One of the most embarrassing incidents involving humans and dogs involved a black woman who attended a white friend’s party. As soon as she walked inside the house, the friend’s dog started barking and chasing her.
Long story short, her friend’s dog ended up chasing her out of the party. What makes this incident ‘interesting’ is that a white person went in before her and the dog didn’t bark. Strange right?
Why is it so…
Well, there’re many instances where people claim dogs barked at them because they were black or have witnessed dogs barking at black people. This assertion has sparked a lot of debate about whether or not dogs are racist.
Well, in a few minutes, we’ll explore why dogs behave the way they do and whether there is any scientific or biological basis for claims that dogs are racist or that they bark at people because of their skin color.
Factors That Influence Dog Behavior
For you to better understand why dogs bark at black people and to ascertain if they’re racist, it’s important for you to have a general idea about why dogs act in certain ways.
Below are some factors that influence dog behavior:
1. Dog Behaviour Stems From Their Ancestral Background.
According to research, dogs are direct descendants of grey wolves— hence, dogs are domesticated wolves. From this piece of information, you can agree that dogs are naturally wild.
No matter the domestication processes they have gone through, dogs will always act on behaviors inherent in their genetic core. This is why dogs exhibit natural behaviors such as barking, howling, chasing, anxiety, and chewing.
2. Training by Owners.
During slavery, dogs were used as instruments of oppression against African Americans. Slave hunters trained dogs to hunt black slaves who ran away. Besides, during the time of the Civil Rights Movement, police officers let their dogs loose on African-American males.
Even to this day, the police will employ dogs as a form of force against black people in situations in which they will not use the same force against White people.
In this case, you can consider the owner racist rather than the dog, to be fair. The training of a dog definitely determines how the dog will behave. So if a dog is trained to be racist, it certainly will be.
3. Ability to Sense Danger, Fear, and Tension
Dogs are naturally suspicious of people they’re not familiar with. This is known as neophobia. Neophobia in dogs is the fear of new and unfamiliar things. Neophobia may make dogs exhibit behaviors such as fear, aggression, and avoidance. Dogs indicate signs of fear by barking, growling, or whining.
When a dog sees an unfamiliar person, it may instinctively bark, not necessarily because of their skin color. They also have the ability to sense danger or even get a signal if their owners are tense at the sight of something.
If a dog realizes their owner is tensed up after seeing a black person, they’ll naturally start barking at the person. According to a certified dog behavior consultant, a dog’s behavior is often a mirror of your own. So there is a possibility your dog is racist because you are.
4. The Social Environment of Dogs
Experts say dogs that behave differently depending on the race of the person they are interacting with are likely not properly socialized. They emphasized neophobia in dogs may be associated with under-socialization.
If a dog has lived in an environment full of white people since they were young puppies and suddenly encounters a black person, it’s likely it’ll start barking.
I mean, put yourself in their shoes– If you’ve lived your whole life among black people without having any knowledge that white people existed, and then you suddenly see a white person, you may be curious who that person is. Well, dogs, instead of just thinking, bark.
Can a Dog Be Racist?
Now that we’ve explored the factors that influence dog behavior, it’s important for you to understand what racism means and whether it even relates to animals.
Racism is the belief that one race is superior to another and that this superiority justifies discrimination and prejudice. Dogs do not have the ability to determine the superiority of a person’s race, but their owners do.
Researchers found in a study that dogs are not born with the ability to show dislike towards any race; however, dogs imitate the unconscious or conscious racist attitudes of their owners.
Also, the study found that if a dog’s caregiver has biases and therefore does not socialize with some particular people or race, whether black, white, Asian, Hispanic, or Latino, the dog is likely to negatively react to such people.
Another salient point to note is that, if a dog is subjected to the hostile or fearful actions of people of a particular race on multiple occasions, the dog may come to identify individuals of that race with harmful situations.
This could cause the dog to become hostile toward people of that race, barking at them or acting aggressively toward them.
Therefore, the answer to this question is yes, dogs can be racist; however, the circumstances and the environment the dog is in determine whether it is racist or not.
Now It’s Your Turn
After going through this article, you’re familiar with the fact that a dog may behave in a certain way for various reasons. It’s therefore unwise to quickly assume that dogs are racist.
You must consider all other reasons dogs may behave in a certain way before making a judgment.
If you’ve also noticed your dog constantly barks at black people for reasons you can’t seem to figure out, you should probably see a pet expert for consultations.
If you also feel bad that your dog negatively reacts to certain races, you should consider socializing the dog with such people more often, or you should probably do a self-assessment.
What are your experiences with dogs as a black person?
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