African Americans and Dog Ownership

Ok, I apologize in advance if this upsets someone.

A few months back I was driving around the city with my girlfriend. She observed (I’m not even sure how we got there conversationally) that black people don’t like dogs.

My immediate reaction was that this was ridiculous. Everyone likes dogs. Who could not like a puppy? But she was insistent, and acted like everyone knew this.

Now this got me thinking. In all the times I’ve been in a black household (quite a few), I’ve encountered only one dog. And since the conversation, I’ve kept an eye open. I’ve yet to see black people driving around with a dog, or walking a dog, which seems strange given that the weather is nice lately and it’s common to see white and latino people doing those things.

So now I want to know what’s up with that. Is this total nonsense? Or is it something everyone just knows and didn’t inform me? It seems bizarre, but having been brought to my attention, I can’t seem to disprove it.

Is she crazy or am I just not very observant?

She’s crazy. A LOT of African-Americans here (Lancaster, PA) own dogs. In some neighborhoods, they’re mostly pit bulls and other “tough guy image” dogs, but there’s definitely no shortage of them.

Plain crazy. I see them with dogs all the time in the Twin Cities. It usually is a pit bull, but alot of asians here have pits as well.

About the only thing I could see why dog ownership might be lower among that population is they tend (broadly speaking) to be poorer than the white community. A dog is an expensive thing to have and not of practical use as most people keep them. Dogs kept in developing countries are working animals (guard the herd for instance) and earn their keep. They are not viewed as pets and if you went there and started playing with their dogs you’d likely get some funny looks. An animal that doesn’t earn its keep is a luxury.

For those who worked their way out of poverty and have the means to have a dog still might not get one because they have little experience with one growing up.

That said I see plenty of African Americans with dogs in Chicago and they are as doting and into their dogs as anyone else so if my idea holds any water at all it is only on the broadest of generalization levels.

African-Americans are more likely to be poor than Americans in general.

Dogs are expensive (both in actual costs for feed, vet care, etc., and in time needed to walk the dog, exercise it, etc.).

So it would seem reasonable that African-Americans would own dogs less frequently than Americans in general.

But I’d say that saying “black people don’t like dogs” is a definate overstatement. Maybe saying “Many black people can’t afford dogs” would be more accurate.
Her original statement is rather like looking at the fact that more African-Americans live in rented apartments instead of homes they own compared to Americans in general, and concluding “black people don’t like to own homes”.

It’s usually a pit bull that they take to the dog fights. They don’t walk them because they’re busy getting them all tough and mean for the fight. They’re not pets, they’re fighters/money makers. Stereotypically speaking of course.
Oh, and the Asians are, of course, keeping their pit bulls to eat.

Maybe this is a long shot, but perhaps she got the idea (subconsciously) from pet food ads? I started noticing a year or so ago that, with the exception of one ad with an asian family in a print ad, I hadn’t seen any non-white actors in the dog food ads that I could remember. I still haven’t. I don’t know if this is because I live in an area of the country with few minorities, or the pet food brands rarely use anyone who isn’t white. Odd though, isn’t it?

Just so you don’t think your girlfriend’s totally crazy, I’ve heard this stereotype before, only in the form of “black people are afraid of dogs.” I don’t know where it came from, and as other have already said, it’s just nonsense anyway.

I’ve heard the “blacks are afraid of dogs” claim once or twice. I’ve also heard that “dogs don’t like blacks” on occasion. Against that, I would note that I am working in a neighborhood where 69 of 78 houses have black families and that at least half of them have dogs (Labs, Collies, Border Collies, German Shepherds, Spaniels, yap dogs, mutts–no Rotties, no Staffordshire Terriers, no Pinschers).

It’s not crazy and it’s not nonsense. It is an overgeneralization.

I have seen dogs that took no notice of white folks passing by, but growled and barked excessively when black people neared. There was no doubt or question at all that those dogs recognized and acted agressively specifically towards blacks, while being nonchalant about whites.

During the civil rights actions of the 60’s, police dogs were commonly used against blacks. It’s not unreasonable to figure that a significant percentage of black people from that era did indeed fear and/or dislike dogs. I would have to think that it’s a noticeably smaller percentage nowadays.

For observers in certain times and places, the statement “blacks don’t like dogs (or are afraid of dogs)” was fairly accurate.

Yeah, dogs aren’t as practical as those spinning chrome rims that they all seem to have! :wink:

Not funny to me. And, if you value your posting privilege here, try to refrain from dissing an entire group of people.

You’re in GQ. We hold you to a high standard. You’re letting us down.

They “all have” strikes me as pretty broad.

Of course, if you’ve canvassed your neighborhood, and can report back that 99 out of 100 “negroes” have spinning wheels on their cars, then I guess I’ll retract my post. :rolleyes:

BUT, if you can’t, then think about what you post. And I mean this in the firmest way.

samclem GQ moderator.

Would it be in bad taste to point out Bear_Nenno’s Asians-and-pit-bulls joke?

(Don’t like dogs, and I’m not black. So much for “Everyone likes dogs”… :wink: )

Way to miss the point by a mile and a half, mod. I was lampooning stereotypes in the same way that Bear_Nenno was, not committing my own little tuskegee here on the board.

Characteristics of dog & cat ownership in the City of Los Angeles:

Have a dog
White households: 33.1%
Hispanic households: 14.1%
Asian households: 8.3%
Black households: 16.7%

Household owners: 40.2%
Household renters: 9.2%

I am amazed that “Walloon”-like stats for the whole U.S. are so difficult to find on-line.

To echo and add some specifics to **’s ** point there is definitely a corelation between Dog (or any pet) ownership and income (and home ownership)and my WAG is that lower African American rates in these categories may have as a significant impact on overall Black dog ownership rates as ethnicity.

The neighbors are next to me are black, and they have a German Shepard. 'Course, the neighbors across the street are also black, and they don’t have a dog. I’m white, and I have a cat.

Dunno what you can take from that, but there you go.

Well, anecdotally, I have noticed that black people seem more likely to be afraid of dogs (I’ve seen black people cringe away and flatten up against the wall when confronted with Dolly, who is quite possibly the least threatening dog I’ve ever seen), but I think it might be for the same reason a lot of people seem to be afraid of horses: simple unfamiliarity.

If black people are indeed less likely to own dogs, which seems to be the case given the statistics so far, they’re going to be less familiar overall with dogs. People tend to be afraid, or at least leery, of potentially dangerous stuff they’re not all that familiar with. Also, people who aren’t as familiar with dogs are going to be less experienced at reading a dog’s nonverbal communication and are more likely to read behavior like barking as aggressive or threatening than someone who is more used to the animals.

Take a dog who charges up the fence barking its ass off when you walk by the yard, for example. It’s very loud and very fearsome-sounding, and people who aren’t used to dogs are likely to intrepret that as the dog being mean or aggressive, whereas I’d look at the lack of raised hackles and other threatening postures and interpret it as the dog just running its mouth. I know my parent’s lump of a dog has put the fear of God into quite a few people because she’s a smiler. That is, when she gets very excited, she bares her teeth. People see the teeth and freak out, ignoring the wagging tail, the wiggling ass, the play-bowing, etc. that indicates no, she’s not getting ready to bite you.

  1. There is no inbred phobia among black people of dogs that I’ve ever seen. At worst you have some blacks from the South and certain parts of Africa who had bad experiences with certain breeds of dogs because authority figures used them to oppress black populations. One of the reasons that Muhammad Ali received so much love from the people in Zaire during the Rumble In the Jungle is that George Foreman deplaned with his pet German Shepards – and that particular breed was widely associated with the oppressive colonialists. (Cite: When We Were Kings.)

  2. Dogs don’t hate black people. Dogs bark at anything unfamiliar. The same dogs who ignore me when I walk by them on foot bark like junk yard dogs when I ride by on my two wheel mountain bike. Yet if I walk or ride by often enough they eventually get disinterested.

  3. Black kids don’t hate dogs. Take a friendly puppy by a inner-city playground and seen what kind of reaction you get from the black kids. Heck, take a mean dog – you’ll still get a small group of boys admiring the dog’s aggression or boasting about how they aren’t scared, or how their own dogs could beat your dog up.

  4. U.S. head of households of blacks tend to be single black females with kids – most of these women are either financially or personally disinclined to own dogs, or not allowed by rental agreements to keep pets in their apartments.

  5. More overriding factor than even money or rent contracts is that most people recognize dogs are a lot of responsibility. Most black women I know don’t want to be bothered with even a stray dog as a pet because all they see is themselves eventually cleaning after, walking, feeding, training and grooming the dog.

  6. I know plenty thugs and wannabe gangstas who own and or/breed rotweillers, pits, dobermans, etc. There’s a house not too far from my old job where they staged illegal dog fights and over half the guys who particpated in betting or running the operation were black.

  7. I owned 5 dogs as either personal or family pets from the time I was born until I was 22. My last dog, Silver, died when my grandfather – who was taking care of him while I was a way at school-- fed him chicken bones, one of which splintered his throat and he died. I haven’t owned any sort of pet since.

I think this actually i sa common stereotype. Dave Chappelle says this in his act:

(the above is from this article )

However, popular rapper DMX loves dogs, raises dogs, and I believe is now an official breeder. He says “yeah I like animals better than people sometimes. Especially dogs.”

So I don’t think your girlfriend is making up the stereotype herself, but as usual it’s not across-the-board true.