Dogs are pack animals.
Once they are become an accepted member of your pack, they exhibit many types of behaviour that are directly related to that strong lifelong association.
Two important behaviours come to mind in your situation...
- Protection - they are a loyal and constant protector of your family / pack; and
- Reflection - they are a gentle reflector / insight into your own behaviour.
Why are these relevant in this situation?
While it is important to consider your attitude towards your visitors, it is equally important to consider the attitude of your visitors towards to you.
Dogs sense both.
It is also important to consider that different cultures have different attitudes towards dogs.
Your Asian Indian friends live with a culture that see dogs differently... for example:
- most middle class families in India cannot afford to maintain a dog as a pet, usually only very wealthy families can afford such a luxury;
- there is a huge population of stray dogs in India, many of whom are infected with rabies, form packs and aggressively attack humans.
Consider that many Asian Indians see dogs possibly the same way Western societies see rats - as disease ridden pests - albeit more dangerous.
For those who have lived in India, they would have been indoctrinated with a fear of the very real possibility of witnessing or being the victim of a vicious dog attack, along with the very real possibility of contracting rabies.
In fact in 2009 the World Health Organisation identified that roughly 36% of the world’s rabies deaths occur in India each year.
Perhaps your Asian Indian friends continue this cultural understanding and fear of dogs and while they may hide it from you so as not to offend, their fear may be very real.
Remember that fear is often based on a lack of understanding of how to adequately deal with a perceived issue.
Regardless, dogs are able to sense this fear and will most likely interpret this as a threat to their pack.
So I return to the two important behaviours...
- Protection - your dog is simply attempting to protect his pack from a perceived threat; and
- Reflection - you may experience elevated anxiety due to your dog's previous behaviour towards your Asian Indian guests - your dog will sense this in you and associate this emotional state with your Asian Indian guests (self perpetuating cycle).
So how do you change this?
Understanding the problem is a big step towards solving it.
Changing this deep cultural belief of your Asian Indian friends and dispelling their longstanding fear will take time - a long time. It may not be something you can achieve on your own.
Honest conversation in this instance may prove difficult and could possibly offend rather than reassure your guests.
Removing your dogs from their home won't help... It will only reinforce the negative association.
You cannot stop your dog being protective in the case of a perceived threat, but you can condition his response.
I would recommend taking the time to train your dog to be less aggressive in the presence of your Asian Indian guests.
This can be done by attempting to reassure your dog of his safety in their presence. You may need to undertake some strong actions in the presence of your Asian Indian guests - it may be worth warning them that this might be required so they feel comfortable. Reinforce all desired behaviour in your dog (use treats if that helps) and reprimand all undesirable behaviour (take a hold of your dog, once and only once provide a strong verbal reprimand such as "No", remove them for a short period and ignore them, then reintroduce them into the situation to provide them with another opportunity to demonstrate desirable behaviour).
Patience is key, for your guests and your dog.