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Friday, August 30, 2013

You've Got To Be Carefully Taught

You've Got To Be Carefully Taught is a song from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, South Pacific.
Basically the song implies that we aren't born prejudice. We have to be taught to hate.

Parents can teach hate by being overt - hate speech, discriminatory actions, etc.. But some teaching can be very subtle -parents might not even know that they are doing it.
Holding their kids hand just a little tighter when they see a certain type of person, crossing the street when they see a certain person, etc..

Our dogs probably aren't in any danger of becoming prejudiced, but we can inadvertently teach them to worry about people or other animals.
We might grip our leash a little tighter when we see children or other dogs. We do this because we are concerned that our dogs will react.  But tightening up on a leash can actually cause a dog to react.
The tight leash can make the dog feel trapped and uncomfortable.
Additionally, if we are worried, our dogs will know.  And they will begin to think that if Mom/Dad is worried, there must be something to worry about.
Our dogs will even notice when he hold our breath or stiffen.

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  1. Excellent post, what a great song - I've never seen South Pacific - now I want to. Little kids play nicely together with everyone, adults not so much.

    I've heard of dogs not liking certain people and different theories about this. Is it visual (skin/hair/eye color)? Olfactory (different people have different diets and different scents, e.g. vegetarians will have a different scent than carnivores)? Or has the dog had a bad experience with someone from that group (kind of like some rescues seem to be afraid of men or people wearing hats - maybe they were abused by them)?

    My older dog has always had positive experiences with people - they like his tricks, give him treats, compliment his looks, pet him, etc. So if he met a person unlike anyone previously (e.g. a person from Sweden), he would automatically like them and go up to them for a treat or a pet, especially if I wasn't showing any fear.

    My younger dog takes his cues from the older one, so he likes everyone also. The challenge is that he likes other dogs and the older one doesn't, so I don't want to let the older one's anti-canine prejudice rub off on the younger one.

    Thanks for the thoughtful post and video!

    1. @Anonymous. Thanks so much for your comments and compliment.
      When dogs are afraid of certain people, is it visual, olfactory, etc..?
      I don't know.
      Stanley Corin says that dogs tend to use their eyes first, then their noses. Of course some dogs don't have sight, some might have even a diminished sense of smell.

      It probably depends on the dog. I would suspect that a beagle would more likely use her nose first, and a sight hound might use his sight first. But all dogs are individuals and they decide what might be traumatizing.

      See more details here: