Mixed (and bully) breeds need their time in the limelight, too.
Remember that scene in the movie Sunset Boulevard where the aging film star Norma Desmond, played by Gloria Swanson, declares “Alright, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up”? Well, mixed breed dogs and bully breeds are overdue for some screen time, too!
Watch any commercial with a dog in it, and you’ll probably find a beautiful purebred. Amazon’s “Pet food and more at your door” ad features an impeccably-groomed light-coated golden retriever. Doritos’ “Pug Attack” was the top commercial for Superbowl XLV. And Subaru—a pet-friendly automaker who donates to the ASPCA—features a family of golden retrievers in its “Dog Tested” series, and its “Moving Out” commercial stars a chocolate lab.
Indeed, the vast majority of ad campaigns featuring dogs feature purebreds. This makes sense for ad agencies. The dogs are identifiable. After all, doesn’t everyone love a pug? And show me a golden retriever, and I’ll show you a dog that captures the dreams of children, and the memories of adults.
And that’s exactly why these ads can be counterproductive. They normalize purebred dogs, perpetuating the idea of these breeds as aspirational. The gorgeous retrievers and endearing pugs in these commercials suggest to viewers that these dogs are part of the average family. You’re an upwardly-mobile American family, they imply. You need one of these dogs!
Authoritative articles have been written about the perils of purebreds, with their health issues, misrepresented lineages, and high price tags. The American Kennel Club spends a fortune defending its breeder members.
I’m not knocking purebred dogs. I am against buying them, though, unless you’ve checked breed rescues and shelters first. According to my data, purebred dogs can comprise up to 37 percent of a shelter's population of available animals. Even then, do you really need a purebred when there are so many great mixes in overcrowded shelters?
It’s time for mixed breed dogs and overrepresented breeds like pit bulls to get their turn. If more ad agencies and the companies they represented highlighted the family-friendliness, the intelligence, and yes, the beauty of shelter dogs, there’s a chance that more people would consider them for their own households. That would mean people looking for new family members would be less apt to turn to breeders’ websites. Instead, they’d search their local shelters, as well as PetFinder.com and social media sites, for adoptable pets needing homes.
The show “Downward Dog” starred a dog named Ned. Ned seemed to be a mix of pitbull and several types of collie (including border). It just so happens the talented and very attractive Ned happened to be a shelter dog before he became a TV star. Mixed-breed dog shows are on the rise, and at-home doggie DNA tests are selling out in pet stores. If more TV shows, movies, commercials, and online advertisers featured mixed-breed and bully dogs, we could start seeing lower euthanasia rates. And that’s truly aspirational!