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When Cute Really Isn’t Cute

Author: Andrea Obey | Date: November 7, 2013

I adore a cute photo of a kitten, baby or puppy as much as the next person, and I think some silly dog behaviors are amusing tricks. But when do these things indicate a potentially dangerous situation? For example, what about a video of a baby being “protected” by a dog?  Or a dog spinning for food?

How can you tell the difference between something that can be problematic and something that is just a little silly?

Generally speaking, behaviors that are repetitive like spinning/tail chasing, shadow chasing, pacing, etc. that appear to serve no purpose can indicate larger problems. If they are triggered by something or seem to be spontaneous and repetitive to the point where the dog has a hard time stopping, that’s not a good thing.  The dog who starts to shadow chase when company comes over is quite different than the dog you’ve taught to do a spin on cue.

I’m not a fan of photos of babies lying with a dog either.  Yes, they can be cute, but I sort of freak out whenever I see one. See the picture accompanying this blog? That’s me with my aunt’s dog Duke.  I remember him being a good dog but since I was only around two years old, I certainly don’t remember much about him.  I look at the photo now and think, “Were my parents trying to off me?” At least Duke is looking at me, being polite and doesn’t seem too stressed, but he also doesn’t look all that happy.

People tend to put dogs in situations with kids or babies that are very stressful and set the dogs up for a potential major failure. I’ve been  fortunate enough to meet some great dogs who were very well socialized with children and they were very tolerant of many naughty kid shenanigans. But still, most people do not recognize the signs of stress (see Sarah Gaziano’s blog about calming signals) way before a dog feels it needs to tell everyone to back off with its teeth.

So, we have two very different situations here that all stem from the cuteness factor.

One could end up in a bite and another could very well mean your dog needs to see a behaviorist for locomotor sterotypic behavior problems. It really isn’t worth a potentially dangerous situation to force any dog to have a toddler riding its back or to encourage a dog to “get the shadow”.

If you have noticed any stress in your dog around children or babies, or if your dog is experiencing any obsessive behaviors please contact a trainer to help guide you.

We want to see all the cute pictures and watch the silly things your dog can do, but safely and from a happy, healthy place.


I honestly thought my dog was just bad. With training, Cookie is now a different dog!

Christina W. | View Client Testimonials


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