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We got a Black Labrador when he was five years old, and he's been a really wonderful dog in the years we've had him. Normally he barks to let us know when people have arrived at our front door, but calms down quickly when we let them in and is very friendly to our guests.

A week ago, my Asian friend, whom my dog had never met, came by to pick something up. As soon as my dog saw him in the window, he went absolutely ballistic in a way that I had never seen before. He would not stop barking at my friend when he came in, but fortunately he did not try to bite. My friend didn't think anything of it and tried petting him (my dog tried to avoid it), but I was absolutely mortified that he was behaving so angrily towards my friend. It was a short visit and my dog was on edge for a while afterwards.

I had kind of forgotten the incident until I was walking my dog and we passed an Asian man I didn't know. My dog also went crazy over him and I had to drag him away. My area has very few Asians living in it, so this is a rarity. I wondered if my dog was reacting to their appearance, especially given that in both cases it's very unlikely he smelled anything.

Since I don't know anything about my dog's early life, I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he's not "racist", but rather has an understandable reason for this reaction, such as a very negative experience with someone who is Asian. He hadn't really been exposed to them since living with me, so there was no chance to get acclimated.

What can I do to help my dog overcome this strong reaction to Asian men? Would having my friend spend time with him (or just be present at my house more often) be enough?

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I had a dog once with similar issues. Acclimating your dog is certainly a good idea to break the association but you also want them to know when you don't need them to be "guard dog".

When this happens in public, it might require some stern redirection such that when your dog starts acting aggressively towards others you let them know that you are the boss. This can be as simple as a "heel" or "snap out of it" or "off" command to redirect their focus. If they are on leash, it might be hard to do, but clapping your hands to get their attention might work. Follow this with a "sit" command and a "down" to get them obedient and submissive. If they have trouble with "sit" when they are worked up, try snapping your fingers in one hand to get their eyes on your hand and then raise your hand as you say "sit" - eyes up, butt down. When they follow these commands, don't reward them with treats, just repeat the command with a smile and say "good [command]" then give them a cheek or belly rub. Note: when dogs are defensive, patting on the head might be taken the wrong way as an unwanted dominance move, so bring your hand down below their eye level and then up for affectionate rubbing.

Likewise, not trying to be racist, but I have heard that some dogs dislike it when they cannot see a persons eyes so if your friend has an epicanthic fold and "single" eyelids, you might want to see if your friend gets a different reaction if they open their eyes really wide. It's not a great idea that they make direct eye contact as this might be seen as intimidating, but if that doesn't make any difference, acclimation should help over time. I would recommend that while you are acclimating your dog, you give them a "stay" or "find your spot" command before your friend comes over. While your friend is there it is probably best that the two of you largely ignore the dog. If the aggression continues after you tell your dog to "snap out of it", you'll want to be dominant and get them submissive so that they are paying attention to you and your command and not reacting to other stimulus.

For a really severe case, you might blindfold the dog inside the home and let them associate with your friend by scent detection (after the dog has gotten used to being blindfolded of course!) You and I don't have nearly as sensitive sniffers, but Labs - and any dogs with longer noses - have especially sensitive senses of smell. Not knowing his history, there may be something he is reacting to, but whatever the cause, you're the boss (and legally responsible if there's any trouble!) If you can't get the dog to be okay with your friend approaching the home while the dog is in the yard, on the porch, by the window, etc. try the indoors with the dog blind folded and let your friend give your dog some treats.

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