Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Mailman Taught My Dog to be Racist

The mailman steps on our porch.

Cooper barks. 




Then the mailman walks away, and Cooper retires to his bed, looking quite pleased with himself.

From what I've read, breaking the mailman barking habit is one of the hardest things to train a dog to do. (Or not do, as it were.)  The reason for this is that they get rewarded every time they do it.  The mailman never sits on the porch and cracks open a cold one, ignoring the barking dog.  The mailman never comes inside and makes himself at home.  The mailman never opens the door and yells at the dog to shut his fat face.  The mailman always hears the barking dog and is always chased away.

That kind of reward system is hard to tamper with.  So we have kind of gotten used to having a totally obnoxious dog.  Cooper freaks out for a few minutes each day.  Meh.  He'll stop eventually.  If this interferes with Baby Duck naptime in the future, it could be a problem.  But for now, I just shove him out the back door if he really annoys me, because yelling doesn't do any good.  That way he can stand at the fence and continue to bark at the top of his lungs.  At least he's more than three feet away from me.

The real problem now is that our mailman is an African American man, probably in his mid-forties.  And Cooper seems to have been conditioned to hate all African American men.  I've always been a little anxious that he's not really colorblind, but today's walk confirmed it.

We were strolling through the neighborhood when we approached two men standing and chatting near a car.  One was a white guy in shorts and a t-shirt.  One was a black guy in a blue uniform (not a postal system uniform, but somewhat similar).

Cooper growled and lunged at the black guy.  He continued barking as I dragged him away, the fur on his back standing up.

I was just glad there were two men there, so perhaps his racism did not seem so overt. Then I thought, well, maybe it was the uniform.  The guy kind of looked like a mailman in blue pants and a blue shirt, even though he was just standing by a car.  So maybe Cooper is clothing-conscious rather than racist.  This seemed like a better scenario.

We turned up the next block and saw a real mailman.  A middle aged, bald, white mailman.  Delivering mail.  Walking up on people's porches, in his blue uniform.  Just like our mailman.  Except not black.

I tightened my hold on Cooper's leash, waiting for him to unleash his fury.

He glanced at the mailman.

And then he glanced away, sniffed the ground, peed on a tree, wagged his tail at someone else walking down the sidewalk.  Totally not interested.

So, yes.  My dog is racist.  But perhaps only toward black people wearing blue uniforms?

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