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Discussion Starter #1
Lately, it seems like Biscuit has taken a disliking to purebred yellow labs. She's fine with black and chocolate labs, and yellow mutts and golden retrievers, but often when we encounter a yellow lab, she gets mighty grumpy. Just now she tried to attack a yellow lab when we were leaving the groomer. I didn't see what set her off. She was barking and lunging and it really did not seem like she was just trying to play.

This seems to have started a couple of months ago, when she snapped at (and somewhat cut) an intact male yellow lab at the dog park in a resource-guarding incident. I posted about it here. Ever since then, she gets very touchy when yellow labs are around, trying to avoid them or (as today) snapping at them.

She's at the off-leash park very frequently, and other than that one fight over a toy, she's never had much of an issue there, and is very playful with other dogs. She tends to stay away from dogs she doesn't like. When we're on leash, she's much more touchy. Sometimes she'll stop in her tracks and refuse to walk forward if there's a dog coming from the other direction. I think this started happening after a couple of leashed dogs snapped at her for greeting them. I can usually snap her out of it, though, by putting her in "heel" position, i.e. redirecting her attention to me, and my husband says he never has this problem. She also goes to doggy daycare about once a week and has never had a problem there. This seems to be more of a leashed problem.

To be honest, I don't mind if she doesn't want to greet every dog on the street like she used to. But the way she went after that yellow lab today...I'm worried that she's getting leash aggression of some sort, especially toward that one breed. She's about 14 months old and spayed, and generally very well-behaved and socialized. Does anyone have any ideas? And why doesn't she does this when she's with my husband?
 

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You might need to do some counter-conditioning with yellow dogs/yellow labs while on leash. If this is the trigger (yellow lab) and the context (on leash), you know where to attack the problem, which is a plus.

Wally has an aversion to black dogs for whatever reason. It's something we have (and still are) working on.

It's not unusual that being leashed can cause some issues. Some dogs don't like the constricted movement (they feel confined/trapped) which can lead to this sort of thing. Either way, counter-conditioning should help attack the problem by changing the emotional response.
 

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Dogs can recognize breeds or, presumably, color variations of dogs they like or don't like.

My late, large lab dislike rottweilers. Consequently, I was not fond of them myself (until I cam here and was reformed.) He liked large labs (yellow ones in particular) and would seek them out.

Esther can spot a Plott or Plott mix from a few hundred yards and gravitates toward them. (There aren't a whole lot of them.)

Racism is a strictly human vice, though.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
How do I do counterconditioning? Unfortunately I don't have any friends around here who have yellow labs. When we see them around the neighborhood, should I reward her for walking past and ignoring them? Give her treats or drop treats on the ground when there's a yellow lab nearby?
 

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Dogs can recognize breeds or, presumably, color variations of dogs they like or don't like.
Makes me wonder how that happens? Was Wally hurt/scared/threatened by a black dog some time in his life? Or did he just never see one before and he reacted defensively? Really interesting.


How do I do counterconditioning? Unfortunately I don't have any friends around here who have yellow labs. When we see them around the neighborhood, should I reward her for walking past and ignoring them? Give her treats or drop treats on the ground when there's a yellow lab nearby?
Pretty much, though I wouldn't go close since you don't want to cause the trigger to go off, so to speak.

If you see a yellow lab or a dog that color, I would reward any looking at the dog, but still calm behavior. Dropping the treats on the ground is a good idea. If you have to pass close by, definitely, definitely praise/reward if he ignores the other dog or just shows casual interest (he looks but that's it kind of thing).

Here's some info about the process:

http://www.aspcabehavior.org/articles/14/Desensitization-and-Counterconditioning.aspx
http://www.clickertrainusa.com/dcc.htm

Here's a video of a pit bull afraid of the vacuum and the trainer working to countercondition.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WfgVXPmeOdo

Here's the "Look At That!" game I played with Wally. It's from Leslie McDevitt's Control Unleashed book.
http://raisingk9.blogspot.com/2010/11/leslie-mcdevitts-look-at-that-game.html
 

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Discussion Starter #7
KBLover, thanks for the pointers. Super helpful! We'll get started right away.

I guess I should be thankful she's not "racist" in the sense of having a problem with darker-skinned people. I've seen that too -- last week at the dog park, a big black lab mix wouldn't stop barking at an African-American man -- and it would be much more embarrassing!
 

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I guess I should be thankful she's not "racist" in the sense of having a problem with darker-skinned people. I've seen that too -- last week at the dog park, a big black lab mix wouldn't stop barking at an African-American man -- and it would be much more embarrassing!
Dogs aren't racist, but their owners may be. Embarrassing? Perhaps because it says something about that dog's owners that they would prefer not to be so publically displayed..
 

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Luke is scared of German Shepherd's. My grandparents GSD snapped, lunged and grabbed him over a toy when he was about 4 months old. Since then any time he see's a GSD he gets scared and tries to hide. A vet at our barn brought his old female GSD with him one time and all she did was walk around the barn sniffing and Luke hid the entire time she was there, wouldn't come out until she was gone.
 

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Dogs aren't racist, but their owners may be. Embarrassing? Perhaps because it says something about that dog's owners that they would prefer not to be so publically displayed..
Maybe. Definitely possible, especially in this city. But on the other hand...my own dog barked at an old man with a cane once. Does that mean I have a problem with the elderly that she's internalized? I think it's just as likely that this dog thought the African-American man looked funny for doggish reasons that have nothing to do with his owners' opinions about people who aren't white. Or, hell, the guy was wearing bright red plaid pants, maybe that was the real problem.
 

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Makes me wonder how that happens? Was Wally hurt/scared/threatened by a black dog some time in his life? Or did he just never see one before and he reacted defensively? Really interesting.
I think it was Patricia McConnell that said even dogs have a harder time "reading" the facial expressions of black dogs, especially at night.
 

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I think it was Patricia McConnell that said even dogs have a harder time "reading" the facial expressions of black dogs, especially at night.

Now that you mention it, I remember reading something about that somewhere. Could be her Other End of the Leash or some site somewhere. I had forgotten about that - and I think I read somewhere that black dogs use certain signals more often than other dogs because they are black (nose licks especially since the tongue stands out against their fur, while eye/ear related signals are used less often).
 

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Maybe. Definitely possible, especially in this city. But on the other hand...my own dog barked at an old man with a cane once. Does that mean I have a problem with the elderly that she's internalized? I think it's just as likely that this dog thought the African-American man looked funny for doggish reasons that have nothing to do with his owners' opinions about people who aren't white. Or, hell, the guy was wearing bright red plaid pants, maybe that was the real problem.
In the situation you describe, I doubt that the age of the cane-wielder had anything to do with it. And of course, you do know that dogs can't really detect red as a color, so red pants look about the same to them as blue or green ones.

There is a cognitive difference in a dog barking at a human carrying something that appears to be a weapon (a walking stick, a cane, a fishing pole, or anything of that sort) and a dog barking at a dark-skinned person who is acting like any other human would.

The first behavior carries an element of instinctive mistrust. All canines - even wild ones and even puppies - have a tendency to mistrust humans carrying what appears to be a weapon. A dog's demeanor definitely changes when they encounter such a situation and some may well give a warning.

The second is completely learned behavior from the dog's owner.
 

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I guess I should be thankful she's not "racist" in the sense of having a problem with darker-skinned people. I've seen that too -- last week at the dog park, a big black lab mix wouldn't stop barking at an African-American man -- and it would be much more embarrassing!
Yeah, that would (hopefully) be the lack of experience with seeing a brown-skinned human. I don't believe Wally's previous owners, as bad as they were, trained him to not like men or black men, yet he wanted nothing to do with me, but was all schmoozing up to my mom.

The friend that gave her Wally mentioned that he's seen nothing but women in his life. So it was more a socialization/lack of experience issue and his personality created his reaction to me (I'm a black guy) initially.

Now, hopefully, that dog wasn't taught to "hate" black guys. Entirely possible, though. Perhaps more likely is that the owner sent some signal subconsciously (or at least didn't think the dog would/could pick up on it) and it causes the dog to tense up and think "something is afoot". Like maybe the owner tightened up on the leash because he/she is more tense, etc.
 

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Dogs aren't racist, but their owners may be. Embarrassing? Perhaps because it says something about that dog's owners that they would prefer not to be so publically displayed..
That's making a huge (and rude) assumption about a dog's current owners.
A dog may have an issue with a type of person (male, female, black, short, etc) through absolutely no fault of his current owner. The current owner might be embarrassed because they had nothing to do with creating this issue but now have to deal with it and counter-condition and explain the dog's problems to someone who doesn't know the history of the dog (and might be assuming the owner made the dog "racist" like you are assuming)

I see dogs in rescue all the time that are generally good dogs but have an aversion to something after some bad experiences. Maybe fear of men due to an abusive owner, maybe fear of some item after being hurt (accidentally or on purpose), anxiety being crated after excessive crating etc. A dog might fear a type of dog after a scary incident at a dog park while young or they might just not have had enough socializing.

Luna (the foster) was kind of goofy when she met someone in a wheelchair for the first time (first time at least to my knowledge). Fortunately it was at our dog training facility and he was completely understanding of Luna being a rescue, still getting trained and being uncertain of what the strange contraption she was seeing was. Had it been a random person in public, I would have been embarrassed but I most certainly did not create any kind of wheelchair-ism in Luna.
 

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Dogs aren't racist, but their owners may be. Embarrassing? Perhaps because it says something about that dog's owners that they would prefer not to be so publically displayed..
Or perhaps it just says that the dog hasn't seen many non-white people, or that the dog didn't like something else about the guy (really tall, wearing a hat, etc.), or the guy gave the dog a hard stare, or a hundred other reasons that have nothing to do with the owner.

Anyway. Our neighbor sometimes dog sits (in their home) a DA yellow lab who fence fights with other dogs. It's not so bad now that we have the privacy fence, but over time this dog has become Maisy's nemesis and Maisy definitely zeroes in on yellow lab-looking dogs and is very vigilant around them. It happens, work on counterconditioning and don't worry about projecting human-style motivations.
 

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Dogs aren't racist, but their owners may be. Embarrassing? Perhaps because it says something about that dog's owners that they would prefer not to be so publically displayed..
This is the most asinine thing I've ever heard!

My dog barked and growled at darker-skinned people too. Does that mean I'm racist? Did I teach him that? No.. Not in a million years!
He did that because it was something new to him. We are a white family and 99% of the people he see's daily are white. So seeing someone (or even something) different that he isn't used to seeing, makes him UNDERSTANDABLY nervous. All it took was a little conditioning and introductions, and he was perfectly fine and has been ever since.

To imply that just because someone's dog barks or doesn't like darker-skinned people means their owners are racist, is very RUDE and assuming of you!

Or perhaps it just says that the dog hasn't seen many non-white people, or that the dog didn't like something else about the guy (really tall, wearing a hat, etc.), or the guy gave the dog a hard stare, or a hundred other reasons that have nothing to do with the owner.
THIS! Exactly!
 

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I grew up with two GSDs. The first time the saw a black person, they FREAKED out. I was soooo embarrassed. But they had never seen a black person before, ever. That hardly makes me racist with dogs that reflect my behavior. We just lived in an area that was predominately white.
 

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We live in Washington, DC, which is currently just over 50% African-American, so this particular dog has certainly seen black people many times before, every day of her life, probably since she was a puppy. Her owner said the dog had previously barked at homeless people who are black, but never at a black person who looked affluent, like this guy was. So...yeah, maybe in this case the dog had internalized some kind of subconscious bias from the owners...or maybe not. The pants were funny looking and the guy was unusually tall.

That said, I agree with everyone else who said you can't assume things about the owner just because the dog barks at people of a certain race (or other appearance). That is ridiculous.

Sassafras, thanks for sharing your experience. We're working on counterconditioning. There are so many poorly socialized dogs on the street lately that try to snap at her (and other dogs) as we walk past that I'm worried she's becoming a little leash reactive. Time to nip this in the bud!
 

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The dog we have now, Benji, is consistently obstreperous with any dog with a short face, e.g. boxers, pugs, bulldogs, French bulldogs. He won't go after them but if they get in his space he chases them off. This is on leash or off.

He also just hates German Shepherd, Malinois type dogs but only when on leash. Otherwise he prefers large dogs, pit bulls, Labs, Goldens, Rhodesian Ridgebacks.

Small dogs if they aren't pugs don't usually interest him either way.

Our previous dog, a cocker, was unpredictably snappy around women and just adored black or Hispanic men.

It's enough to make you hire a psychic.
 
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