From plaything to dog of the people

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As fully fledged members of human society, dogs are everywhere nowadays, from the arms of the stars for whom they are sometimes nothing more than a way of improving their image as a friendly person, to various playful representations for children or adults.

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Earthenware, plastic and wooden dogs

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Toys, which contribute to a child’s emotional and creative development, have been around much longer than films, television and comic strips. They remain as popular today as they have ever been, continuing to adorn children’s rooms everywhere, be they big or small. The first toys based on images of dogs were made with clay, dough or wood. At first, they were mounted on wooden boards with wheels for children to pull or rock on.

One of the most successful toys has been the cuddly toy, of course. Its pleasant soft, safe texture makes the fluffy dog something that children can hold in their arms. It also gives them a feeling of confidence and protection.
Purebred dogs are well represented in the world of toys, especially in the form of merchandising for films such as 101 Dalmatians, although those perennial favourites Labradors and Saint Bernards also get their fair share of attention.

To make them more realistic, toy dogs have been equipped with mechanical joints – a mouth that opens, a wagging tail – and batteries, but even these have been superseded by more sophisticated robot dogs, such as Sony’s AIBO, available between 1999 and 2006. Initially, canine robots could do little more than walk and bark, but they quickly developed the ability to recognise and respond to commands and objects using sensors and cameras. Their behaviour is gradually approaching that of real dogs and the artificial intelligence technology has made it possible to fine-tune their character to suit the preference of the individual owner. Dogs are also alive and kicking in the 2D world, in a range of video games, some of which are not only entertaining but educational, too.

Children’s toys involving dogs may be so popular because real dogs require time, space and a great deal of responsibility. Cuddly, electronic or, nowadays, virtual – imitation dogs are a great playmate for kids without the hard work of a real dog for the parents.

Everyday objects

It would be impossible to quantify just how many different objects bear the image of a dog, so widespread have they become. Wood, China, glass, metal, plastic – dogs come in every imaginable material, either in their own right or as part of a bigger whole.

To mention just a few, there are key rings, figurines and statuettes of every kind, posters, postcards, calendars, clothes and perfumes. You can even get decorative plates, mugs and knives with a picture of a dog on them. This is often a character from a recently released film, a fashionable breed, a dog used by a brand or one that represents something to people. For instance, a Labrador is seen as cute and friendly, while a Husky evokes the great open spaces of the north; a Rottweiler is imposing. This use of dogs will sell items as long as the breed is adapted to the target audience.

With all these articles available, it’s only natural that they attract the interest of collectors. Some people limit their collections to a particular type of article, while others concentrate on a particular breed. Dog-lovers are also served by a plethora of magazines, both general and specialised in a specific breed or canine sport.

The dogs of the stars

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While some dogs have been catapulted into the limelight after completing dangerous missions or working assiduously alongside humans, others have become stars because of who they belong to. Some of these are companions to the great and the good in the world of politics, including presidents and prime ministers. Posing with your dog is often a good career move in public life, as it points to your human side, reassuring the electorate that you are a caring person. Depending on the breed, this type of owner can highlight key qualities, be that tacit strength, perseverance, vitality.

Celebrities also like to show off their companion animals. Some have original pets like pigs or snakes, but a great many are more than happy with a dog. The choice of breed provides plenty of scope for expressing their personality. While Audrey Hepburn did pose with a Yorkshire Terrier all those decades ago, today’s glitterati really take the biscuit.

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Some female stars are totally devoted to the diminutive breeds. Alyssa Milano and Paris Hilton both have a Chihuahua, while Gwen Stefani and Heather Locklear go for a Poodle-Bichon cross. Cécilia Attias and Sienna Miller have also joined the bandwagon. Eva Longoria cannot seem to be without her Maltese Terrier, which even attended her wedding. French singer Patricia Kaas has her own Maltese Terrier, called Tequila, while Rihanna, the princess of R and B, has a cuddly little Poodle.

But it’s not only girls that like little dogs, plenty of guys like them, too. Tough guys whose hearts have been melted by mini dogs include Mickey Rourke, Adrian Broody, Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jorge Garcia, whose tiny pooch goes by the name of Nunu.

Women who go for the biggest sizes include Pamela Anderson, Jessica Biel, Anne Hathaway, Lauren Conrad and Lucy Liu.

Of course, stars just wouldn’t be stars if they did not – allegedly! – get up to some strange business with their dogs. It’s said that Jessica Simpson carries her dog round in a Vuitton or Gucci bag, while Tori Spelling transports hers around in a pram. Rumours are that Paris Hilton’s Tinkerbell has a life of manicures, skin and hair care and cashmere outfits. The Chihuahua once went missing after her mistress’s home was burgled, prompting Hilton to put up a 5,000 dollars reward. Happily the dog was found again six days later.

Word is that Mariah Carey had her Jack Russell flown in first class to join her on a video shoot, and has also produced several websites in honour of her pooch. Meanwhile, Jennifer Aniston makes sure her dogs enjoy only the most luxurious treatments, while Denise Richards is reported to have installed mini swimming pools for hers, as well as orthopaedic beds.

Most of these US stars attended the Much Love Animal Rescue Benefit at the Playboy Mansion in July 2008.

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The French-Dutch singer Ophélie Winter decided to stand out from the crowd, by posing with a 21st century dog that never needs to go into quarantine when she’s on tour abroad: she has one of those AIBO robot dogs.

True or false, the stars and their dogs certainly help fill a lot of magazine and web pages.

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From plaything to dog of the people
    From plaything to dog of the people

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