A dog trying to save fish?

August 14, 2014 • 2:05 pm

Okay, here’s another video that has charmed people who see it as an attempt of an altruistic dog to save fish who have been taken out of the water. Several readers sent this to me, probably not because they believed that this was indeed the dog’s motivation, but simply because its behavior was enigmatic.

It’s enigmatic to me, too. The dog’s “water-pushing” is clearly directed toward the fish, and at least one of the fish seems alive; but I simply can’t see this as a case of interspecific helping. What do you think?

Here are the YouTube notes:

Dog Tries To Save Fish Out Of Water
In the city of Phetchaburi in Thailand, a dog discovered the fish out of the water and unconscious on the pavement. It will try not to let them die by spraying water with its snout. Besides the fish are few puddles. The dog will then sprinkle the fish, as if he wished they would not die. Touching!

71 thoughts on “A dog trying to save fish?

  1. The most peculiar moment is when the dog noses up one fish, as if to say, “Am I helping? Am I doing any good?” Very strange!

  2. I think the d*g is trying to bury them because they smell bad similar to my cats trying to bury food they don’t like. He’d be pushing dirt over them instead of water if the sidewalk wasn’t concrete.

    1. That does make sense, Mary. I was trying to think what the nose-pushing behavior reminded me of and remembered it’s how my dog used to bury pieces of rawhide. I stopped giving her rawhide because she used to “age” it out in the yard and then bring it back in, all muddy and smelly, and rebury it behind the couch cushions or in my kids’ beds.

    2. I thought something similar. Could be trying to stop his (human) pack from eating them rather than trying to save the fish.

    3. Yeah that seems most likely. Odd though. My dog doesn’t really bury stuff or dig stuff so I don’t notice the behaviour.

    4. That nosing behavior is exactly what my dog does to bones and raw hide chews that he buries. Great hypothesis, Mary!

    5. I’ve never seen a dog bury something just because it smelled bad. And if the fish were still alive or recently dead, it shouldn’t be stinky. At least to a dog.

      1. I don ‘t think that dogs, unlike cats, ever think that anything smells bad, aside, perhaps, for themselves post-bath. Dogs love to roll in smell stuff like fish, dead or alive.

        1. My dog turns her nose up at stuff. Anything alcohol based she thinks is terrible and if her ball lands anywhere near poo, you have to go out and get it then wash it in soap and water until she decides it is clean enough.

          1. Mine gets all sucky ( to non-Canucks, this means wimpy) when I open up the Alcohol-based Revolution anti-heartworm med. I don’t think it stings the back of her neck. You’re right: it must be the smell. Kind of like when we were kids and the smell of alcohol presaged needles.

    6. Given my experience, at least with beagles, if it was a smelly fish the dog would have rolled on top of it for a few minutes and then run inside to jump up on the bed to roll around.

    1. “Snout pushing like is classic burying behavior for a dog. Strange though.”

      I’ve only noticed dogs reversing themselves and using their front paws to push dirt backwards.

      1. I don’t know, perhaps it is breed dependent or perhaps they are influenced by the behavior of the other dogs around. My lot would dig a hole, drop in the item and then flick the soil back on top with their nose. The Labrador was a burying fiend, but the German Shepherd, Border Collie and Boxer also did it.

    2. I’ve seen my friend’s d*g try to bury things in couches, hard floors, and even a carpet without realizing that those surfaces are not diggable. One the couch, the d*g did the digging motion with the front paws, and then pushed the treat between the cushions and then tried to cover up. Yeah, d*gs are not really very bright animals.

  3. My dog Bunk (beagle/shar pei mix) does this with his food or treats if he’s not in the mood to eat.
    He’ll use his nose like that to try to bury it – in grass, dirt, blankets, whatever is around…

        1. There are no good dogs. They all stink and bark and try to have sex with every available leg, blanket or cushion.

          1. No.
            Keep them clean & brushed and they won’t stink.
            Mine has never tried to hump anything. But maybe that’s because he’s fixed.
            Sure they can bark, but that’s not always a bad thing.
            Like the time Bunk started barking in the middle of the night.
            Turns out someone was breaking into my car.
            I wish I had tried to figure out why he was agitated instead of telling him to be quiet.
            The next time he does that I will pay attention!

    1. I read that as beaver- shar pei mix and I had to do a double take. It’s a funny mix to think of though.

  4. I once had a d*g who would at times take a piece of kibble from his bowl, drop it on the floor, and then push it around the kitchen floor with his snout.

    The behavior in this video looks similar to what my d*g would do.

  5. My Jack Russell Terrier noses his dry food exactly like that. No idea why. It’s kind of annoying actually as he pushes it out of the bowl.

  6. no no no. this dog is either Akita/part Akita or Shiba Inu. It is a Japanese breed that I had the pleasure of learning to live with for 14 years. They “bury” their FOOD like that. We used to call it burying in the air because our Akita Sam would “scoop” air onto her left over kibble. This dog is NOT helping a fish–it is saving a yummy for later. (Akitas are notoriously food aggressive and will not eat unless they feel perfectly secure in their surroundings and then they eat very cautiously. In all my 14 years with Sam she NEVER ate in public or even ate a treat I handed her unless she took it off to where she felt safe to eat it–unless she buried it in the air to save for later!) And Sam’s normal diet was rice and fish. Although she did also like spaghetti and spicy tacos or egg rolls.

    1. My dog, Buddy, loved spaghetti. I had to have him euthanized last month due to cancer.
      He had the same colour as the dog in the vid.
      Made me sad watching but in a good way.
      ‘Pasketti tonight, I think.

    2. This clears it up for me, as I was wondering why the dog would try to cover the fish with something that was obviously not covering them!

      My lab would often save treats for later by stashing them in backyard ‘graves’. She’d even stop, mid-bury, to look around if her hiding place was being observed (by squirrels, people, etc). If so, she’d find a new place.

  7. For the dog to actually be trying to save the fish, it would require that the dog has an understanding of gills and how fish breathe…seems unlikely 🙂

      1. Many animal species have shown empathy for animals in distress, even if of different species. So it may be possible, if not likely.

        1. this from a friend of mine:
          The dog follows Buddha. Or more, has been trained for this video. Nicki Minaj is a performer
          and her name is under the picture and the video is NM.

          My dogs would have smiled and rolled in it.

  8. Several people have suggested the dog is trying to bury the fish but dogs typically bury items using their paws not their muzzle so I don’t believe that is the case but I’m not able to suggest another motivation. I’m not sure what the rascal in the video is trying to do.

    I see from the posts above that there are some dogs that evidently do use their muzzles but I’ve had a spaniel, Great Dane, Pointer, Welsh terrier, miniature dachshund and Golden Retriever plus several an assortment of mutts and never saw any of them try to bury something with their muzzle. As far as burying things goes, the champ was a female mutt and the male Welsh terrier came in a close second.

    1. My beagle will first dig with his paws, drop the bone in the hole, and then nose the soil over his prize. If the soil is already soft and disturbed, he doesn’t bother digging and just gets on with pushing the soil with is nose 🙂

  9. We seem to be confronted with two choices:

    1) The dog is very smart and knows fish need water to survive, or

    2) The dog is exquisitely stupid and confused water for dirt.

    I see both choices as being rather unlikely, but #2 seems to be the bigger stretch. As for #1, perhaps the dog has witnessed humans pouring water into stranded fish.

    It must be frustrating for dogs to understand that they lack the right appendages to perform some tasks, but they clearly do understand this. I’ve seen dogs grasp human hands gently in their teeth and pull the owner towards to food cabinet.

    1. My dog learned to pick things from the garden after watching humans do it. A fence was put around the garden after that.

        1. My dog picks all the berries on my property. I don’t know if she already knew how to do it when we got her (she was a starving stray) or if she saw me do it so learned. It is funny how she does it – basically bites onto a berry, then backs up until it comes off.

          1. Yeh, yeh, like that — chomp/nip, tug. So cute.

            I think stray dogs, wild dogs and other canines somehow learn how to forage for berries. I figured I’d teach that to our dog when she was fairly young, just in case she got lost.

            1. When she learned to pick things from the garden, I made the joke that when she was a stray in Ohio, she was probably caught because people called the authorities, stating, “there’s some big, yellow dog that keeps eating things in my garden”.

    2. Regarding your Hypothesis #1, remember Jerry’s post some time ago of a heron holding a gopher underwater until it was dead? The opposite of what would work on its normal prey, fish. This suggests herons understand the distinction between air-breathers and water-breathers. If herons can understand this, maybe dogs can too.

      1. I don’t see that any understanding is required on the heron’s part. An inexplicable urge to hold furry prey under water is all that’s needed for natural selection to amplify that urge into adaptive behavior.

    3. Dog burying behavior is commonly directed to things that are not dirt. Blankets, clothes on the floor, even the air. It is like a reflex. Thought has very little to do with it.

  10. Doggie altruism? What a lame suggestion. It’s actually rather obvious. This dog is aware he’s being video recorded and is trying to look all “I totally tried to save that fish” just before he announces his run for a senate seat. *Duh!*

    1. Good theory, but no. Video ended *before* he saved the fish. Potential voters want to see positive follow through!

  11. Sorry!
    It wasn’t happened in Thailand.
    It was in Taiwan.
    I know these two countries name are similar, but I think they are different.
    Anyway, the dog is very cute.

  12. I hear a voice in the video that sounds like it is urging the dog (or someone). It could be following a command. It would be easy to train a dog to ‘bury’ something on command.

Leave a Reply