Fido might not think you’re funny. As a matter of fact, you might be hurting his feelings if you play the latest viral game with him.
That’s according to professor Philip Tedeschi, the human-animal connection expert for Rover.com, who has some cautionary thoughts on the “What the Fluff” Challenge. These viral videos show people standing in a doorway behind a blanket, catching their pet’s attention as they lift the blanket to cover their face, only to drop the blanket and vanish completely behind a doorway. The animal gets confused and all the humans on social media LOL.
However, for the pets, maybe it’s not so amusing. “If an animal is distressed or highly anxious about their person leaving, for example during the time of day when they anticipate your going to work, or if you have just moved to a new home,” Tedeschi says, “it might add stress to the situation and then would not be play but rather anxiety caused by a fear of abandonment.” He cautions people to watch their pets carefully to see if their reaction is out of proportion with the fun intent of the game. “Sometimes excitement can look similar to overstimulation and anxiety if you are not watching carefully,” he says.
But Tedeschi doesn’t suggest nixing the game completely, since human-animal play is a great way to improve both human and animal moods and reduce stress. (Plus, you love your furry friends.) Start slowly, he says, using a positive voice and treats so your pet associates peekaboo with playtime, not punishment.