Wednesday, June 29, 2016

"I Just Want To Be With You"?

This video is supposed to celebrate the love between puppies and kittens. They just want to be friends, right? Look at the lengths this one’s going to just to reach his canine BFF! 

Video credit:

Actually, no. 

I suspect that kitty, driven by boredom from his unenriched living quarters, is testing his climbing abilities. However, on making it up the glass he finds himself somewhat restricted vis a vis where to go next. He finds himself with two options: sideways, or down. 

Cats aren’t known for their ability to get down from high places (just ask any suburban firefighter), so, it’s not surprising that kitty opts for trying to continue at his current height. 

This leads him straight into the dogtank. 

Pupster, by contrast, seems pretty darn excited to have a new friend in his boring little box. He's even "helping" kitty down. What’s concerning is that puppies that age don’t have much of an off switch, and they’re not always totally aware of (a) what their body is doing (b) how to not do that. Look at 0:45 onwards; the puppy seems to be grabbing the kitten's face and pulling. Could kitty change his mind at this point, even if he wanted to? I'm not so sure. 

What we’re seeing is dangerous behavior, and a living environment that hasn’t been properly designed with even basic safety in mind. This behavior is probably caused by understimulation, which can have a really negative effect on the rapidly growing brains of young animals. 

Pups and kittens shouldn’t be housed in tanks by themselves, whether in a pet store, a shelter or anywhere else. Putting an overexcited puppy in a small box with a kitten is not a good idea. Someone might get hurt. 

Monday, June 13, 2016

Super Crossover Edition!

I know this blog is designed to be about dogs being misinterpreted, but when my friends at IAABC asked me to do a guest post about a different animal, I couldn't resist telling the story of Cookie the Penguin, star of the most inappropriate viral video you probably ever sent Grandma.

You can read the full tale of depravity on page 46 of IAABC's new online journal, nestled amongst much more scholarly works.

(In fact, I had so much fun that I ended up being the managing editor of the whole journal, SOMEHOW, but never mind that. Just enjoy the heartwarming story of a perverted penguin and his oblivious hand-ler.)

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Gotta bounce!

This video has been doing the rounds for a while, it's supposed to be an instance of cross-species learning. Sometimes the dog is supposed to be teaching the baby how to bounce, sometimes the baby is supposed to be inspiring the dog. 

Both explanations are an equally massive overreach. There's a simpler way to describe the scene, and it goes a little something like this:

Baby: Boing boing boing *gurgle*
Baby: Wobble wobble. Ooh, colorsandshapes. Might shit myself in a bit. Splurk.

Parent: I am witnessing a truly meaningful and emotionally touching moment. Thank the stars I was ready with my camera!

It must be wonderful to be so misinformed....

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Littlest Warzone

This video is supposed to be funny because the little dog thinks he’s protecting the girl from an attacker. What a brave doggy, he’s so tiny, etc etc. 

[Trigger warning for dogs: Loud barking!]

Is the dog heroically protecting the kid from a perceived assault, like a miniature Marine? Maybe. Does that make everything okay? Not even a bit. 

The kid isn't going to care whether the dog has delusions of heroism when he's in urgent care. His parents' lawyers aren't going to care when they sue your ass, either.

Think about it from the dog's point of view. Supposing his motivation really is to protect the girl (rather than the more likely, “I don’t like this unpredictable child, I need to make him stop doing scary stuff”), is that really a world we want the dog to live in? Where there are constant dangers to himself and his loved ones, and he has to risk his neck to protect them? That sounds like a conscript living in a war zone. Not cool. 

Sooner or later, barking and charging isn't going to work. What if he gets yelled at or hit, instead of laughed at? What if the scary thing doesn’t go away like usual? If at first you don't succeed, try harder, right? Since there's no air support to call on, I guess our little soldier will just have to get a bigger gun. That just means escalating aggression, which means more stress for the dog and "suddenly" the owners are left with a "nasty little ankle biter". Whose fault is that?

Original video source:

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Scariest Thing I Have Ever Seen

It was bound to happen sooner or later. A video so terrible that even I, with my well-worn armor of detached cynicism, found genuinely disturbing. A video that I can barely bring myself to watch again, because even though I know how it ends, I still want to scream “Noooooooo!” at my laptop. 

As heavy as it weighs on me, I do consider it my obligation to explain what is really happening in this video. This dog is massively, overwhelmingly uncomfortable with what is happening and her people are oblivious.

Look how still Dizzy's head is, and how much tension is in her front legs. She’s on a knife-edge right now. Look at how she twists her body away—she’s desperate to get out of this situation. Every fiber of her being is employed in expressing how bad she’s feeling, from her knitted brow to her submissive grin. 

Dizzy is going to bite someone’s face off, and it’s probably going to happen soon. The victim will have no idea why this happened, because it will be in the course of another session just like this one. Only this time some subtle thing will be different for Dizzy—a headache, a trapped nerve, adrenaline from a recent game of fetch, who knows what—and she’ll give up trying to communicate without violence. 

Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Corner Table

Bonnie the rescue chihuahua was apparently nervous in her new home, and needed some canine reassurance:

Dog behaviorists were surprised to see this, because the standard suggestion is to keep dogs apart at mealtimes. This is especially important if the dogs don’t know each other well, because some dogs are protective about their dinner. It’s unlikely that a new addition to a family would seek the company of a strange dog whilst in a particularly vulnerable situation. 

What’s going on, then? I suspect it’s not loneliness so much as anxiety about the location of the food dish. Bonnie has been put in a corner where there’s only one exit route - past whoever is holding the camera - and asked to put herself in a vulnerable position. It’s hard to check for danger when you’re nose-deep in kibble, after all.  It might be that the chihuahua doesn’t feel safe looking down at her food in a small, inescapable corner. 

Of course, it’s not impossible that the presence of the other dog - even though they’re probably not securely bonded yet - is reassuring for Bonnie. From a behavioral standpoint, however, the simplest explanation is that the little chi is trying to optimize her dining experience. Nobody wants a table way in the back of the restaurant. 

Appliance Noncompliance

If you’re a little white fluffy dog, best believe you’re going to develop some type of relationship with your blow dryer. If you’re lucky, a trip to the groomers will leave you feeling like this:

But for some marshmallowdogs, the dryer is a noisy, scary thing. Take this guy, who is supposedly “protecting” a nearby infant from the rampaging appliance: 

There is nothing about this interaction that suggests the dog gives a fig about that baby. The little dog is clearly petrified of the dryer—we can see him cowering, trying to hide behind the adult's knee, and throwing out a whole bunch of stress signals—and he’s retreating to the blanket because he think he’ll be safe there. And he’s probably right; it’s unlikely the baby’s parents would subject the baby to the scary dryer, even though they haven’t noticed that’s exactly what they’re doing to their poor dog. 

Ironically, then, a more accurate interpretation of the video is, “dog hopes baby will protect him from dryer”. Or even, "dog's owners have a really mean way to train 'go to your mat'". Either way, don't expect this fluffy pupper to be winning the Medal of Honor anytime soon.