It is impossible to ignore the realities of racism in the world. Is the absence of people of color in the dog training world a result of racism or are there other obstacles? Personally, I strongly identify with Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, so I have opinions about the lack of color in our community, but I will save those views and experiences for another time. Today, I want to focus on the experiences of black professionals in our community. Who better to share those experiences than the individuals who have lived through the challenges of being black in a largely white profession? I have been listening and reading many stories; it seems like the best thing to do is to amplify their voices and point you toward stories you may have missed.
A Black Zookeeper
I have followed Jordan Veasley on Instagram for almost two years. I am impressed with his passion for educating people about conservation and wildlife. His posts are fun and always informative. But he is unique in the zoo world because he is a black zookeeper. In June of 2018, long before the headlines of today would have highlighted his story, he posted on YouTube about being black in a largely white world. You can hear the nervousness in his voice because he wasn’t sure his followers would want to hear him talk about this topic. But I am glad he did. I hope you will listen to his story and follow him, because he is an enthusiastic supporter of wildlife conservation, which is a strong passion of mine as well.
Racism: A Black Dog Trainer’s Experience
Renee Erdman (@bravodogtraining) invited trainer Curtis Kelly to her podcast, Bravo Dog Knowledge: Dog Training Podcast. Curtis is the owner of Pet Parent Allies in Philadelphia, PA, and he candidly discusses racism and his unique perspective as a black positive reinforcement dog trainer. Listening to his experiences was enlightening and worthwhile. Curtis posts great content on Instagram.
Can Dogs Be Racist?
This is a common question that many trainers get asked at one point or another in their career. And although black trainers may not get asked that question directly, they certainly face issues surrounding this question. Here are two separate discussions of this issue from the perspectives of four different trainers of color.
Laurie C. Williams addressed this question in an article published by Whole Dog Journal in 2016. Laurie is a successful black trainer and owner of Pup ‘N Iron Canine Fitness and Learning Center in Virginia.
More recently, Jenna Romano (@dogliason) posted a video on YouTube searcing for a scientific answer to the question of racism in dogs. In the absence of hard data, she decided to seek out the opinions of three trainers of color, Taylor Barconey and Jio Alcaide of Smart Bitch Modern Dog Training in New Orleans, LA, and Curtis Kelly of Pet Parent Allies in Philadelphia, PA.
Instagram: @smartbitchdogtraining and @petparentallies
Red Flags in the Dog World for POC
In June of this year, the women of Smart Bitch Dog Training also appeared on Rachel Harris’ Disorderly Dog podcast. They talked about the obstacles of working in the dog world, particularly for people of color. Taylor and Jio speak passionately from their personal experiences and give good advice to those interested in a career working with dogs. While they certainly represent voices of trainers of color, they also offer the perspectives of professional young women. I found the discussion truthful, thought-provoking, and worthwhile.
Supporting Black-owned Business in the Pet Industry
Lindsay Somerset, owner of For the Love of Animal Rescue, dedicated her two most recent blogs to highlighting black-owned businesses in the pet industry. I have not had the opportunity to learn about every business highlighted, but I appreciate her putting the time into getting these names and businesses in front of a wider audience. I wanted to share those blogs here.
Anti-racism and Animal Training
For us at Karen Pryor Clicker Training, learning to be anti-racist supports our mission, it is humane, and it is right. By learning to be anti-racist, we will strengthen our community of positive reinforcement trainers and become better trainers. When we are trying to change behavior, we have to hone our observation skills. We learn to observe behavior in greater detail, understand the environment where behavior occurs, and interpret what we observe with empathy. The articles, blogs, and videos above can be helpful in developing those skills. They are steps along the journey of understanding the perspectives of people of color, which is a first step toward meeting long-term anti-racism goals. We wanted to share those resources with you and hope you find them meaningful as well.