No, your dog is not just being dramatic

There has been a disappointing, even quite disturbing trend, on social media lately. Accounts have been posting videos of dogs in distress, as “funny” videos of dogs just “being dramatic”.

The dogs in all cases are not in life threatening situations. In fact they are often in very normal situations such as having their nails clipped or being groomed. So the posters just assume that their dogs are “being dramatic”. Many of the dogs are also huskies and the posters will often just say “huskies are just dramatic” to justify their videos.

Part of me understands why some people will believe their dogs are just dramatic. How is it not dramatic for a dog to have such a wild display of fearful behaviour at something as benign as having their nails clipped? After all, once the procedure is done, the dog goes back to normal. That’s just drama right?

No. It’s not drama. It’s a massive emotional reaction to something that we know is not life threatening, but the dogs do not necessarily know that. The dogs are uncomfortable, scared and often in a total panic. They are crying out for help, not for entertainment.

Dogs have many fears and phobias of things we would think of as posing no threat. A great deal of the work I do with clients is on separation anxiety. Is the dog’s life threatened when we leave them? No. Do dogs with separation anxiety act like it is? Yes. Are they just “being dramatic”? No. They have a fear of being alone and they need compassion and a measured and carefully executed approach to allow them to get past their fear.

The dogs in these videos are the same. They are scared and panicked and should be approached with compassion and empathy, not laughter. Dogs can be taught that grooming is safe or that having their nails done is nothing to worry about. Dog trainers help their clients achieve these goals all of the time.

If you have one of these dogs and you’re wondering what to do because your dog needs the procedure that terrifies them? First, see if there are alternatives such as teaching your dog to use a scratch board for nail trims. If there aren’t and the procedure is absolutely necessary, then speak to your veterinarian about medical options which could help your dog better tolerate the procedure.

As for huskies, they may be seen as a more “dramatic” breed because they vocalize more (I know, I’ve got a husky mix who easily falls into this category) but that doesn’t mean that when they are howling and essentially screaming for help, that they do not feel like they are in distress.

Lastly, if you had a terrible phobia of spiders, or snakes, and someone locked you in a room with hundreds of non-venomous species and you lost it, how would you feel if someone just labelled you as “dramatic” when you freaked out. Fears and phobias are just as real for dogs as they are for humans.

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