Friday, March 11, 2016

Ducklings: The Ugly Truth

Recently, The Dodo published an article about a pair of littermates who “love” a pair of ducklings.

(Ah, the Dodo. Remember when they used to be cool?)

The first video is supposed to show one of the dogs being “protective” of the ducklings:

Is that happening? Nope. The dog is staying very still, ears back, brows furrowed, sometimes looking away. These aren’t behaviors we’d expect to see in resource guarding; they’re more like avoidance behaviors. The dog looks like he’s been put in a down-stay and instructed to leave the ducklings alone. He’s not doing anything that would suggest guarding - he’s not really doing much of anything at all. 

The second video is supposed to be “playing”:

What about this video looks like play? None. The dog is just lying there, on his side, motionless. Even when the ducks are pulling at his ear, this dog might as well be comatose. If the dog were playing, we’d expect to see play bows, sniffing, nudging - we’d expect to see something, at least! This behavior looks like two cues - “settle” and “leave it”. 

Clearly, these dogs are very well-trained. It’s not easy to resist something so deliciously bite-sized. And, they might be having a good time practicing impulse control - hopefully there’s a reward in it for them when the filming is over. But these videos are not evidence of a warm and fuzzy bond with their new adopted family members. 


  1. Keep doing what you do! These are all fabulous. If this was a Facebook page, I would definitely Like and Follow you.

  2. Discovering your blog has made my day. People keep sharing viral videos of dogs that are often in a lot of stress, especially ones where a child is harassing them, and commenting on how cute the situation is. I sometimes break my personal rule and comment, trying to explain the dog's body language and why the situation is problematic, and I will most likely get attacked for it. Resources like your blog may be able to help convince at least some people to let go of anthropomorphism, try to understand dogs a bit better and stop putting them in stressful situations. I plan on following your blog and posting about it. I would also be very happy if you decided to publish and explain a few more videos of children and dogs. :)

    1. Thank you for the compliments! And as per your request: