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Is That a Dog or a Person?
Hair and fur can look alike
Whoops, it's a person, not an Irish Setter

Walking out of the grocery store, I saw a car drive by and I wondered what kind of dog was in the back seat. Its coat was exquisite! I only caught a quick glimpse of it, but I was thinking maybe it was a Briard at first, but then I thought it looked more like a Soft-Coated Wheaton Terrier, or even an Afghan Hound. I was hoping for a better look so I could know for certain, so I walked closer to where the car was now parked and realized immediately that my guesses were a little off. It was not a Briard, a Soft-Coated Wheaton Terrier, or an Afghan Hound. In fact, it was not even a dog.

It was a person with dark blond hair who seemed a bit startled to see me staring intently at her. She looked at me uncertainly, and I stopped myself just in time from saying what was on my mind (“Oops, I thought you were a dog and I was curious what breed you were. My mistake.”) and managed to say instead, “Oh, I’m sorry. I thought you were someone else.” Her hair was so gorgeous that it looked like a beautiful coat of fur, but I thought trying to explain that to someone carried the risk of an awkward misunderstanding.

This is not the first time I’ve mistaken a person for a dog in a car. Whenever I see just a little bit of an individual through the window, I seem prone to this mistake. Recently permed gray or white hair have both had me thinking “Poodle!” at one time or another, and a woman with a rich henna tone to her hair once made me all excited that an Irish Setter might be moving in to the neighborhood only to have that hope dashed 30 seconds later when she got out of the back seat.

I guess I just see dogs everywhere because I want to see dogs everywhere. Have you ever mistaken a person for a dog or vice versa?

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Karen B. London, PhD, is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer whose clinical work over the last 17 years has focused on the evaluation and treatment of serious behavioral problems in dogs, especially aggression. Karen has been writing the behavior column for The Bark since 2012 and wrote The Bark’s training column and various other articles for eight years before that. She is an adjunct professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Northern Arizona University, and teaches a tropical field biology course in Costa Rica. Karen writes an animal column, The London Zoo, which appear in The Arizona Daily Sun and is the author of five books on canine training and behavior. She is working on her next book, which she expects to be published in 2017.

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