Weir S & Kessler SE (2022) The making of a (dog) movie star: The effect of the portrayal of dogs in movies on breed registrations in the United States. PLoS ONE, 17 (1), Art. No.: e0261916. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0261916
The media is a powerful force that can affect the welfare of the domiciled dog population. Dogs have long been in human stories and their depictions can create demand for the breeds shown. While previous research has found that this effect can last for up to ten years after the release of a movie, how this phenomenon occurs is unknown. This paper examines if how a dog is portrayed in a movie is associated with a subsequent change in American Kennel Club breed registrations for that breed. Following a systematic literature review, four key themes were identified in how dogs are portrayed in the media; dogs portrayed as heroes, as anthropomorphised, as embodying the ideals of Western societies (Whiteness and heteronormativity) and as boundaries between wilderness and human society. Forty movies from between 1930 to 2004 were analysed, resulting in 95 dog characters scored, and hierarchical multiple linear regression was run. Movies with dogs portrayed as heroes were followed by significant increases in the number of American Kennel Club breed registrations for the breed shown, while anthropomorphised dogs were followed by significant decreases in the number of dogs registered for up to five years after a movie’s release. These results indicate that how dogs are portrayed may be an important driver of demand for breeds. Future work should investigate whether these portrayals may have negative welfare implications for real dogs by leading to owners having unrealistic expectations for dogs or increasing demand for dogs with in-breeding related disorders.
PLoS ONE: Volume 17, Issue 1