Experts warn of TikTok ‘bark at your dog’ trend

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Viral videos and dogs go hand in hand. However, animal behavior experts have issued a warning regarding the latest pet trend on TikTok.

In the “bark at your dog” videos, TikTokers approach their pets and yell at them, hoping to elicit a humorous reaction to share online. Often times, users will overlap the sound of their barking with a popular sound on the app, but judging by the dogs’ reactions, it’s clear that they do that in person as well.

A video, shared by @adrianchateau, has gained over 32 million likes. Others have accumulated several million views.

Reactions vary from dog to dog, but pranking often results in the animals widening their eyes, barking, licking their owners’ faces, or even baring their teeth.

Some TikTok viewers have expressed concern that these clips are popularizing your dog’s barking, which could be dangerous. News week asked dog behavior experts for their verdict on the stunt and he was unanimous – don’t.

“I’ve watched half a dozen different videos with men and women trying this trend, with different breeds of dogs, and the main factor I see in each is that the dog is surprised and doesn’t know what to do with it. response, “said Joe Nutkins, a Kennel Club-accredited dog trainer and behaviorist based in the south-east of England.

“When a dog barks very deeply and strongly [this] could easily be seen by another dog as showing authority or even authority to a nervous dog. For a bark like this to suddenly occur so close to a dog would be absolutely a surprise. “

She added: “The majority of dogs wouldn’t understand the intention behind the bark or, in some cases, where it came from.”

Nutkins broke down the dogs’ body language in these videos, highlighting their wide eyes, ears pinned back, curled lips, bared teeth, slow tail movements, and stillness. In some clips, the dogs are seen licking their owners’ faces in a manic manner.

While some of these actions are indicators of discomfort, they are often mistaken for signs of happiness, especially slow tail movement.

“A slow tail swing, often held low or below the body, is more likely to show uncertainty and worry. A slow tail swing tries to communicate that a dog doesn’t know what to do in response and that it does not turn out to be a threat to the dog or the person, which worries them, ”she said.

Image of a man and his dog face to face.
Getty Images

Likewise, licking the face may seem like a display of affection, but it can be a tool animals use to calm others down.

Nutkins said: “Where some of the dogs didn’t show obvious big eyes or were frozen in place, they got into licking really quickly in an attempt to calm the situation – and at the same time, they help create a natural feeling of being calmer. “

Rob Bays, canine behaviorist and training manager at Battersea Cats and Dogs Home in London, said News week that the eye contact often seen in these prank videos can be threatening to pets.

“One of the things that dogs find quite difficult from a body language standpoint is direct eye contact, or potentially people face to face, just because it can be quite intimidating,” Bays said.

“There is one in particular, one of the small dogs actually starts blinking its teeth, which from a body language perspective is the dog asking for space in a well-controlled manner.

“So it’s really important that we listen to those body language cues. Because if we don’t, dogs are likely to degenerate and degenerate. Then you could see, like I said, that they display a little more combative behavior to try to alleviate the situation and to get out of it. “

Dog sports and behavior specialist Kamal Fernandez said the animals’ dissatisfaction might not manifest until later. “The problem is, you won’t know it until it’s too late,” he said. “Some dogs are good at masking their discomfort. It is only when the effects show up after a completely unrelated incident that you truly witness the damage done… in which case the result could be catastrophic.

“Alternatively, they can give distinct signals to show their apprehension or worry, which are not identifiable to an untrained eye. You won’t even realize your dog is in distress. deeper, we actually find that there were a lot of indicators before this event. “

Nutkins also warned that TikTokers “put themselves in danger of being bitten in the face and that could of course cause a dog to be labeled aggressive when they are not.”

She explained: It can become learned behavior if an owner continues to follow this trend to show people as a joke. A dog can reach a point where he knows what’s going to happen [and bites] to try to prevent this from happening again or as a natural reaction to a sense of threat. “

Other people or animals could be bitten long after the video was shot, according to Nutkins. “Another time, they might turn around and be face to face with another dog, a child, a person sitting on the floor, and be surprised, remember the barking tendency and react accordingly,” she said. declared.

Ryan Neile, head of behavioral services at UK pet charity Blue Cross, summed up the experts’ point of view, saying News week: “Unlike people, dogs will never understand the culture of pranks, fears of jumping or practical jokes. We abuse their confidence in us when we treat our animals in this way, and we are very concerned that these tendencies seem to be on the rise.

“What we are seeing in these videos are dogs in shock, disorientation and fear. At worst, you run the risk of a dog reacting defensively out of reflex, which could result in a face bite. .

“A very real and possible consequence of having cheap laughs and likes on social media is that you get hurt, and your dog could end up losing their home or even their life.”

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