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My dog has an issue with other kinds of people...specifically, Indian people (Asia). Whenever he gets close to the vicinity of Indian people, especially when we have guests in our home, he gets very angry and extremely aggressive, even if he hasn't met them before. With other people, like Caucasians and Latinos, he will remain extremely gentle upon first meeting them.

It seems to be only Indian people that are causing the issue. I've read that dogs are colorblind so I don't think he's discriminating based on skin color, but I suspect it may be to the smell of some people. However, I've had friends who don't smell as strong as other Indians and he still barks at them as well. This issue is isolated just for Indians for some odd reason and I don't know what's going on with him.

How can I prevent my dog from being "racist"? Is there some sort of conditioning or training I can do to make him more receptive and more pleasant to other Indians out there?

  • Dogs are racist, especially to other dogs, but it happens with humans too. Did the dog get good socialisation as a puppy? How old is the dog? – Aravona Jan 26 '16 at 8:43
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    I'm not qualified to comment on "extremely aggressive" dogs. For others with this type of problem, consider the possibility that your dog is actually picking up on very subtle stress cues that you are exhibiting. This is something your dog is a master at. Some house guests I am very comfortable with and others I am a little nervous around. My dog always knows the difference. For the former she will offer her belly for a rub. For the latter she will stare or herd or bark. The answer is probably to both teach your dog a consistent routine for when visitors come and to teach your self to relax. – Rick Jan 27 '16 at 14:14
  • On a side note, dogs are not totally color blind. They see red as gray, but can see yellow and blue and distinguish shades of them. I trained my dog to touch yellow or blue cards with her nose on command. – jalynn2 Feb 25 '16 at 20:26
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I think this should be a matter of introducing people in a positive way, without rushing things, in the same way that you might condition a dog to accept people with sticks or other dogs. I've never had a dog that has been racist towards humans, but I'll give it a go from that viewpoint.

First of all, give him a safe place to go where he can feel safe from the 'scary' people until he understands they are not scary. Don't wait for him to react: if you have friends over who you think will trigger the reaction, pop your dog into his safe place where he can't see or hear them before they arrive, and ask them to keep away from it. That way he will feel safer in his home.

Take a look at http://empoweredanimals.com/ for information about behavioural adjustment therapy. This approach uses a long line with a harness and approaching the scary person from a distance.

Because your dog is aggressive towards (some) people, it might be best to find a BAT trainer who can help you safely retrain this behaviour, but the site has an excellent video that shows the basics. The key thing is not to rush it, and to try to help your dog feel safe so he doesn't have to react.

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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...

  1. Protection - they are a loyal and constant protector of your family / pack; and
  2. 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...

  1. Protection - your dog is simply attempting to protect his pack from a perceived threat; and
  2. 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.

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