In case you blinked and missed the TikTok #barkatyourdogchallenge, it’s exactly what it sounds like: A person barking at their dog. More specifically, the goal of the challenge is to take a video of your dog reacting to you barking at them, in their face.
The dogs’ startled reactions are supposed to be funny, but according to animal experts, their expressive eyes and faces are really signs of stress and fear. Here’s why you should never bark at your (or any) dog.
What happens when you bark at your dog
According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), the “funny” reactions are actually ones of stress and fear. Some examples include:
- “Whale eye” (where they open their eyes and make them extra big)
- Stiff body and facial features
- Pinned back ears
- Barking or vocalizing back at the human
- Licking their lips
- Showing teeth
- Trying to get away
Other reactions are a little more obvious, and let you know that your dog definitely is not a fan of you barking in their face (or whatever else you did to startle them). The AKC says these can include:
Of course, all dogs are different, but to be safe, the AKC recommends avoiding this challenge.
Why barking at dogs stresses them out
What, exactly, is going through a dog’s mind when a human barks at them?
“When dogs bark, they can mean different things — the tone and body language can mean anything from ‘play’ to ‘I’m worried’ and even to defensive ‘stay away,’” veterinarian Dr. Jo Woodnutt told Pets Radar. “In this trend, people are barking at their dogs without regard to their body language or tone, and there’s a risk this could be misinterpreted.”
Along the same lines, Woodnutt notes that the TikTok challenge also involves two other things humans do that make dogs uncomfortable: Invading their personal space, and making eye contact with them — both of which dogs perceive as threatening. “Reading the dogs’ body language, many of them are already a bit nervous about the situation and aren’t sure what’s going on — they’re on edge,” Woodnutt adds.