Friday, June 11, 2010

Friday Feature - Fads, Social Contagion and Dog Breed Popularity

Do you remember when I wrote a post about how when dogs are in the media, people rush out to buy them? Then within a year or two the shelters/rescues are generally overwhelmed with that breed?? That was last June. One year ago. My blog entry was a Featured Rescue post in response to the Disney movie, Beverly Hills Chihuahua.

Since I started actively monitoring the numbers of dogs/breeds in rescue/shelters the numbers have been pretty consistent. Last year, the number of Chihuahua's listed on Petfinder was 7,842 -- pretty well the same from the previous year. This year the number has drastically increased to a staggering 11,430!

Is this enough proof to confirm the theory that when animals are in the media, the number of those animals in rescue increases? If you look at this as well as the recent fad for Dalmatians and other media-sparked breeds, then for me it is. For some it may not be.

It isn't enough for Harold Herzog who wrote a paper on the topic in 2006. His report, called Forty-Two Thousand and One Dalmatians: Fads, Social Contagion and Dog Breed Popularity, looks at possible reasons for breed booms, the causes and factors that influence breed choices.

Here are a few interesting quotes from the report. If you have time, I would recommend you read through the entire report - it is quite interesting reading. His report is based around breeds that have been registered with AKC but as we all know, many dogs are not registered with AKC. Although his report is extremely interesting, I don't think it shows the entire picture since he has focused his entire attention at the AKC and has not included unregistered dogs in his study.

Here, based on the analysis of more than 48 million purebred puppy registrations, I show that contagion is a major factor in decisions to acquire purebred dogs.
We found that, contrary to popular belief, winning Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show does not usually result in a spike in demand for winning breeds.
In this regard, pets are no different from popular music, athletic shoes, and clothing styles. In short, dog breeds have become a form of fashion. Not surprisingly, some breed fads are initiated by the media.
The best example is the Disney movie 101 Dalmatians. In the eight years following the 1985 re-release of the film, the annual number of new Dalmatian registrations increased spectacularly, from 8,170 puppies to 42,816 puppies. The peak in 1993 was followed by the steepest descent in popularity of any breed in AKC history—a decline of 97% within a decade. An even more dramatic example is the 100-fold increase in Old English Sheepdog registrations over the 14 years following the 1959 Disney movie, The Shaggy Dog
It is often assumed that fads are inevitably instigated by media exposure. This is not the case ... it often is impossible to definitively link an increase in the popularity of a cultural variant to a movie or television show. With dogs, there are only a few instances in which there is a clear, causal relationship between a movie and a breed epidemic.


Calsidyrose said...

What an interesting topic! I'm not surprised about the increase in Chihuahuas. We've seen an uptick with them at our Shelter--and I brought home a new Chi foster today!

As for the plunge in Dalmatian popularity, I'm not surprised either--they are not easy dogs. Heck, I'd rather a feisty little Chihuahua any day than a Dalmation!

Great post.

Calsidyrose said...

And I can't spell!

GoLightly said...

Oh, absolutely!

Will this dog go with my hair??


Love the new blog look!

(uh, I guess I can't spell either, Calsidy, I can't find an error in your comment.. squints... Nope)

sundcarrie said...

Guess I am in the minority then. I like one breed and plan to stick with them. I am not surprised though. The more publicity an breed gets the more people will want them.

OldMorgans said...

Did St Bernards go up after that movie w/one?
The 9 dogs I had over my adult years were all "found" dogs and would have ended up in a shelter if I had not been silly enough to say "Yes" each time. They were mostly Lab crosses.
My childhood dog was a Basenji, a breed that likely never will be popular. If I were to have a dog again, it would be a Basenji. I guess I like challenges.

DogsDeserveFreedom said...

Calsidyrose ... I haven't had the pleasure of fostering a Dalmatian yet but I would like to for the experience (if nothing else!). Chi's are neat little guys - I like the personality (when they are trained!).

Ps - I always have to think about the spelling for "Dalmatian" ... I always have to look it up!

GoLightly ... no kidding eh? It's amazing to see the motivators for people. Glad you like the look - the blue was starting to bother me.

sundcarrie ... you're right - publicity is key. Few people stick with one breed. Most people I talke to will stick with a category rather than a breed (like scent-hounds or herding breeds).

OldMorgans ... I don't know but have often wondered. I wasn't monitoring the numbers during that time so can't give an accurate answer on it.