We all love seeing videos of dogs on social media, but sometimes the quest to try and go viral, or to get more “likes” can lead to people making decisions that are harmful to dogs. Currently, a popular trend on TikTok is the “bark at your dog” challenge. To complete the challenge, dog owners are supposed to get very close to their dog’s face and bark loudly at their dog, all while recording the video. The idea is to try to get a dramatic response from the dog to garner more views.
The “bark at your dog” trend has become very popular on TikTok, with millions of views on videos from dozens of popular users. Seeing these popular videos inspires people to try this at home with their own dogs, hoping to capture a “funny” response from their dog to upload onto TikTok.
The problem is that while the videos the challenge inspires might be getting a lot of attention, the challenge involves engagement that can be very stressful, or upsetting for dogs. Unfortunately, the popular “funny” responses that people are trying to get from their dogs in order to post, are actually not funny at all.
Most of the popular posts in response to this trend involve dogs displaying signs of stress, fear, or discomfort such as “whale eye” where their eyes are open very large, stiff body and facial features, and pinned back ears. In these videos, some dogs will bark or vocalize back at their owners, licking their lips which can be a calming signal that the dog is trying to defuse a situation they find uncomfortable, or even showing teeth or seemingly trying to get away.
Breaking Down the Trend
The main problem with this TikTok trend is that that the challenge is rooted in causing confusion, fear, or discomfort for the dog. Every dog is going to react differently to this trend depending on their mood and overall temperament, but in general, this is not an activity to do with your dog. In fact, there are much safer and more enjoyable Tik Tok trends to try with your dog. Most dogs become surprised or shocked by unexpected behavior from their owners. While some dogs will tolerate this behavior, others understandably may react out of fear or discomfort by barking, lunging, snapping, or even biting out of fear/discomfort.
Invading Personal Space
The first dangerous component of this challenge is that it begins with people getting very close to their dog and possibly invading their personal space. While many dogs are very comfortable sitting near their people, or on their laps, this isn’t always the case. Having a person lean in, or hover above them can be stressful for any dog and is best to avoid. Let your dog take the lead on how physically close they feel comfortable being.
In addition to people getting very physically close to their dog, part of the video trend involves someone making and maintaining eye contact with the dog. For dogs, making and holding eye contact can be interpreted as threatening. Staring at a dog can result in that dog reacting defensively to the person staring at them. You never want to make and maintain eye contact with a strange dog, and even though you know your own dog well, staring is still not a good idea as it can cause dogs to feel uncomfortable.
Barking At Dogs
As the name implies, a core component of the “bark at your dog” TikTok trend is for owners to bark in their dog’s face to try and elicit a reaction. Barking in your dog’s face can be confusing, stressful, or even be seen as threatening. That confusion or frustration leads to big reactions such as your dog baring teeth or trying to get away, which can be seen in many of the viral videos.
Unfortunately, the barking at your dog TikTok trend isn’t the only trending challenge on TikTok that involves upsetting dogs to video how they respond. Another current popular trend involves pretending to be very surprised or startled and screaming to see how your dog will respond. Any of these challenges that involve getting physically close to a dog and then trying to startle or scare them beyond being unkind carry with them an increased risk that a bite could occur. Even dogs who are not normally aggressive can lunge, snap, or bite when scared or startled.
Before participating in any TikTok (or other online) challenge with your dog, look at the body language of the dogs participating. Do they seem stressed? Before starting to record your own dog, carefully consider if the activity feels safe, humane, and fair. Try this, more dog-friendly TikTok trend instead.
Doing something to intentionally bother or startle your dog might get a funny video, but over time, it can erode your dog’s trust in you. It can also put you at risk of being bitten or lead to your dog feeling like they need to protect themself from you, the person your dog should feel safest with.