does not view them as a pack leader and becomes insecure. This predisposes them towards aggressive behavior towards unfamiliar people.
According to Anthony Newman of “Calm Energy Dog Training” in NYC, the problem has to do with the owners. Dogs are extremely intelligent creatures, capable of a degree of cognitive empathy; particularly that of “mirroring.” this means that thed og is able to pick up on incredibly subtle cues which are invisible to the human mind and eye. Human body language, as well as the scent of sweat and adrenaline, causes the dogs to be alert. He suggests that such dogs are ‘racist’ because their human owners are, even if only to a subtle degree, racist, and the dog picks up on this and responds to those of another race with fear and aggression. But the dogs are not being ‘racist.’ They are simply responding to extremely subtle cues from the owner towards those of other races.
He also suggests that dogs were first domesticated by lighter-skinned humans, leading them to see dark-skinned people as outsiders. This, he emphasizes, however, is speculative, and is a possibility that he says remains unexplored.
Nolan, Hamilton (2013). Why Are Dogs Racist? Canine Experts Speak. Retrieved from: http://gawker.com/5972557/why-are-dogs-racist-canine-experts-speak