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Gone to the Dogs

The recent plethora of canine-related reality shows unleashed on a dog-loving public has a very loyal audience sitting up and begging for more.

 

Shows like Showdog Moms and Dads , Pet Star , the animal version of American Idol , Avalanche Dogsand Who Gets the Dog? the tail-wagging equivalent of The Bachelor are the topic of conversation at water coolers and dinner tables around the country.

In case you dozed of in front of the TV, here’s a quick summary of the most popular programs to date.

•  Showdog Moms and Dads takes a behind-the-scenes look at five quirky and competitive pet parent couples that obsess over their dogs at home and in the show ring. Narrated by Sandy Simpson. Bravo.

•  Pet Star hosted by Mario Lopez is a pet version of American Idol where the country’s top dogs (and other pets) show off their unique talents in front of a studio audience. There are weekly cash incentives and a final prize of $25 000. Animal Planet.

•  Who Gets the Dog? On each episode, one lucky shelter dog gets to pack his or her bags and spend 24 hours with each of three families. Three animal experts help the pet “decide” which family to call its own. The show is hosted by Dorothea Coelho and was made under the watchful eye of the Humane Society of the United States. Animal Planet.

•  Avalanche Dogs provides viewers with a glimpse into the lives of canine rescue teams working in premier ski resorts like Whistler in British Columbia and outlines how handlers and dogs rely on each other when conducting a dangerous rescue operation. Outdoor Life Network.

•  Monster House – Animal Shelter . The show’s foreman Steve Watson heads to his hometown of Tennessee, Cleveland to transform the Cleveland Animal Shelter in an effort to promote animal adoptions and make it a pleasant and memorable experience. The Discovery Channel.

•  Also episodes 31 and 32 from season two of Monster House features a backyard makeover by building the perfect dog house complete with separate bedrooms for three adopted pooches, a front porch, a fire-hydrant drinking fountain and a bone-shaped swimming pool. The Discovery Channel.

“People are crazy about their dogs and will do anything for them,” says Professor Jennifer Holt, a lecturer in critical studies at the School of Cinema and Television at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. “This phenomenon is not truly reflected on mainstream television – yet.”

Holt is “mom” to an elderly black Labrador. She watches these shows with a professional eye but admits that she sometimes gets hooked on a personal level too.

Pets have been entertaining on television for decades. Lassie and Rin-Tin-Tin held audiences captive with their heroic deeds. Many dogs like Benji have followed in their paw prints. So is reality dog TV simply keeping up with current trends?

“Yes,” says Holt. “And the general increase in popularity of reality television comes from changes within the industry in an attempt to produce cheaper programming.

“Humans can only entertain us so much. They are predictable and boring and we can only contrive so many situations. While animals, and particularly dogs, are endlessly fascinating and comforting.”

Slowly dogs are finding the spotlight on the major TV networks as late night hosts like Jay Leno and David Letterman regularly invite canine guests to entertain.

“As soon as the major networks discover how huge and profitable the pet industry is, it’s going to explode,” predicts Holt.

David Frei, Director of Communications for the Westminster Kennel Club who has co-hosted the annual Westminster Dog Show for the last 15 years, agrees.

“We have a greater spiritual and emotional bond with our dogs than ever before. They are no longer in the yard taking care of business. While they retain the ability to do the jobs they were bred to do, the reality is they don’t get a chance to “work” anymore. Instead, they are sitting on our couches, going to the store with us and accompanying us of family vacations. That’s what draws us to watch other dogs in reality shows.”

In essence, Americans are not longer pet owners. We have become pet parents and we have fur kids.

Apart from the entertainment value, programs like Who Gets the Dog? , Pet Star and Monster Houseput sheltered pets in a very positive light.

“So many people still have an incorrect image of animal shelters,” says Stephanie Shain, Director of the Outreach Companion Animals program run by the Humane Society of the United States. “There’s the misconception that there’s something wrong with shelter pets or that they’ve been abused. Mostly, they have simply lost their families and homes for a number of unfortunate reasons. These shows are a wonderful opportunity for people to see what great, healthy, happy and wonderfully well-adjusted dogs they really are.”

More dog shows in the pipeline? You bet. Watch this space.

Side Bar

Dogs Rule!

  1. •Dogs are earning big bucks in advertising as they feature in everything from car commercials to products to clean floors.
  2. •Car manufacturer Honda has heads wagging over a successful TV advertisement that introduces new cars by mimicking the Best in Show format of the Westminster Dog Show.
  3. •McDonalds recently released 16 more collectable plush toys in The Dog (and The Cat) Artist Collection as a promotion with their Happy Meal and Mighty Kids Meal menu items. The meal packaging is printed with educational pet-related facts for kids.

 

This article is from DogFancy Magazine