Bark at Your Dog TikTok Trend Could Scare or Confuse Your Dog, Our Expert Says
At some point most of us have uttered a woof or a bark at our dogs just to see if they notice, but the "bark at your dog" TikTok trend could be startling or confusing our pups.
Each dog is different, but many of the dogs in the videos, which have earned more than 300 million views on the video-sharing app over the last month, exhibit body language that shows fear or even aggression, says Jenna Stregowski, RVT and Daily Paws' pet health and behavior editor.
"If done repeatedly, it can even condition the dog to fear or avoid you," she says.
While some dogs might not mind the human barking and even think it's a fun game, Stregowski still recommends not participating in the trend. Heading outside for a game of fetch or some belly rubs are better ways to bond with your dog.
"The risk of barking at your dog outweighs any potential benefits," she says.
How Dogs Are Reacting To Human Barks on TikTok
Most of the TikTok videos look similar: An owner sits facing the camera next to their dog, sometimes only mere inches between them. Then, the owner either barks or they let the audio from TikTok—which you can play as you record the footage—do it for them. Then we see how the dog reacts.
In two of the most popular videos, the dogs' eyes get incredibly wide—a sign of aggression, according to Stregowski, who has more than 20 years of experience in animal medicine. Other dogs display their discomfort in other ways, like backing away in fear or surprise, flattening their ears, or even baring their teeth and growling. Dogs wagging their tails slowly can even be a sign of fear, Stregowski says.
Some of the dogs respond in ways that might seem harmless or playful, licking the faces of the barking humans. But that might be another cause for concern.
"While this may initially appear as affection, it may actually be the dog's way of trying to calm the person down," Stregowski says. "Dogs sometimes lick other dog's muzzles to put them at ease in social situations."
So why is this happening? Stregowski says the dogs are obviously confused why humans are making their noise, and most of the barking sounds are similar to an alert or warning bark. They're also reacting to their person's demeanor and body language.
And yes, in some cases the dogs might think it's harmless or even part of a game, but it's probably not worth finding out. It could spook your dog, and you might accidentally end up with a scratch or a bite.
Should I Bark at My Dog at All?
Many of us have done this before, either wanting to see how our dogs react or trying to "speak dog" ourselves. We're inquisitive creatures and just want to see what happens, probably like many of the people in these TikTok videos. There's nothing wrong with being curious.
But knowing how the barks could scare your dog, there's no practical reason for you to do it, Stregowski says. If you absolutely must see how they react, bark from a distance instead of near your dog's face. Then, if needed, you can use cues—sit, stay, etc.—to "redirect" any unwanted behavior, Stregowski says. Once they follow your cue, you'll of course reward them with their favorite treat. This should only be done between a dog and their owner because they already have a trusting bond.
If you do try this—which we wouldn't recommend—it's probably best to keep the video off social media.
"Even if your dog seems to be having fun, it's not a good idea to post a video of you barking at your dog," Stregowski says. "Unfortunately, as this may inspire others to try it on their own dogs with negative results."