Dogs on television


Dogs have had a television presence since the early days. First as extras and later as full-fledged characters, dogs quickly gained a permanent place on television.
In silent films, dogs often appeared as loyal, indispensable companions but also as a comic element (with Charlie Chaplin, for example). This was the beginning of dogs in acting. Dogs were featured more and more in television series, playing roles of greater and greater significance.

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Leading dog

Soon, dogs were playing leading roles. Breeds were not chosen haphazardly. Larger breeds were favoured for adventure and police shows, and smaller breeds for comedies. Nevertheless, the focal point for all breeds on television has remained the dog’s loyalty to its work and to its owner. There are many examples of this, from Belle, the Pyrenean Mountain Dog who protects Sebastian, to Lassie, the wandering Collie who is always ready to help those in need; from Rin Tin Tin, the German Shepherd police dog, to White Fang. Not forgetting The Magic Roundabout’s Dougal, who, although rather arrogant and rude, is a bit of a softie at heart. These examples show that the role of dogs on television (and in everyday life) is far from trivial.

In Japan, mangas have also used dogs because of their appeal, highlighting their loyalty and strengths, including Blanca and Dog of Flanders, which are about a dog that is ever ready to lay down its life to save its masters.

Dog and master

More and more, shows focus on the relationship between dog and master, proving the theory that dogs resemble their masters and vice versa. For example, in the French series La loi est la loi (The Law’s the Law), the similarities between Max, a British Bulldog, and the prosecutor are no mere coincidence. The same is true of Columbo’s dog. More recently, dogs have appeared in numerous sitcoms. In some series, not only does a dog play a leading role, but it is also able to communicate with humans.

Dog care shows

There has also been a trend towards shows focusing on dog care. These shows discuss the dog’s habits, the characteristics of each breed and the details of dog grooming, raising and training puppies and canine nutrition — all the practical tips an owner needs to live happily with his or her four-legged friend. Some of these shows end by showing a listing of dogs of all ages and breeds available for adoption.

Currently, the purpose of dog care shows seems to be to shed light on a particular dog or its owner by discussing the main characteristic of a breed. More and more, these shows emphasise communication between dog and owner. Dogs try to understand their owner and communicate through specific behaviour. When we study a dog’s habits and behaviour, we give it the ability to “talk” to us.

There are also a range of television programmes devoted to training and dog behaviour, to help owners understand more easily how to train their pet, how to correct behavioural difficulties and how best to integrate their pet into family life. For example, in “It’s Me or the Dog”, dog behaviour expert Victoria Sitwell visits people’s homes to help them correct outrageous canine behaviour that threatens family stability or a couple’s relationship. Another programme, The Dog Whisperer, shows the remarkable transformations Cesar Millan can make to aggressive, frightened, compulsive or jealous dogs. Nowadays, there are even TV stations totally devoted to animal viewers. The purpose of these stations is to help alleviate the boredom animals can feel when they are shut up indoors all day, although they can obviously never replace human companionship and play, which are essential to the dog’s behavioural well-being.

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Dogs on television
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