That Dog “Saving” A Fish Out Of Water Probably Isn’t Doing What You Think

It has been nearly two years since this video of a dog seemingly attempting to “cover” a fish with water first went viral. (watch video on last page)

The video, taken in Thailand at what may possibly even be fish market, has garnered all sorts of responses that seem to leave people divided on what the dog is actually doing. As an animal behaviorist, I cringe a bit every time I see people “awww” over the video.

dog save fish (2)

While dogs certainly possess the capacity for compassion and grief, like the story of this dog who stayed at his owner’s grave for six years, there are many logical factors that come into play. For instance, how can a dog know that a fish needs water to survive?

Both Huffington Post and Psychology Today wrote about how it’s more likely that the dog was trying to bury the fish, rather than save it. World renowned animal expert Patricia McConnell, who has written several books on animal behavior, weighed in on her Facebook page that this was “a perfect example of ‘caching’ behavior.”

The reality of the situation might be more apparent to those who own dogs themselves. Dogs bury things.

dog save fish (3)

I’m not just talking about a dog burying a bone in the backyard, or a treat in the sofa cushions. My own dog occasionally buries nothing at all, pushing his nose around on his bed, my bed, the carpet, hardwood floor… anywhere.

This commonly happens while a dog is eating, or sometimes after. There are a few schools of thought on this – Some foods may cause allergies, which would make a dog scratch his nose or paws after eating, so always be sure to look for other signs like excessive scratching and irritated paws, skin, or ears. The other school of thought is that this is a deeply embedded instinct from their “wolf” days.

dog save fish (4)

Way back before dogs were domesticated, they didn’t know where their next meal was coming from. They buried extra food in a secret spot to keep it safe from other dogs, until they were ready to chow down again. If you have been feeding your dog more treats than he needs, or he has a favorite toy that he doesn’t want to share, he may bury these things like ancestors did.

dog save fish (5)

“If you give me that lollipop, I can bury it for you.”
There’s also another practical reason dogs rub their noses all over stuff after eating. They don’t have napkins, and well, how else are they supposed to clean their faces? Wolves and feral dogs instinctively rub themselves in the carcass of a kill as a sign of victory, but they would also have to rub the blood off their noses after feasting – like I said, no napkins.


What do you think ?