I never considered myself much of a writer, still don’t really. In an effort to develop my communication skills for the field I started practicing how to convey disappointment in an educational and constructive manner. One night I was flipping through a magazine and ran across this photo, which I had seen numerous times online in the past, but never as an advertisement by a companion animal company. I decided to drop Pedigree a note about it, and it ended up getting over 11,000 views and was shared all over the world. About a week later I finally heard from Pedigree that they had decided to pull the ad. I in no way take credit for their decision, but the realization that if I’m constructive and committed to making a point I can get people’s attention and change some minds stuck with me. So I felt it was appropriate to share it here, as my first official post.
Dear Pedigree – I want to take a moment to express my extreme disappointment in your recent Dentastix ad campaign appearing in a popular magazine. As a company that boasts a devotion to helping dogs both privately owned and waiting in shelters, you have failed to see the connection between your advertisement and the lasting effects of encouraging improper interaction between children and dogs. To an uneducated eye, the photo of a baby pulling at the mouth of a large dog appears cute and adorable. But to those of us who understand facial expressions, dog behavior, and the blind inclination of the general public to believe that because they saw it somewhere it must be okay, this picture evokes a different reaction.
Thousands of “furbabies” are surrendered annually by their “pets are for life” owners for biting their children. Many of those dogs end up being euthanized, because once a dog has a bite history it can be very difficult to rehome (and you can forget the ‘No-Kill’ facilities, most won’t accept a dog with a bite to child history). ONE BITE is all it takes to land in a shelter, to prematurely end a dog’s life. Upon investigation, it is usually discovered that the bite was what we in the animal welfare field call ‘provoked’, meaning that something happened to cause the dog to escalate to a bite reaction. Children putting their hands in dogs’ mouths to take food, poking and pulling at their face, pulling their tail or ears, climbing over their bodies, hanging around their necks and squeezing; these are all scenarios that quite often lead to the dog feeling uncomfortable. Most dogs will initially tolerate these intrusions while sending signals that they aren’t content, as the dog in this photograph is doing with his diverted gaze, whale eye, and raised brow. But most ignore the signals, encourage the child, and convince themselves that the dog doesn’t mind or even enjoys the interaction. When this behavior is encouraged and repeated the dog is eventually pushed to the point in communication of a nip or all out bite. The animal is then cursed for being intolerant or unpredictable and rehomed or euthanized as quickly as possible. This scenario plays out daily all across the country, and presumably the world.
This advertisement says that ‘dogs bring out the good in us’, but there is absolutely nothing good about the message you are sending in this photograph. Please take a serious look at this picture, and realize that what you are advocating by approving this message is actually doing more harm than good to both the animals and the people you strive to serve.