The Media & Breed Popularity

Some dog owners surrender or abandon their dogs due to relocation or other factors beyond an owners’ control. But a more common reason for the surrender of companion dogs is the owner’s unwillingness or inability to handle their dog. Most times, this situation is based upon the owner’s decision to select their dog according to the breed without completely comprehending their ability to care for the particular demands of that breed.

The media can influence the popularity of dog breeds. Sometimes a breed will become popular despite its inherent difficulties. This is often true for breeds with large amounts of energy. The level of attention required by dogs can come as a surprise to novice owners and often end in unfortunate situations, such as abandonment or surrender.

The 101 Dalmatians movie series created a fervor surrounding the breed. People rushed to get the spotted dogs, making the breed one of the most popular and trendy in the mid-1990s. The Dalmatian, however, is an energetic breed that requires more exercise and training than some owners are able to provide. Opportunistic breeders compacted the problems by profiting through irresponsible breeding, which tends to increase breed-specific health problems.

“Benji” Brackman of the Chocolate Chip Dalmatian Assistance League explains that when the cartoon versions were re-released, her organization received over 1000 Dals in need of homes. The problem repeated when the first live action movie was released. After the second live action movie, Brackman says
her organization was “inundated” and that a board member came back to over 2,300 e-mails after a one-week vacation. “A lot of very sweet temperament dogs were put down,” Brackman lamented.

Similarly, the Bull Terrier enjoyed increased popularity due to the “Spuds MacKenzie” advertisements by the Anheiser-Busch company. “Spuds” amplified the rate of Bull Terrier ownership. Bull Terriers, while a loyal and loving dog, are highly energetic and require a large amount of attention. The younger market, at which the commercials were aimed, was not the ideal market for a breed requiring its owners to spend a large amount of time at home. Shari Mann, president of the California-based Bull Terrier Rescue Inc., talks of “an increased number of picked up stray Bull Terriers; not necessarily ‘owner surrenders.’” Fortunately, the new Target ad campaign, which features a Bull Terrier with the company’s red circle logo around one of its eyes, has not yet caused a spike in unwanted Bull Terriers.

The Newfoundland, the winner of Westminster 2004, is another breed with potential difficulties for unprepared owners. A common misconception of “Newfies”, according to Jennifer Zablotny of Great Lakes Newfoundland Club Rescue Program, is that they are “gentle, laid back, and so great with children.” Coupling a puppy’s rambunctious energy with the size of a Newfoundland can result in bigger messes and potential injury to smaller children during rough play. In addition to allergies and ear problems, the dog’s size can often lead to joint difficulties and knee surgery making medical expenses one of the major reasons for surrendering or abandoning Newfoundlands.

How can potential dog owners avoid problems with their future pet?

  • Determine whether you are ready for the responsibility of a dog. offers a guide to assist future dog owners in making educated choices about their new pet.
  • The American Kennel Club and Canadian Kennel Club web sites have guides on the needs of different breeds based on characteristics such as energy, size and temperament. If you are considering a mixed breed, research the traits of both breeds to ensure that you understand the pros and cons of each.
  • Adopting an older dog that has been surrendered will allow for owners to learn more about the dog’s behavior while in foster care or in the custody of the adoption organization.
  • To find out the most about your future pet, fostering a dog, whether he’s the dog that you plan to adopt or simply to house an animal in need, will allow you to find out if that dog or breed is right for you.