As a species, dogs put a high emphasis on retrieving sticks and a comparatively low emphasis on avoiding contact with killer whales.
That seems to be the clear lesson of a new video out of Leigh, New Zealand, that shows a black Labrador retriever briefly carousing with an orca before thinking better of it and returning to shore.
The video, filmed by Auckland resident Deonette De Jongh, according to The New Zealand Herald, also shows a spear fisherman who makes a quick break to a cluster of rocks when he realizes he's hunting alongside an orca pod.
A man claiming to be the spear fisherman commented on the YouTube video and corroborated De Jongh's explanation of the encounters, alleging that the Labrador had first been led into the orca-stirred water after a man threw a stick in that direction. The purported spear fisherman, who goes by the name Tin Arse on YouTube, further commented that the man said he threw the stick because he "wanted to see what would happen." [Watch the video]
What happened is that the dog bounded into the water, abruptly realized the massive size of the animal beneath the surf and then chose to go back to shore, where it leveled a few face-saving barks at its pursuer.
The stick thrower's actions have been called "irresponsible and stupid" by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Herald reports, but thankfully neither the spear fisherman nor the dog were likely in extreme danger.
Despite the menacing name, killer whales have never been known to kill humans or dogs in the wild. Different orca pods in different regions have their own preferred diets, none of which include humans or dogs, and the black-and-white mammals are not typically adventurous eaters. (Alaskan orcas do put an occasional swimming moose on their menu.)
The orcas in the video had probably approached the shore to trawl for stingrays, a favorite snack for the New Zealand wing of the species. Kiwi orcas are even known to toss around stingrays like Frisbees before eating them, something dogs might like to do if they could figure out how.
Live Science newsletter
Stay up to date on the latest science news by signing up for our Essentials newsletter.