Miss Edie the Pug is back with me today to help discuss an important topic very important to her. She’s got a list of questions and I’ve got answers. Be sure to check out her blog or find her on Facebook or Twitter to see how else she advocates for animals and helps entertain & educate the people who love animals.
Animal Actors – Not Always Real Life Pets
With the recent release of the movie “Max” in theaters about a retired war dog, it brings up some interesting questions. Do television programs and movies effect the popularity of dog breeds? And it so, what effect does it have on that breed? Is it positive – showing the dog in a different light, or highlighting the skills that these dogs/breeds are capable of?
Is it negative – this dog breed is now so popular that everyone wants/needs to have one, even if that dog is not the right fit for you or your family? Do people understand that what they are seeing these dogs do on screen is because of training – professional training – training that did not happen overnight?
What happens when this “cool dog” doesn’t meet your expectations?
I asked Dr. Ryan Llera his take on this. Has he seen any repercussions in his field of veterinary medicine of a breed becoming popular due to a tv show, movie, or because of a celebrity owning a particular breed?
Dr. Ryan Llera’s view:
You’re right Edie. Our canine friends on the screen are great actors just like Tom Hanks and Jennifer Lawrence. They’ve been trained and practicing for a set role and just because they can do a certain trick or act a certain way does not mean that all other dogs of that breed will. More importantly, we need to look at the health and behavior aspects of these breeds.
While there are few studies that show an increase in a breed popularity after a movie release, one study in particular did confirm this behavior amongst people particularly in a 10 year period after the movie. While this was more commonly seen in years past, this trend can still happen in this era especially in today’s times of celebrities, tabloids, and social media.
Oftentimes, when one of these movies comes out or a celebrity parades their pooch around, people are hooked on the breed but unfortunately don’t do the research before rushing out to get one. When choosing a breed, it’s important to consider factors such as living space, time commitment, energy level, and family members, specifically, children. A lot of the factors can lead to behavior problems for the dog, whether real or perceived by the owner, and unfortunately this leads to many dogs being dumped at the shelter or worse, euthanized.
Though I haven’t personally seen 101 dalmatians coming through the doors of the clinics I’ve worked at, after the animated movie in the 1960s (and probably again with the live action version in 1996) there was a noted trend in people having dalmatians as pets. While many people know about the dalmatians genetics that may make them deaf, they can also have a significant problem with their livers that can lead to bladder stones if not properly managed. When these problems arise, they don’t always get taken care of and dogs may suffer, being ditched, or euthanized. With some breeds being popularized, I have personally seen more of a particular breed or two become an idea for people to get rich quick by breeding them hence leading to more pyometras and C-sections.
While the trend of movie promoted dog breeds has waned, social media & celebrities have replaced it. Veterinarians and shelters, especially in the UK, have recently seen and noted a rise in the abandonment of “purse dogs” or toy breeds – think Chihuahuas, teacup pomeranians, Yorkies. This is being noted over the past 5 years after the influences of celebrities and movies such as Beverly Hills Chihuahua or Legally Blonde. While many of these small dogs have wonderful personalities, some may have anxiety issues to go along with the myriad of health problems….dental disease, luxating (dislocating) kneecaps, collapsing tracheas, and liver shunts to name a few.
In a personal communication with Blue Cross, a UK based group focused on animal health & welfare including rehoming unwanted pets, they have noted a significant change in some breed representations. In a five year span (2009-2014), they saw increases in some breeds needing to be rehomed after being abandoned including:
- Yorkshire Terriers – 65 (2009) to 92 (2014)
- Chihuahuas – 0 (2009) to 53 (2014)
- Pugs – 0 (2009) to 16 (2014)
- Huskies 10 (2008) to 86 (2014)
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniels – 14 (2009) to 36 (2014)
We’re not saying that these particular breeds are not choices for dogs, but they may not be for everyone. It’s important to not act on impulse before you go out and get a particular dog breed. Better yet, try contacting a breed rescue group and consider fostering a dog before making a commitment for the next 10-15 years.
Every breed can be found on the Canadian Kennel Club or the American Kennel Club website to be researched and you can try their breed selector quiz to see a few dogs which might fit your lifestyle. And lastly, don’t rule out the great option of adopting a dog from the shelter even if they aren’t a purebred!
Disclaimer: (IloveMyDogMoreThanMyKids) Views and opinions are my own.
Disclaimer: (Dr.Ryan Llera): Blog posts may include opinions which do not reflect on those of my current or any former employers.