Published on June 14, 2020
CEO at Placement Directory, Inc.
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Product placement is a powerful marketing tool. Since the dawn of mass media it has been the single best way to market a brand. But why does it works so well? It starts with simple brand credibility. A product shown on movie or TV show is considered to be reliable by the viewer by the pure assumption “if it wasn’t a legitimate product the producers would never have used it”. Credibility is only the beginning. The most powerful force in product placement is the law of Celebrity Association. Celebrity Association is relatively simple, if a person likes a celebrity and the celebrity likes a product, the person will like the product. This is why Michael Jordan can promote a pair of shoes and get paid $60 million per year for just doing it. The investment is worth it to Nike because if Mike likes a shoe, they like a shoe. The payout to Michael Jordan is a tiny fraction of the profits made from his association.
While this is all good news for brands, it has traditionally been bad news for dogs. When Disney made Lady and the Tramp, the sales of Cocker Spaniels sky-rocked around the globe. Later they released 101 Dalmatians and the dogs were in such demand we reached a point where nearly none were available at shelters or from breeders worldwide.
This all seems like great news, but it is not. New backyard breeding became rampant. Hundreds of thousands of new puppies were being raised by armature breeders as a quick way to make money. Many, if not most, of these dogs were later turned into shelters. Their adopters wanted a dog just like the one in the movie, fully trained, loveable, no maintenance and with an almost human personality. In reality these were just puppies who needed hundreds of hours of training, just like every other dog. The dogs were either euthanized by a vet or dropped of at a shelter to eventually meet the same end.
The latest wave of dog-buying hysteria is upon us now. It is the Belgian Malinois. The highly trained Malinois seen in Person of Interest, Max, John Wick 3 and nearly 20 other shows over the last 5 years are not representative of what the average dog owner will experience in bringing one home. While this can be an incredible pet, it can only be so for a nearly professional level trainer.
Let’s step back and look at the dog’s history. Although the breed was formed in the late 1800’s it had two major breeding booms during WWI and WWII. During these times the breeding selection was heavily favored to create a fearless war dog that could attack even after being shot, burned or suffering the loss of a limb. The breed excelled as a highly intelligent war dog and is still used today by over 80 armed forces divisions around the world. They parachute with Navy Seals and wear night-vision goggles. They even have headphones and communicate with fellow soldiers on the battlefield. They are also used throughout wildlife preserves in Africa to help catch poachers. The Malinois is praised for its ability to go after a poacher even under heavy gunfire and being shot. Unless the Malinois dies, it will continue to pursue its target. In summary this dog is a parallel breed of the original Belgian Shepherd that was selectively bred to be a highly trainable super-soldier. It was never intended to be a pet for a common household.
I asked our Head of Canine Operations and Head Trainer, Nate Schoemer for his thoughts on the Belgian Malinois situation. Here are some of his thoughts:
Don’t Raise One Unless You Know What You’re Doing
The Belgian Malinois is one of my favorite breeds for its high energy, intelligence and enthusiasm to train. My Malinois, Arih, has been my faithful companion for years and the dog I most commonly work with in my training videos. In fact, the Malinois has taken the spotlight recently in pop culture, and many owners are eager to rush out and get one of these high energy, loyal dogs as their own.
And is this a good idea? Absolutely not.
Unfortunately, for most owners and their families, adopting a malinois became a regretful situation. To highlight why, consider the top 10 dogs for families by the American Kennel Club (https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/lifestyle/best-family-dogs/), which includes Labrador breeds, Pugs, Beagles, Bulldogs and others—no Malinois. In fact, the Malinois isn’t even in the top 50 family breeds.
There are several reasons why the Malinois falls short as a family pet:
The Malinois is an extremely high energy, intelligent dog. This is why they are so crucial for law enforcement or military purposes: when you give them a job to do, they’ll perform it to max capacity. While this is great for critical jobs, ask yourself how happy your Malinois will be confined to a house with occasional walks or games of Frisbee?
All that unspent energy is likely to overwhelm the owners. It may start to feel like a full-time job keeping the Malinois happy and finding new ways to spend the dog’s energy.
The Malinois loves rough play, so an owner’s temperament must match a dog with such strong warrior instincts. A family may grow uncomfortable with a dog so prone to behavior like rough play biting and wrestling, especially with children around.
A high energy dog confined to a house or even a fenced yard may grow frustrated without a lot of attention and jobs to perform. This could cause many types of misbehavior, including all varieties of biting, ripping and tearing of things.
Training is crucial for a Malinois, and keeping an untrained Malinois could be a recipe for disaster.
Sadly, because a dog gets highlighted by the media and popular culture, people rush to buy that breed without thinking the decision through. This has been a common problem for many breeds from Dalmatians spurred by Disney’s 101 Dalmations to wolf-like huskies glamorized by popular YouTube channels highlighting their cuteness (as well as shows like Game of Thrones featuring the trademark dire wolves). These are all examples of a dog turning into a fashion or “pet craze” (in the same way people rushed to buy miniature crabs and piglets in the early 2000s) which prompts people to make sudden decisions. And in all these examples, the reality of owning such a dog may not match the fantasy.
Shows that feature particular dog breeds should include disclaimers in the credits to make careful decisions before investing in such a dog as a new family pet. In all these examples, such dogs may not be suited for every owner or family, and this is especially true for the Malinois.
As a result of these poor decisions, owners will eventually get rid of the dog. While a lucky Malinois may be fostered as part of a police, military or private security or service dog training program—others may go unwanted, end up in a shelter, and eventually get put down. This is why making the wrong choice of breed for your family could be a deadly decision.
To prevent such mistakes, it’s important to stay educated about breeds and to understand what you’re looking for. In some situations, a Malinois could be a good idea. For example, if the owner has a large yard and is enthusiastic about dog training, has a lot of time to invest, and the owner’s spouse / family members are on the same page, then it might work. But in most other situations, a reliable family-friendly Labrador would be a better option.
In summary, don’t make hasty decisions because a dog breed is trending in pop culture or seen in a Hollywood movie. Reality rarely matches what we see on TV, and taking in a new canine family member requires thoughtful care behind the decision rather than an impulse purchase because a dog looked fun, cute or exciting on a YouTube video, movie, or TV show.
Author: Nate Schoemer
Editor: Cyrus Kirkpatrick