Vets warn against TikTok trend that sees dog owners barking at their pooches
Vets are warning against a new TikTok trend that sees dog owners barking back at their pooches and filming their reaction.
This is known as the #barkatyourdog challenge, and videos listed under that hashtag currently have nearly 160 million views.
Some of the pups taking part respond by staring at their owner in shock, but others can be seen giving a ferocious growl, warning them to back off.
Veterinary Nurse Shauna Spooner, from the charity PDSA, has slammed the trend, saying it could have 'dangerous consequences'.
Speaking to MailOnline, she said: 'There are always new crazes and trends that become popular and that many people want to copy, but when pets are involved it's important to stop and think before taking part.
'The latest TikTok trend "Bark at your dog" could easily upset your dog, making them feel confused, scared, and/or shocked.'
She added: 'A dog will receive no benefits or positive feelings from this challenge; instead, they may become worried and experience feelings of mistrust, which can affect the bond between you.
'In a worst-case scenario, it could have dangerous consequences for the pet owner.
'Some dogs are very tolerant, and may seem unaffected.
'But if you familiarise yourself with your pets' body language you may start to see that they're not comfortable and may be showing signs of distress.
'Dogs that are less tolerant, due to having had warning signs ignored, may understandably react out of fear, which is a completely natural reaction for a dog when they feel scared.'
The trend appears to have begun in 2021, with the most popular video, with nearly 25 million likes, showing a pup headbutting his owner in response.
Other similar trends have involved users playing a series of 'triggering' sounds to their pooches, like squeaky toys and high pitched whistles, to get a reaction.
Sauna said: 'Many of these videos show dogs in a state of stress – yawning, licking their lips, holding their ears back, tense body, or showing the whites of their eyes – these are all ways a dog tells us they are uncomfortable with a situation.
'When their body language signs aren't recognised or acknowledged, that is when we can see the escalation to growling, snarling, snapping, and even biting – to protect themselves.
'This challenge involves being in very close contact with your dog, and having prolonged eye contact.
'Invading your dogs' space can make them feel uncomfortable and worried, while direct eye contact can make them feel threatened, a dangerous combination, which could trigger a serious reaction from your pet.
'Surprising your dog by barking in their face will be shocking, they won't expect this behaviour from an owner they trust and usually feel safe with.
'The shock and unease that this challenge may cause a dog has the potential to have lasting impact – where a dog might react to any future incidents where they are face-to-face with someone for example.'
Veterinary Nurse Shauna Spooner, from the charity PDSA, has slammed the trend, saying it could have 'dangerous consequences'. She said: 'There are always new crazes and trends that become popular and that many people want to copy, but when pets are involved it's important to stop and think before taking part. The latest TikTok trend 'Bark at your dog' could easily upset your dog, making them feel confused, scared, and/or shocked' (stock image)
Ms Spooner adds that it is crucial to understand and respond to your dog's body language, to avoid pushing them to their limits
She said: 'Many of these videos show dogs in a state of stress ¿ yawning, licking their lips, holding their ears back, tense body, or showing the whites of their eyes ¿ these are all ways a dog tells us they are uncomfortable with a situation'
Ms Spooner said: 'When [a dog's] body language signs aren't recognised or acknowledged, that is when we can see the escalation to growling, snarling, snapping, and even biting ¿ to protect themselves'
This is not the first time animal experts have been forced to speak out against an online challenge involving pets.
Last year, a disturbing trend began circulating on TikTok where people fed hot sauce to their dogs 'to see their reaction'.
In one video, a dog was clearly in discomfort but continued to chew on the sauce-covered chicken leg due to its innate love for meat.
The Blue Cross, one of the UK's leading animal welfare charities, said it was 'horrified' to see the social media trend.
Chilli in hot sauce can cause pancreatitis – inflammation in the pancreas – in dogs, while other ingredients like onion and garlic are also toxic for canines.
'While the intent is providing your pet with what they perceive as a tasty treat, this could cause them serious pain and discomfort,' Alison Thomas, head of veterinary Services at the Blue Cross, told MailOnline.
'Spicy foods should never be fed to our pets as they can cause severe indigestion, vomiting and diarrhoea.
'Some of the ingredients in sauces like this, onions and garlic for example, can also cause harm and should also never be fed to pets.'
This TikTok user posted two videos to the site to show how much their pet 'doesn't care about hot sauce!'. Her poor dog is clearly in discomfort but continues to chew on the sauce-covered chicken leg due to its innate love for meat
In 2020, another trend arose on TikTok where users were holding their pets to their ear - often upside down or in an awkward position - as if they were a phone.
They would then reenact a phone conversation from 2001 film The Princess Diaries, before flinging the animal down.
Jessica May, UK lead veterinarian at the video vet service FirstVet, told MailOnline that she was concerned the pets are often held 'inappropriately' and that the rough handling of the animals could lead to damage to the 'back, skull or spine'.
Meanwhile Canine Behaviour and Training Manager, Janine Pemberthy, of Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, said handling pets in such a way is 'distressing' to the animal and puts them 'at risk of being injured'.