Social media has gone to the dogs! Sometimes it seems that every dog you meet has one (or more) social media profiles. You probably follow as many dogs as people.
Social media has become an invaluable way for rescues to connect dogs and puppies with new loving families and is a fun way of connecting with other dog lovers who share an interest in a specific breed, sport, or activity. But as much as most of us love the dog side of social media, there can be a dangerous aspect. For instance, the popular trend on TikTok of feeding Hot Sauce to dogs is not only cruel; it actually could be painful for dogs. Involving your dog in your social media profiles or even making social media profiles for your dog can be a lot of fun and a great way to document your life together. That said, at the end of the day, dogs don’t care how many likes a photo gets or how many subscribers they have. When you involve your dog in social media, it’s essential to make sure your posting is fun and safe.
Regardless of what you see trending or what other accounts are posting, the safety of your dog and others around you should always come first. Don’t break leash laws in order to get a “perfect” aesthetic photograph to post. Instead, take off-leash photos only in safe areas where dogs are legally allowed off-leash. Another option is to invest in a leash you find aesthetically pleasing, or that compliments your dog in photos.
As a dog trainer, I get very concerned by many of the dog stunts I see trending on social media: things like dogs climbing ladders, jumping high jumps, etc. These posts might be popular online but can easily lead to serious injuries. Just because you see a dog do or attempt something online doesn’t mean it’s something you should try to replicate at home with your dog. You have no idea what kind of training or conditioning that dog online has had to prepare them to do that stunt, and you also don’t know if that dog has since been injured as a result.
Unfortunately, many social media trends and challenges are around trying to see how a dog reacts to a situation and filming that response. Some of these trends are harmless, but others designed to confuse or frighten a dog are things you want to avoid. Any challenge or activity that causes your dog to feel scared, confused, or alarmed can erode your dog’s trust in you. You never want to do anything that makes your dog question if they can trust you, especially for something as insignificant as a social media post.
Social media should always be fun for both you and your dog. When you are thinking about involving your dog in pictures or videos to post, always center your dog’s safety, comfort, and enjoyment. If you are ever uncertain about the safety of a particular activity, it’s a good idea to pause and do some research. For example, with food-based trends, always ensure that a treat or food is safe for dogs (the ASPCA Poison Control is a great first resource to check). Like with the hot sauce challenge, just because other people are doing it doesn’t mean that it is safe. It’s also a good idea to connect with your dog’s vet to determine if the particular activity is safe or ask your dog’s trainer if the activity could have unintentional negative consequences in your ongoing training plans/goals.
Sometimes putting the safety and comfort of your dog first means you’ll lose out on some online “likes” and won’t be able to participate in a particular trend, but your dog will thank you for it. What matters much more than online popularity is your dog’s comfort, safety, and trust in your relationship.