'Very Concerned': Experts Warn Against 'Bark at Your Dog' TikTok Trend

Viral videos and dogs are two things that go hand-in-hand. However, animal behavior experts have issued a warning about the latest pet trend on TikTok.

In "bark at your dog" videos, TikTokers get up close to their pets and yelp in their faces, hoping to prompt a humorous reaction to share online. Often, users will overlap the sound of their barking with a popular audio on the app but, judging from the dogs' reactions, it's clear they're doing it in person too.

One video, shared by @adrianchateau, has gained more than 32 million likes. Others have racked up many millions of views.

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

Some TikTok viewers have expressed concern that these clips are popularizing barking at your dog, which could be dangerous. Newsweek asked dog behavior experts for their verdict on the stunt and it was unanimous—don't do it.

@adrianchateau

bruh this shit has me WHEEZING #fyp

♬ original sound - Savvy

"I've watched half a dozen different videos with men and women trying this trend, with various breeds of dogs, and the main factor I see in every one is that the dog is surprised and unsure of what to do in response," said Joe Nutkins, a Kennel Club-accredited dog trainer and behaviorist based in southeast England.

"When a dog barks very deep and strongly [this] could easily be viewed by another dog as showing authority or even bossiness to a dog that is nervous. To have a bark like this suddenly happen so close to a dog would absolutely be a surprise."

She added: "The majority of dogs wouldn't understand the intention behind the bark or in some cases where it has come from."

Nutkins broke down the body language of the dogs in these videos, pointing out their wide eyes, pinned back ears, curled lips, bared teeth, low slow tail wags and stillness. In some clips, the dogs are seen licking their owners' faces manically.

Although some of these actions are indicators of discomfort, they are often confused with signs of happiness—particularly the slow tail wag.

"A slow tail wag, often held low or under the body, is more likely to be showing uncertainty and worry. A slow tail wag is trying to communicate that a dog is unsure what to do in response and they are not proving to be a threat to the dog or person, causing them to feel worried," she said.

Man and dog
Stock image of a man and his dog face to face. Getty Images

Similarly, face licking may appear to be a show of affection, but it can be a tool that the animals use to calm others down.

Nutkins said: "Where some of the dogs haven't shown obvious wide eyes or being frozen to the spot, they have reverted to licking really fast to try and calm the situation—and at the same time help provide themselves with a natural feeling of being calmer."

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

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

"There's one [video] in particular—one of the little dogs actually does start to flash their teeth, which from a body language perspective is the dog asking for space in a nice controlled way.

"So, it's really important that we listen to those body language cues. Because if we don't, dogs are likely to escalate and escalate. You might then see, like I say, them display a bit more combative behaviour to just try and alleviate the situation and remove themselves from it."

According to Kamal Fernandez, a dog sports and behavior specialist, the animals' unhappiness might not become apparent until later. "The problem is, you won't know until it's too late," he said. "Some dogs are great at disguising their unease. It's only when the effects present themselves after a totally unrelated incident that you really witness the damage caused… in this instance, the outcome could be catastrophic.

"Alternatively, they may give distinct signals to show their apprehension or concern, which aren't identifiable to the untrained eye. You won't even realise your dog's distressed. We read a lot about 'unprovoked' dog attacks but, when we delve deeper, we actually find there were plenty of indicators preceding this event."

Nutkins also warned that the TikTokers were "putting themselves at risk of being bitten in the face and this of course could result in a dog being labelled as aggressive when they are not."

She explained: It can become a learnt behaviour if an owner were to keep doing this trend to show people as a joke. A dog can reach a point where they know what is going to happen [and bites] to try to prevent it happening again or as a natural reaction to feeling threatened."

Other people or animals might get bitten long after the video has been filmed, according to Nutkins. "Another time they could turn and be face to face with another dog, a child, a person sitting on the floor, and be surprised, remember the bark trend and react accordingly," she said.

Ryan Neile, head of behavior services at U.K. pet charity Blue Cross, summed up the experts' views, telling Newsweek: "Unlike people, dogs will never understand prank culture, jump scares or practical jokes. We abuse their trust in us when we treat our pets in this way, and we are very concerned that these trends appear to be increasing.

"What we see in these videos are dogs experiencing shock, disorientation and fear. At worst, you run the risk a dog will respond in a reflexively defensive manner, which might result in a bite to the face.

"A very real and possible consequence of getting a cheap laugh and likes on social media is that you get hurt, and your dog might end up losing their home or even their life."