Sometimes a social media trend that looks harmless on the surface can turn out to be highly problematic, especially for participants like pets who can’t exactly offer their input.
The latest example: a wave of TikTok videos in which dog enthusiasts “bark” at their dogs to provoke a reaction. Funny for some, but not so amusing for the canines.
According to Newsweek, the viral “Bark at Your Dog” trend is scoring millions of “likes” and viewer engagement, but there’s a hidden cost. Animal behaviorists who spoke to the outlet were virtually unanimous in advising against it.
“To have a bark like this suddenly happen so close to a dog would absolutely be a surprise,” dog training expert Joe Nutkins said. “The majority of dogs wouldn't understand the intention behind the bark or in some cases where it has come from.”
Creating additional confusion is that some of the dogs in the videos respond by licking their owner’s face or wagging their tail, which might seem like the animal is somehow pleased with the interaction. That’s not the case. Both tail-wagging and licking can be signs of unease or anxiety, with the dog trying to calm both the situation and itself.
At best, the videos are prompting discomfort on the part of the dog. At worst, owners may be putting themselves in a situation where the dog could respond to a perceived hostility by lashing out and biting. Many pet owners aren’t aware of the nuances of a dog’s body language cues until it’s too late. Dogs may even delay their response, biting the next time they feel provoked. Considering the face-to-face proximity present in the videos, that could be a serious outcome.
Pet owners had previously exercised some poor social media judgment with a rash of videos in which they scared their cats with cucumbers—another seemingly harmless but stressful activity for their furry friend.