No, Your Dog’s Not A Racist

Since the culture is being bombarded with propaganda and indoctrination holding that racism—defined as broadly and inclusively (inclusive racism..HEY! I just made up an oxymoron!) as the totalitarian thought police choose in order to intimidate you—is the single most important malady in existence, and must be rooted out in all its forms, a newspaper editor didn’t laugh himself sick when an op-ed writer offered this insanity, opining not only that dogs could be racists, but that owners have a moral duty—moral duty, mind you—to break them of their racists ways. The author, Ryan Poe, begins,

Dogs are racists. OK, not all dogs. But some of them have been conditioned, usually through either a bad experience or lack of experience, to discriminate based on skin color. It’s horrible but true: man’s best friend isn’t always a best friend to all men. The good news is that your KKK-9 doesn’t have to stay racist: Bad conditioning can (and should be) reversed.

Let’s stop right there. Dogs don’t know what race is, so claiming that dogs can be racist is ridiculous on its face. They do not hold one race inferior to others. They do not hold racial stereotypes or assume negative character traits based on race. Racism is human behavior, not canine.

Dogs do discriminate, often based bad experiences. A human who decides to avoid all African Americans because she was once mugged by one is behaving unfairly and irrationally, but this kind of reasoning is not irrational for a dog. My beloved and now departed Jack Russell Rugby loved and wanted to make friends with almost every living thing, mail carriers, rabbits, cats, bugs, actors, potential serial killers. But a huge, black Belgian Shepherd that used to live next door attacked him viciously when Rugby was a puppy, and he held a grudge the rest of his life against that breed. My neighbor, who has run through a long line of those magnificent dogs since Rugby’s trauma saw my otherwise friendly dog run out on his lead barking, growling and jumping up and down in fury every time he walked one of his dogs past our house. Was little Rugby a breed racist? Of course not. Dogs don’t have the luxury of applying nuanced moderation to established threats. For Rugby, establishing a lifetime rule that Belgian Shepherds were not to be trusted was completely rational.

The impetus for this brain-flaying exercise in contrived virtue-signalling was this story, about  a Catholic priest who told an African American woman  that she couldn’t be his house cleaner because his dog, for undetermined reasons, was fearful of blacks and would attack her. She has now filed a complaint with the Catholic Diocese of Memphis claiming that the priest is a racist, and discriminating on the basis of race. She wants the  Rev. Jacek Kowal, pastor of the church, to be disciplined , and for the Diocese to pay compensatory damages and attorney’s fees.

The fact that the pastor refuses to crate the dog during cleaning raises the strong likelihood that it is him, and not his dog, that is the problem. The pastor, however, in various letters, has blamed the impasse explicitly on his dog’s “racism.”

Thus the journalists makes this Swiss Cheese-like argument:

There has to be a racist motive at work to rightly call someone a “racist.” …I don’t blame the dog — but yes, its motive is racist. The dog has a negative association with certain skin colors, which is the motivation for its aggression. Even though the dog is unaware of its wrong associations, and incapable of changing them on its own, it’s still racist.

Has this idiot ever had a dog? I have known dogs that are aggressive toward men. I have known dogs that are aggressive toward men with facial hair, unusually large people, or anyone wearing a uniform. Some dogs are spooked by children, or puppies. An individual’s odor, undetectable by humans, may cause a dog to become nervous or fearful. There is no malice in any of these reactions and behaviors; they are based on typical canine instincts. To call them “wrong” is to anthropomorphize dogs. It’s not “wrong” for a dog to think this way. It’s a matter of survival.

If there is a particular kind of individual that frightens or stresses one’s dog, the responsible response is to take measures to keep that dog away from those individuals. An individual, whatever the color, who takes a particular dog’s antipathy personally needs to be told to grow up, learn about dogs, and stop looking for opportunities to play the race card.

But Poe concludes,

“So, the dog’s actions are really racist and they’re really wrong …it’s just that, in this case, it’s the priest who bears the moral responsibility for correcting the dog’s racism.”

MORAL responsibility? Oh, right, that 11th Commandment that says, “THOU SHALT NOT ALLOW YOUR DOG TO BARK AT BLACK PEOPLE.  I always forget that one. Poe is really taking the position that unless you break your dog of “canine racism,” you are enabling and endorsing human racism yourself.

Balderdash. Reconditioning a dog that has a fear of anything is expensive, time consuming, and likely to fail. I guess then Poe would say that the only alternative is to have the dog killed because it cannot be made “woke.” (Put to sleep because it can’t be woke! I’m on a roll!) It may be impressive to some that Poe’s world view holds that every living thing must love all races equally, but purging the culture of racism is a mission that properly involves only humans, not dogs, cats or gerbils. Dog owners have an ethical obligation to make certain their dogs don’t harm anyone, not to send them to re-education centers so they won’t hurt anyone’s feelings.

26 thoughts on “No, Your Dog’s Not A Racist

  1. Key and Peele are awesome and so is your humor today Jack. On a roll indeed.
    If you have not seen their “Black Ice” piece you are missing out.

    • From what I know all non-domesticated animals are anthrophobic. We must cleanse the oceans and forests of these racist beasts.

  2. I’ve got this crazy notion that if black males weren’t more than 5 times more likely to commit the crime of murder than white males (speaking statistically, in the abstract), you wouldn’t get that “lock the door” or “cross the street” fear reaction in cities. I’m sure it’s terrible for the overwhelming majority of those who won’t commit murder, but if you’re serious about addressing a cause, well, it’s not “racism”, and it’s not “white supremacists”.
    https://whiteprivilegeisntreal.org/blacks-commit-more-murders-whites/

    • As far as dogs: I’ve had dogs that would bark at black men; very embarrassing! It didn’t have anything to do with anything we did, because they were “free range” farm dogs, and we had black people coming and going at almost the same rate as whites. I have no idea why. As far as I know, they didn’t have any negative interactions with black people, just one of those quirky things.

  3. I had a dog like that. Anytime she saw a black person, she would go crazy. Not at anyone other than blacks. I got her from the pound and in rough shape, I never thought someone might have mistreated her. I always kept her away from black people once I saw this happen. It really scared me the first time it happened. Never though I had a moral obligation to teach her not to be that way, I though my obligation was to make sure she did’t hurt anyone, regardless of their skin color.

  4. With all due respect, reconditioning a dog is not hard or expensive but does require patience. Owners do dogs a potentially grave disservice by having them avoid certain social situations (like certain races, sexes, people with MAGA hats). This attitude feeds into dogs fears and aids instability that can lead to dangerous situations for not only the dog, but the surrounding neighbors/others who have to deal with the owners lack of proper understanding about them. This doesn’t mean owners don’t love their dogs, but it does mean they are unwilling to help their dogs achieve a peaceful state of mind in common social scenarios.

    I don’t believe dogs are racist but dogs do reflect their owners unstable emotions. Owners may not be racist at all but can nurture canine fear by getting fearful themselves about how the dog will react to certain stimuli or memories of a past situation, therefore crystallizing abnormal reactions.

    Reconditioning is what I do for a living and can say that 99% percent of the time anxiety & other unsociable behavior stems from the owners. It’s unfortunate that too many humans treat dogs like their personal comfort fur babies and create or nurture neurosis because they don’t want to fulfill their dogs needs as an animal first, companion second. If someone doesn’t want to take the time, which really isn’t much for a creature one claims to love, to work with unstable behavior, then perhaps a cat is a better option.

    Otherwise owners need to practice being calm leaders who can navigate unforeseen situations with confidence, allowing their dogs to do the same. It is right and ethical to do so.

    • Volumes could be written about all of our inconsistent, strange relationships we have with animals. It’s strange to think that we’re just now making animal cruelty a felony.

    • All animals react based on their experiences with humans. Mrs Q’s comments are quite correct. I have been involved with spay and release activities and the ferral cats I deal with learn that I am not a threat.

  5. When I, a white guy, was a kid, I lived in an all-white neighborhood. We had dogs – not vicious dogs, but “appealingly, pleasingly protective” in their manner of responding to strangers who would come onto our property. We had trash collection once per week – and yes, ALL of the men who rode by on the truck and hurled our trash out of our trash cans onto the truck were black.

    Maybe it was the noise that the men made with the cans. Maybe it was because of some incident or incidents that I never witnessed, involving one or more of the trash-harvesters and one or more of our dogs. But I do vividly recall that the most upset I ever saw our dogs – the most agitated, barking the loudest and most incessantly, but still never “baring fangs” as far as I can recall – was when those trash pick-up men arrived.

    We also had “hired help” – a black lady who did as much mothering of me as my Mom. Our dogs were completely OK with her going into our garage (to use the clothes washer) or back yard (to hang laundry to dry), coming into our house, cleaning, etc. She was no stranger, and her visits to our house were regular enough, I suppose, that the dogs just accepted her like the rest of us.

    So for dogs, I think it’s all a matter of their conditioning, much like Jack has described Rugby. Not some “higher-order” so-called thinking (we humans give ourselves too much credit already) that results in a dog becoming a “racist.”

  6. Of the five daschunds I’ve had in my lifetime (one standard male, one male mini, three female minis), the sweetest one (a small mini) was the last. She was also the smallest and the most protective of all of them. Given the opportunity, she’d charge a garbage truck insofar as she concluded it was a threat to us. She would go nuts when cleaning people were in our apartment, ankle biting a guy’s jeans once, to his eternal amusement. She was a rescue dog from a puppy mill and had evidently spent the three years of her life prior to our getting her in a crate bearing puppies. She was completely unsocialized and unhouse-broken but turned out great. She was very smart. I’ve never known two daschunds to be the same. Despite numerous commonalities of the breed, what you get it what you get. Kind of like a box of chocolates.

      • I have been suffering from guilt the last few days, wondering if we put down Rugby too soon. Sick as he was, he still wanted to meet everyone, greet everyone, play, make friends. The vet said that she had never see so sick a dog exhibit so much life force right to the end. But that was him: his mission in life was to be friends with everything. My wife says I’m going to drive myself crazy.

        • I assure you, you did not.

          Not that it gives me no special expertise, but my dad was a veterinarian. I remember being 5-ish when my dad took the family to put Rusty, our dachshund to sleep. We all said goodbye, though I did not know what was going on very well.

          He put our cat Hobo to sleep after, at 15 years of age, he slipped getting out of the tub and broke his back.

          He put Fred, another dachshund, to sleep after being hit by a car. Actually, Fred May not have gotten to the clinic alive.

          Paddington, his last dog, seems to have haunted him the most. He did not want to put Paddington to sleep. Paddington, a mutt that looks a lot like Rocky from Paw Patrol (yes, I watch cartoons, I have little kids…shut up!), always had seizures, got old, lost weight, and probably needed to be put to sleep. Even though it was the right decision, he felt, and may still feel, guilty.

          With this background, I may be quick to pull the trigger so to speak. However, one of my sisters spent unreasonable sums (in my mind) to prolong the lives of her 3 cats, aged 19, 20, and 21.

          Then, my other sister is a virtual cat lady. She seems to be in a constant state of grief as he she always gets a new cat to replace her recently departed cat.

          Me? I helped my wife get through the decisions, within a couple months, of putting her 15-year old cat, and her “recently” adopted Yorker who was getting old. It was all a matter of what the prognosis was, would the treatment prolong life meaningfully, and would the quality of life improve. (And cost-benefit.) if treatment only prolongs the downward spiral, you need to cut that short.

          That was how I decided to put my cat, Felisity, to sleep. She was 10 and had failing kidneys.

          The one I feel guilty about: Schrodinger. He was 12 (Felisity’s Brother) and likely got snatched by a coyote or hawk. He got out of the house and never came back; it brought back memories of Tabby, my cat that I found near the highway a couple weeks after he never came back when I was 5 or 6. Schrodinger’s disappearance upsets me because it was my job to keep him safe until it was time to let him go.

          However, on the one hand, he was out because he liked being out and free (even though Tabby taught me to keep cats inside; some cats don’t listen); on the other hand, I gave no firm confirmation that Schrodinger the cat has died. That may be fitting.

          If you did the best you could to make the decision at the right time for him to go, you did what you were supposed to do. Anything later, whether he would have suffered for a few extra days, or would life a pleasant six additional weeks, is simply what you call moral luck. You made a judgment call; unless there was a reasonable likelihood of a full recovery with a significant life ahead of him, I won’t second guess a decision that gives you little to no benefit. He was not 4; he would not recover; if he would have lived another year, relatively pain-free, you might have a reason to have second thoughts. But, based on your descriptions, Rugby hit his life expectancy wall.

          You did the right thing.

          Sometimes, it sucks to be right.

          -Jut

        • You will drive yourself crazy if you continue to think that. I had the same feelings after we put Lucky down. He got up on his feet on the table at the vet’s office and we wondered then if we were doing the right thing. Those Jack-Russell mixes have great personalities.

          But we know, as painful as it was, that it we were making the best decision for him.

          • Our neighbor with the breed Rugby hated takes the opposite approach, keeping his dogs when sick and old alive until they drop, walking with him every day, though it looks like every step is labored. (The dogs, not him. Well, recently, him too.)

            • Lucky couldn’t keep food or fluids down and was so dehydrated he couldn’t stop shaking. This was after being rehydrated intravenously the night before and returning to his happy-go-lucky self for a period of about 10 hours. The vet couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him and didn’t have the sophisticated (and expensive) machinery needed to get a closer look. Very likely, surgery and confinement would have been necessary…and there was no guarantee.

              The vet closed at noon, were going to be closed the next day (this was a weekend) and he was suffering.

              It was horrifically painful and we all retreated into our private enclaves for the rest of the day, but we couldn’t let him wither away and die in pain.

              Your neighbor doubtless loves his dogs; however, he does them no favors by letting them drop like that.

      • Roxie was basically a miniaturized, dwarfed Golden Retriever. Except her self image was neither miniaturized nor dwarfed. We’d take her to a dog park and she’d try to boss every dog around until one of the big ones would give it to her and she’d go squealing away in retreat.

        She rallied right before the vet put her down. She wagged her tail and was on her best behavior for everyone, but she was terribly ill. She just felt obligated to be a good dog. It didn’t mean she was well or needed to come home.

        I’ve grown to admire vets. What a job they have when putting animals down is such a big part of their day. Ugh.

        • A study just this week showed that vets are unusually prone to depression. The vet who put Rugby down was visibly upset: she told us that she had done this many times, but that he really got to her in their brief association with his sweetness and zest for life.

  7. My grandparents had a chihuahua who was abused by a previous owner including being thrown into a wall, avoiding or being aggressive to Anyone wearing jeans or pants. As a little kid that every other dog liked, I never understood why he was poised to attack. Our current dauschund barks for exactly three minutes when anyone gets close, it doesn’t matter gender or race, he barks at everyone.

    We won’t cage when someone visits, our home isn’t big enough to add a cage for the dane alone, protected from weather. We do warn appointments, and have had to reschedule when an official who’s scared comes when the weather is inclement.

  8. I had a black goldendoodle (technically she was my girlfriend’s) who hated black people.

    I used to call her Clarabella Bigsby.

  9. Here is a very vicious pooch:

    https://scontent.fhou1-1.fna.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-9/68556254_10220274083191872_4256138652750446592_o.jpg?_nc_cat=111&_nc_oc=AQngFEp7ZNQ2GNVciSdIKyNL6_Ngorc4rc3UDOcfOn9DR1Rj8Jgx7L3QRKfKLwXU0_I&_nc_ht=scontent.fhou1-1.fna&oh=7383b364807bde169728a57bdae0980c&oe=5DE31012

    He met his first hawk this week. Here is what happened:

    We were nearing the end of our walk qua squirrel and cat chase. We rounded the corner and he was surprised to see what appeared to him to be a very large squirrel bathing in a puddle on the street. He went to “meet” said squirrel, but said “squirrel” had other ideas. It saw Remington bounding his way toward the “squirrel”. Squirrel turned, opened its magnificent wings wide, stopping Lord Remington in his tracks. Remington, being a confusable sort, stopped, looked at the “squirrel” with magnificent wings, looked at me with an expression of “What in the name of Mike is THAT?!”, inched closer, causing said “squirrel” to set to flight, confusing poor ol’ Remington even more, and flew up into a tree. Remington was fascinated by the whole thing.

    jvb

  10. Our family rescues dogs (adopts them from organizations who do so, that is) and have gotten some really strange phobias.

    My brother’s dog does not like me in hats. Not the band, but any male who puts on a hat is suddenly dangerous. Easy to see who hurt that dog!

    My hound/beagle mix lived on the streets for a while, after being well trained by someone. He hates skateboards and bicycles. Not the people on them, though. Separate the person from the bike and no problems. My little chihuahua mix seems to be scared of anyone and everyone… unless you threaten us.

    They bark at someone at the door, of course. But once in the house, no issues.

    I often wonder that if someone actually broke in, would our dogs quit barking and look for petting?

    • Our huge, gentle English mastiff growled at and terrified the only two people who entered our home with guns visible on their person. It wasn’t the uniform: she was typically lovey with police, if they weren’t armed. This was weird, because she only lived with us: she could not possibly know what a gun was or did.

      She did not watch television, and preferred NPR.

  11. A previous girlfriend of mine had a black goldendoodle who detested black people (although not black dogs).

    I used to call her Clarabella Bigsby.

    I don’t know why she hated black people, she just did.

    Then, I had a white shi-poo named Elsa who was scared of black people, until a little four year old black girl in Richmond, VA pet her behind her ears for about five minutes. After that, Elsa loved black people.

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