Racism and dogs
We often talk about humans showing racism against other races of humans. Sadly racism is alive and well in Australia, being especially directed towards our indigenous population, Asians and now more recently those from Islamic cultures. But have you ever stopped to consider if racism is exhibited by humans towards certain breeds of dogs and if so what is the effect of these sentiment?
Are certain breeds of dogs automatically assumed to be vicious, more likely to attack, or are certain sizes and colours more likely to exhibit certain behaviour. How often do you hear a person automatically assume a Pit Bull Terrier is a nasty dog that will attack them, this being totally contrary to the fact that Pit Bulls were specifically developed as a breed to be non human aggressive? I have been approached many times to groom Rottweilers only to have the owner insist that their dog is a rottie and would I be ok with it. Compare this with the number of nasty Maltese terriers and downright obnoxious toy poodles that I have had the displeasure to groom over the last ten years. Organisations running shelters are very aware that certain looking dogs are more likely to be adopted and universally comment on how hard it is to get a large black dog adopted.
I experienced an example of this racism first hand this week with a visit from our local Animal Control officer. I have owned Belgian Shepherds for over 26 years and for the last 13 of those years I have lived in the middle of farm land on the North Coast of NSW. I moved to this area with rolls of very expensive deer fencing (6 feet in height) and the first job on arrival was the construction of the dog runs. For my own dog’s protection as well as to ensure that entire females and males were not allowed to co-habit. I had been here only minutes when a local farmer hot footed down and told me my dogs were threatening his cattle and that it had to be my dogs as they looked the way they did. Funny, it was not my dogs but the dog owned by a local valley identity living not far away that was allowed to roam and most neighbours knew it was killing chickens, cats and chasing cattle. Soon after I moved from that temporary 5 acre property to my now situation and sure enough, along comes very aggressive neighbours who insist my dogs are out and sending their stock through fences. On this occasion it turned out to be a wild pig that was roaming up and down the valley and causing havoc until it was shot. On neither of these occasions did the farmers come and admit that they were wrong. Fast forward to this week and the Animal control official arrives complete with aggressive attitude to match, who despite viewing all the heavily fortified dog runs insisted it was my dogs that racist farmers were now insisting were “a threat to their stock”.
What was very interesting was the reaction of the dogs when this man visited. Animal control officers are not known for their relaxed attitudes and the crossed arms, rigid muscle tone and aggressive comments sent hyper-vigilant Belgian shepherds into hyper-drive due to the perceived threat to their owner and all the aggressive pheromones flying through the air. My five foot nothing disabled body verses nearly 6 foot of not pleasant male peering into their runs with sunglasses that he refused to remove defied all my bribes for the dogs to accept him as a person of no threat. Then we get to the issue of what is the role of these dogs. Being part of the working dog group and natural herders they have a vital role on my property as protection for the stock and help me when it comes to moving cattle around. I don’t see how that could be was the comment and you will have to prove that. Of course all Australian cattle dogs and Kelpies are natural stock workers who never chase stock aren’t they?
Two days later and a big noisy truck arrives delivering materials. This man, despite being of about the same height, arrived with a totally different attitude. No stiff body language, no warning gestures towards me or the dogs. In fact he totally ignored the dogs unloaded the panels and stopped for a casual relaxed chat in the typical country way. The reaction from the dogs was totally different to that seen on the day before. They barked when the truck came down the drive to tell me there was something strange happening, responded with cessation of barking on command and happily watched the materials being unloaded. Had I taken any of the dogs out of their pens to say hello I am sure they would have been more than happy to wish this very nice man a lovely day.
It seems that humans are very capable of holding preconceived ideas when it comes to various dog breeds and that hypersensitive breeds pick up on those thoughts and body language. Sadly, this is also demonstrated in the ideas that are used to support breed specific legislation. It is abhorrent when applied to aboriginals, Muslims and people of Asian descent so why is it acceptable when applied to pit bull terriers or Belgian shepherds who people perceive to be stock killers just because Groenendael’s are big and black and wolf like whereas Tervuerens are very like foxes and German shepherds?
Until next time………….
Stay safe and remember to Kiss the dog, hug the cat and tell your goldfish you love them.
The Pet Care Magician
Louise Kerr (aka The Pet Care Magician) is the owner of Elite Pet Care & Education based in the Nambucca Valley NSW Australia. She consults and writes widely on a range of pet care issues including feeding, training and grooming dogs and cats. Her online pet care magic subscription program deals with common pet behaviour, training, feeding and grooming issues such as barking, escaping, scratching, aggression and fleas. Pet care professionals are trained to handle customer issues by the provision of up to date programs to differentiate their pet care business from other competitors