Does watching "101 Dalmatians" make you want to adopt a spotted puppy of your own? You're not alone.
Research shows that films significantly influence the popularity of dog breeds chosen as pets, and the effects can last up to 10 years.
Scientists from the University of Bristol, the City University of New York and Western Carolina University used data from the American Kennel Club, which maintains a registry with more than 65 million dogs, and analyzed 87 movies starring dogs. They found that the release of a dog-centric movie is frequently associated with an increase in popularity of the featured breed over periods of one, two, five and 10 years.
This suggests that watching a movie that stars a specific dog breed may cause a long-lasting preference for that breed, and this preference can be expressed even years later when adopting a dog.
For example, there was a 100-fold increase in Old English Sheepdog registrations following the 1959 Disney hit "The Shaggy Dog." In the two years following the 1943 blockbuster "Lassie Come Home," there was a 40 percent increase in collie registrations.
While both "The Shaggy Dog" and "Beethoven" resulted in an increase in registrations for Old English Sheepdogs and Saint Bernards respectively, the study also found that a movie's influence was strongest in the early 20th century.
In other words, after the release of the 1992 hit "Beethoven," many people adopted Saint Bernards — but the boom in Beethoven-like dogs wasn't as large as the demand for Old English Sheepdogs in the 1960s.
Researchers attribute earlier movies' greater influence on breed adoption with the fact that over time, movies have faced increased competition from other media, such as television and the Internet.
There's also been more competition among movies that feature dogs. Such films were released at a rate of less than one per year until about 1940, but by 2005, that had increased to a rate of more than seven per year.
Additionally, the study found that the popularity of dog breeds was unrelated to the breed's health or temperament.
"Cultural shifts in types of pets largely reflect ephemeral changes in fashion rather than selection for functional traits," writes Hal Herzog, co-author of the paper, which was published in the journal PLOS ONE.
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