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: https://www.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=230998907273046&id=130245990681672&_rdr

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. 

Saturday, May 7, 2016

The Bland Leading the Bland

This "unbelievable" video is supposed to show the goodness of a kitty's heart:

What’s the cat doing here? Its tail is up vertically, and it’s butting the dog with its shoulder, both of which are usually interpreted as friendly, social behaviors.

Does this look like the cat is trying to guide the dog, in an unbelievable show of understanding? Not so much. When the dog starts to veer towards the car, the cat doesn’t do anything.  If anything, kitty is being kind of annoying, insistently butting in between the dog and whoever is holding the camera. If there’s anything unbelievable about the video, it’s that the little dog doesn’t seem to mind! 

In short, what’s happening in the video is: nothing. It’s just a local cat trying to say hi to a dog, who is following its owner and not really paying kitty any attention. Meh.