As I type, there is another heroic dog movie soon to be in theaters. I have already heard people asking how to get a dog just like that one. I remember what happened after 101 Dalmatians – live – was released. I remember getting calls from people wanting to know the breed of the big dog in Cats and Dogs. Border Collies suffered due to Babe.
People want to blame breeders for the plethora of dogs bred when dogs become popular. Are they to blame? Good breeders try to educate and will not place puppies in homes looking for a dog “Just like in __________” Yes there are less than ethical breeders and even rescues that will try to capitalize on movie animals; however, it is the consumer who makes the purchase.
The newest dog movie coming out, Max highlights a Belgian Malinois. Three different dogs play the title role. Before you start searching for a Mal, stop and think. Mals are intense, active dogs. Breed enthusiasts have called them “pocket rockets” and “Maligators.” The national breed rescue description includes “Always in motion… busy.” I have known people in the breed and closely related breeds for years. This is not a breed for the first or even second time dog owner. This is a breed for someone who is experienced with hard working dogs and who needs a hard working dog. If you want an active pet, look elsewhere. Even for people who THINK they are active, the drives of a Mal may prove too much. There is say Golden Retriever or German Shepherd Dog active and then there is Malinois active.
In general, the dogs you see on TV and in movies are highly trained. Even the “bad” things you see are trained behaviors. There are often several dogs playing one role. This is why purebreds are often chosen: consistency in type. The “mutt” in Because of Winn-Dixie was actually several Berger Picards – a French herding breed. The trainer on Marley & Me worked with 22 different Labs. Cujo was five dogs as was Wishbone. These dogs are the full time plus job of a trainer or team of trainers in order to get what you see in the final product. Even the lower maintenance dogs such as Pugs will require your time and energy to get a well-behaved companion. You will never get exactly what you saw on TV or in a movie. No matter what you will be told, no puppy will grow up to be exactly like you saw. Remember the hours, weeks, and months of training and often multiple dogs to get what you saw on a Saturday matinee. Your dog may look just like Pongo or Perdita but will never be Pongo or Peridta. When your children start to whine and cry for a dog just like ______, remember it is OK to say “No.” Owners are the reason why animals end up being unwanted. This is not buying that jacket that Katniss wore – only to be stuck in a closet when the newness wears off and the next best purse is carried by the next cute star. This is a living animal with needs and a 10 – 15 year commitment, or more.
For help doing your homework and determining if you are ready for a dog I am shamelessly plugging my first book. Click here :).
Oh and say “No” when Junior asks for a Velociraptor. They are difficult to train and very instinct driven. It requires a lab set up the average person does not have in order to get one.
Best is to get your child a stuffed whatever and encourage her to use her imagination!
Karen Peak owns West Wind Dog Training and The Safe Kids/Safe Dogs Project in Prince William County.
This is another piece that will be published in the paper edition of Northern Virginia Today – rumor is soon I should be getting an on line column. I have sent the cover picture and just waiting. I will still expand on pieces (600 word max for the paper) and give great detail here!