New Study Shows How Movies Affect Dog Breeds’ Popularity
Call it the Lassie Effect: Researchers have proven that movies featuring dogs create a major surge in breed popularity.
Lassie. The Shaggy Dog. 101 Dalmatians. Beethoven. Beverly Hills Chihuahua. These are just a few of the popular dog movies that we can think of off the top of our heads. And seriously, didn’t seeing those movies as a kid make you want a Collie, a Sheepdog, a Dalmatian, a Chihuahua or a St. Bernard? It sure did for us.
Turns out, we weren’t the only ones — a lot of kids were actually able to convince their parents to get them their famous dog breed of choice when picking out the family pet.
Researchers from the University of Bristol, the City University of New York and Western Carolina University all collaborated to study the effect that popular movies had on the popularity of dog breeds, and the results were a little surprising.
Movie star dogs can create an uptick in their breed’s popularity for two, five and even ten years after the movie is released. Not only that, but the level of breed popularity can be directly correlated to the number of people who saw the movie on its opening weekend, so super popular movie = super popular dog breed.
The study authors found that the 10 movies that still had the strongest effects ten years after their release were responsible for over 800,000 breed registrations than would have been expected based on pre-movie release trends.
Take “Lassie Come Home”, which came out in 1943: two years after it was released, there was a 40 percent increase in Collie registrations with the American Kennel Club. Disney’s “The Shaggy Dog”, released in 1959, resulted in a 100-fold increase in the Old English Sheepdog registrations with the AKC. Crazy, right?
However, the influence of movies in dog breed choice has decreased since the mid-20th century. Researchers say this is likely due to an increase in dog-centric movies: in 1940, less than one film per year featured a dog; by 2005, this number had climbed to a rate of seven per year.
Interestingly, they also found that the more rapidly a breed’s registrations increased, the more rapidly their popularity declined — a trend that we also see with baby name popularity.
All this is not without a downside, however; there are consequences to one breed becoming immensely popular overnight. Because they’re adopted as a “trendy” breed, the dogs may not actually be well-suited to their new family. It’s important to make sure a breed’s personality traits line up with your family and lifestyle, and no movie can tell you that. This likely leads to more dogs being given up as families realize that their dog’s personality doesn’t mesh well with the family.
Many types of purebred dogs are also known to have inherited genetic disorders that you don’t see in mixed breeds. A huge burst in breeding as a result of a dog’s sudden popularity only results in further in-breeding and more health problems for pooches down the line, so while we’re all susceptible to trend-following, this might just be one that’s better left alone.
Christina Peden is a lifelong animal lover and avid wordsmith. She lives in Toronto with her boyfriend Ryan where they are proud pet parents to puppy, Matilda and cat, Oscar. In her spare time, she can be found enjoying Toronto, Canada's all-too-short patio season, taking advantage of the city's numerous parks or curled up with a good book.
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