As is now known by fans of Irving the talking dog — and I’m not one of them, at least when it comes to the talking part – the Boston terrier didn’t make it to the finals of “America’s Got Talent.”
Still, in terms of the exposure alone, it was a win for ventriloquist Todd Oliver, whose Branson, Missouri-based act has become more popular than ever.
Branson features three dogs in his performances, all equipped with flapping contraptions attached to their lower jaws. He controls the devices remotely, making the dog’s mouth move in time with the words he supplies, via ventriloquism.
In other words, Oliver uses his dogs for dummies.
No, I don’t think Oliver’s act should be banned. I don’t think we need to get PETA on the phone. I don’t think the appendages attached to the dogs for the act are hurting the dogs, or even bothering them to any great extent.
I am merely saying that it’s another example of us putting words in dogs’ mouths, of our humanization of them — solely for our own amusement.
I don’t like that Pedigree’s DentaStix ad campaign, featuring dogs with human dentures, either — for the same reason. In addition to the TV ads, the campaign allowed us to, with help from our computers, put not just human dentures, but the words of our choice, into dog mouths.
I’m not one of those to unnecessarily sound the anthropomorphization alarm — mainly because it’s too hard a word to say — but I do believe we should enjoy dogs as dogs, and not try to transform them into us.
Oliver seems like a nice guy who does a lot for dogs and animals, and as far as what he does to them for the act, it’s probably not abusive and even somewhat cute, at least for the first few minutes.
He says on his website that the device was developed with a veterinarian.
“Todd is just a true animal lover. He often assists local shelters and rescues dogs from unfit environments,” the website says. ”Everything in Todd’s act is 100% safe and registered with the USDA and the Missouri Department of Agriculture.”
I know that, again, I will be criticized for being overly sensitive, but in my opinion we’ve already tinkered with dogs too much — by shaping them, over the centuries, into breeds whose looks please us; by using them in lab experiments and, in recent years, cloning them; by dressing them up, teaching them to dance, and all the other things we do for our own amusement.
They’re pretty amusing and animated just as they are, without our help. Our attempts to make them more amusing, I think, are often both dopey and disrespectful. But who’s going to listen to me?
If only I could get a dog to say it.
Posted by jwoestendiek September 4th, 2012 under videos.
Tags: act, america's got talent, amusement, animals, anthropomorphization, dentures, dog, dogs, dogshaming, dummies, dummy, entertainment, funny dogs, humanization, humans, irving, irving the talking dog, mouth, pedigree, pets, talking dogs, tinkering, todd oliver, ventriloquism
Affected product may contain small pieces of blue plastic, which the company says entered the food during the production process.
The source of the plastic has been identified and the issue resolved, the company said in a press release.
What that source was isn’t identified in the press release.
Mars Petcare says some consumers have reported finding the plastic pieces, but there have been no reports of injury or illness.
Only cans of Pedigree weight management varieties with the production codes shown below are included in this voluntary recall. Each product will have a lot code printed on the end of the can that begins with 209, 210, 211 or 212 and a Best Before date that falls between 2/24/2014 and 3/23/2014.
The recall is for the following Pedigree canned dog foods:
The affected lots were distributed to retail customers throughout the United States.
Pet owners who have questions about the recall should call 1-877-720-3335 or visit www.pedigree.com/update.
Posted by jwoestendiek July 2nd, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, blue, canned, cans, choking, codes, diet, dietary, dog, dog food, dogs, food, health, mars petcare, pedigree, pets, pieces, plastic, recall, risk, safety, upc, urgent, voluntary, warning, weight management
The RSPCA and The Dogs’ Trust withdrew their support of Crufts. The BBC refused to broadcast the competition. And Pedigree, the pet food company, canceled its sponsorship of the event after more than 40 years.
(Pedigree — coincidentally? — was excused this year as a sponsor of the Westminster Dog Show, also after 40 years.)
After the documentary aired in the UK, the Kennel Club began taking some steps to revise the physical standards, used in judging, that many argued were leading to issues like cancer, epilepsy and breathing problems in certain breeds.
But how much did things actually change? Three years later — during which time, public indignation never seemed to fully drift onto U.S. shores — the answer seems to be not substantially and not quickly enough
That’s one conclusion of ”Pedigree Dogs Exposed: Three Years On,” which airs on BBC tonight, and is likely to trigger a new firestorm — and just in times for Crufts, the prestigious purebred dog show that runs from March 8 through March 11.
The new documentary was making news even before it aired.
In one interview in the program, Gerhard Oechtering, a veterinary professor at Germany’s Leipzig University, called for pugs and bulldogs to be banned, saying it’s unethical to keep producing members of a breed that can’t breathe properly. Dr. Oechtering called for flat-nosed breeds to be mated with long-nosed ones so that new generations do not suffer from blocked airways, reported the Daily Mail.
Another expert, in a call bound to distress many purebred breeders, goes so far as to urge the public to turn to mutts. “The best solution overall would be to popularize mixed breed dogs as pets because they are much less likely to be afflicted with the genetic diseases that are associated with pedigree dog breeding,” Cambridge University’s Nick Jeffery is quoted as saying in the Telegraph.
Jemima Harrison, producer of both the original and the sequel, said in an interview with the Sunday Express that there have been many positive changes in the three years that have passed.
In the aftermath of the documentary, bans were imposed on mating mothers with sons; fathers with daughters and brothers with sisters. The Kennel Club reviewed breed standards for over 200 breeds and made changes to 78.
The Kennel Club now permits Dalmatian cross breeding in order to normalize the breed’s uric acid genes. Currently, high levels caused by inbreeding can cause stones that make some dogs unable to urinate, leading to bursting bladders.
Still, in the eyes of Harrison, some of the changes in standards have been only minor, like changing the preference for a pug’s muzzle from “short” to “relatively short.”
“The Kennel Club is just tweaking; it is fiddling while Rome burns. We have still the problem of dogs being bred within very small gene pools. You can still mate a grandfather and a granddaughter… They are still being bred to win in the show-ring and the show-ring still has no health criteria. It’s the prettiest dogs that win and it’s at considerable cost to the dogs.”
Harrison is particularly pessimistic about the fate of the bulldog, whose breeders, she says, are “adamant that there’s no need for change”– even though the breed’s shape has become such that mating often requires “mating cradles” or human manipulation, and 80 percent give birth by caesarean section.
“Pedigree dogs are heritage breeds and something to be proud of, but too often their health and welfare are compromised. Fundamental reform is needed before we can be proud of the pedigree dogs we produce in this country,” she said.
Posted by jwoestendiek February 27th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, bbc, breeds, bulldogs, crufts, dalmatians, documentary, dog show, dog shows, dogs, dogs trust, genetic, health, jemima harrison, pedigree, pedigree dogs exposed, pets, problems, pugs, purebred, rspca, standards, three years on, westminster
Here’s an ad we doubt would have flown during the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. In fact, it never saw the light of day anywhere (except online), having been banned from appearing during the 2006 Super Bowl.
In the ad, for Bud Light, an upscale dog owner, sweater draped over his shoulders, is showing off his purebred border collie. Then he asks the mutt owner he is talking to, “What can your dog do?”
To see the painful answer, watch the video.
Posted by jwoestendiek February 22nd, 2012 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: 2006, ad, advertisement, animals, banned, beer, border collie, bud light, commercial, dogs, dogs in advertising, marketing, mutts, pedigree, pets, purebreds, super bowl, tricks, westminster dog show, woof in advertising
Wonder why you’re not seeing any ads for Pedigree dog food during the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show?
Apparently, mutts like Roscoe (above) — especially homeless ones — aren’t viewed by the club as sending the right message, so they’ve cut their ties to long-time sponsor (as in 24 years) Pedigree dog foods.
Apparently, some of Pedigree’s ads — the ones promoting dog adoption, the ones featuring sad-eyed mixed breeds as opposed to well-coiffed, prancing purebreds – were just too hard-hitting and depressing for the kennel club’s tastes.
“We want people to think of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show as a celebration of the dogs in our lives,” David Frei, the club’s director of communications and the host of the show for over two decades, told the Associated Press.
“Our show is a celebration of dogs. We’re not promoting purebreds at the expense of non-purebreds. We celebrate all dogs. When we’re seeing puppies behind bars, it takes away from that. Not just because it’s sad, but it’s not our message … Show me an ad with a dog with a smile; don’t try to shame me.”
Pedigree’s ads, club honchos agreed, were getting too heavy-handed.
Frei said the kennel club had expressed those concerns to Pedigree: “We told them that, and they ignored us.”
Taking a look at the newest series of ads that are part of Pedigree’s continuing efforts to encourage dog adoptions — you can see them here — I don’t see much sadness. They seem more an expression of pride. They come right out and say don’t feel sorry for me. They seem to say the shelter mutt is just as valuable, and will make just as good a pet (and we’d argue maybe even better) than a purebred.
Maybe that’s the kennel club’s problem. Maybe they want television coverage of Westminster — the big show began yesterday at Madison Square Garden — to keep the focus strictly on purebreds, which are, for it, the money makers.
Granted, some of Pedigree’s earlier adoption-oriented ads were pretty bleak in tone; and everybody (attention ASPCA and Humane Society) is getting tired of those ads that, while cool for the first two viewings, continue to tug so blatantly and repeatedly at our heartstrings we now switch the channels instantly when they come on.
Granted, too, the Westminster Dog Show is free to choose any advertisers it wants, and the American Kennel Club does fund research and offer programs that benefit all dogs, purebred or not. And, to keep things in context, it’s not necessarily dissing mutts with this particular action; it’s dissing downer, guilt-inducing adoption ads.
But it all comes across a little like snobbery; a little like denial, when it comes to the millions of dogs euthanized each year; a little like let’s stay here in our private fantasy world — not open to the unwashed masses, or those who might be of mixed breeds, even though every purebred, except the wolf, is in fact a result of mixing.
Pedigree has been replaced with Nestlé Purina PetCare, whose ads of peppy, happy dogs are more to the kennel club’s liking. The new partnership was announced last spring.
“They’ve shared with us, when we parted ways, that they felt that our advertising was focused too much on the cause of adoption and that wasn’t really a shared vision,” said Melissa Martellotti, a brand communications manager for Mars Petcare US, which makes the Pedigree brands. The kennel club, she said, is “focused on the purebred mission.”
Martellotti said the partnership had been a boon to Pedigree’s adoption initiatives. In 2007, $500,000 in pledges were received after its ads were broadcast over the show’s two days.
Nearly 3.5 million people watched last year’s show, broadcast on the USA Network and CNBC.
Posted by jwoestendiek February 14th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adoption, ads, advertising, animals, campaign, celebrate, company, david frei, dog food, dog show, dogs, dogs in advertising, dropped, euthanized, kennel club, message, mutts, pedigree, pets, purebred, sad, shelters, sponsor, westminster, woof in advertising
That’s the slogan of a new RSPCA campaign aimed at shifting the emphasis when it comes to breeding purebred dogs — from looks to health.
The campaign launched yesterday, with this ad — featuring a pug as the poster child — in the Daily Mail.
It’s directed mostly at breeders, who the RSCPA asserts often seek to meet dog show breed standards that place appearance above canine health.
But it’s also meant to change the thinking of consumers, who help create the demand and often aren’t aware of the genetic health problems many purebreds face.
“Everyone needs to be aware of the serious health and welfare problems affecting pedigree dogs and that dogs bred for looks are born to suffer,” RSPCA senior scientist Claire Calder said.
“A cute-looking puppy or dog can be hard to resist, but the result of not looking beyond this can be thousands of pounds spent on vets’ bills and a pet with long-lasting health and welfare problems. This is one of the biggest challenges facing dog welfare in the UK today.”
As we’ve written before — here and elsewhere — it’s one of the biggest challenges in the U.S., too, even though it rarely seems to rise to the forefront.
One major exception came last month, with an in-depth article in the New York Times magazine about the plight of the purebred bulldog.
But, by and large, the UK is leading the debate, which, while long-lurking in the shadows, was retriggered by Jemima Harrison’s documentary for the BBC, “Pedigree Dogs Exposed.”
Between its impact, and the efforts of the RSPCA, there have been some changes, mostly in kennel club’s breed standards that seemed to place appearance above health.
The RSPCA website elaborates on some of the problems those standards have led to:
“According to scientific studies some of the UK’s favourite breeds of dogs have been bred to such extremes that they can no longer breathe or walk normally. For example, dogs with short, flat faces often have narrow nostrils and abnormally developed windpipes. They can often suffer severe breathing difficulties and may have difficulty enjoying a walk or playing.
Dogs with folded or wrinkled skin are prone to itchy and painful skin complaints, and dogs with bulging or sunken eyes are prone to injury, pain or discomfort. These are only a few examples and a recent study showed that all of the 50 most popular breeds have some aspect of their body which can cause suffering
Recent research by the RSPCA shows the public is prone to thinking buying a purebred dog ensures that dog will be healthy. But dogs “bred for their looks,” the RSPCA says, ”are vulnerable to unnecessary disease, disability, pain or behavioural problems.”
Among those quoted in an RSPCA press release is Victoria Stilwell, dog trainer from the TV show “It’s Me Or The Dog.”
“I have nothing against dog showing and nothing against responsible breeders, she said. “But what I do have something against is breeding animals just for the way we want them to look, even though that animal is compromised both physically and, a lot of the time, mentally. So we have to change. Why are we destroying these animals just because we like the way they look?”
Unlike in the U.S., where interest seems to rise and fizzle, the issue isn’t likely to go away anytime soon in the UK.
Harrison is now working on a sequel to “Pedigree Dogs Exposed,” which promises to be just as hard hitting, or maybe harder hitting, than the first. You can keep up with those developments on her Pedigree Dogs Exposed blog.
Posted by jwoestendiek December 19th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, appearance, awareness, breathing, breed standards, breeders, breeds, bulldog, campaign, dog shows, dogs, genetic, health, health problems, jemima harrison, pedigree, pedigree dogs exposed, pets, public, pug, purebred, purebreds, rspca, trainer, uk, victoria stilwell
Three days after we bemoaned the seemingly trending practice of putting words in dogs’ mouths via animation, a new Internet e-card company has launched, offering just that service.
It’s pretty much the same schtick as Pedigree’s “Denture Your Dog” ad campaign for “DentaStix” – upload a photo of your dog, position the talking mouth, type in what you want your dog to say, click, wait and, voila, you have a talking dog video you can distribute via Facebook, Twitter and email.
To hear what Ace thinks of it all, click on his picture above, then click on play on the page to which you are taken. (I swore I’d never do it, but then again, I also swore I’d never use the word “trending”.)
Pet-a-Greeting launched Tuesday, calling itself the first-ever site that allows members to upload a photo of their dog, cat or other pet and create a customized talking message to share.
“We’re taking the e-greeting card experience to a whole other level,” said Gregory Baker, co-founder of Pet-a-Greeting. (Confession: I tried to find a photo of Baker online so I could use his website to make him bark, but there are too many Gregory Bakers.)
“We developed Pet-a-Greeting because we love our animal friends,” Baker continues in a press release, “and we want people to be able to share a unique experience with their friends and families, while giving a voice to those that typically don’t have one.”
If that’s not noble enough for you, consider this: Pet-a-Greeting says it has a strong commitment to helping animal welfare organizations both locally and nationally. “By becoming a member and sending Pet-a-Greetings, you are supporting the welfare of companion animals.”
No details, or percentage, or beneficiary is mentioned in the news release, so I guess we have to just take their word for it.
Pet-a-Greeting offers a 10-day free trial, where members can send unlimited personal greeting cards. A year’s membership is $9.95, and a two-year membership is $14.95.
Posted by jwoestendiek September 8th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, animals, animated, anthopomorphic, denture your dog, dentures, dogs, email, facebook, greetings, gregory baker, internet, launch, make your dog talk, new, pedigree, pet-a-greeting, pets, talking dogs, technology, twitter, video, website, words
Continuing our review of the use of dogs in advertising, we look today at two ads from the same dog food company – one that’s cool, one that’s creepy.
It generally bothers me to see dogs being manipulated with special effects – in part because they’re special enough already, in part because it is usually done to make them appear more human.
Sometimes it seems we have trouble letting dogs be dogs, and insist on saddling them with the baggage of our own highly dysfunctional species.
The only special effect I find appealing when it comes to dogs in advertisements, or for that matter movies, is slow motion — used magnificently in the Pedigree commercial above.
Compare that to this one for Pedigree’s DentaStix, in which dogs, through special effects, are equipped with human dentures. I cringe every time I see it.
Pedigree has built a Denture Your Dog webpage where you can upload a photo of your dog, equip him or her with human dentures, then type in the words you want your dog to be saying.
Objectionable as we find that, we had to give it a try, so I uploaded an Ace picture and had him say how humiliating the whole thing was, scolding Pedigree in the process for its anthropomorphic — a word neither Ace nor I can say without computer assistance — ad.
I tried to post it to YouTube but couldn’t quite figure it out, being human.
In my view, the first ad is stellar. As for the doggie denture ad campaign I give it a thumbs down, even though it seems to have been highly popular.
The first increases our understanding of dogs, the second obfuscates it (another word I need computer assistance to both say and spell). “Blurs” would have been a better word choice.
The only half-joking point is, until we learn to be more responsible for the words that come out of our own mouths, maybe we shouldn’t be assuming the right to put them – or human dentures — in a dog’s.
All of our “Woof in Advertising” selections can be found archived here.
Posted by jwoestendiek September 3rd, 2011 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: advertising, animals, anthropomorphic, canine, commercials, creativity, dentastix, denture your dog, dentures, dog food, doggie, dogs, dogs in advertising, marketing, pedigree, pets, slow motion, treats, woof in advertising
Sometimes, slowing things down — way down — can make them far more awesome.
Lady detectives in the opening credits of TV shows, movie heroes departing exploding buildings, lovers running to each other on the beach are but three of examples of how slow motion — cliched as it has become — can add more cachet to the subject at hand.
In the video above, shot for a Pedigree dog food commercial, the effect is enchanting.
Shot at 1,000 fps (frames per second), it captures the facial expressions of dogs as they wait for an airborne treat to arrive.
Slow motion, in addition to increasing something’s beauty and awesomeness, can also lead us to a better appreciation, and understanding, of a subject — or even a revelation: How dogs drink water, for example. As our next slow motion video shows, dogs don’t use their tongues to lap water straight up into their mouths, as many suspect. Instead, they curl their tongues backward into the shape of a “J” and hoist the water up — a phenomenon that’s barely noticeable in real time.
Many things in life are better when we slow down — reading being the first example that comes to mind. Baths, highway safety and writing blogs being others.
Of course not everything should be slowed down. And not everything is more lovely in slow motion. Just as it makes the beautiful more beautiful, it can make the ugly uglier. A case in point:
Posted by jwoestendiek March 4th, 2010 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: airborne, anticipation, appreciation, commercial, dog food, dogs, dogs drinking water, drinking, pedigree, photography, slow, slow down, slow motion, sneeze, sneezing, special effects, tongue, treats, video, videography, videos, water
Not being a close follower of his extra-curricular activities, I didn’t know Cowell has loaned his unexplainable celebrity to campaigns against wearing fur, for spaying and neutering, and cautioning against leaving dogs in hot cars.
Leave it to PETA to straighten me out.
Here are some excerpts of a recent interview PETA had with Cowell:
“…If I was buying a dog, I wouldn’t buy it from a pet shop, I’d go to a rescue shelter … It’s not where the dog came from, it’s the dog. … I get really annoyed when people start telling me about the make and the model of their dog like (it was a) car … A dog is a dog, no matter what background they’ve got … Often, the mutts, the strays have got more personality than a highly bred pedigree.
On dogs as accessories:
Well, I think the fashion accessory thing has become quite the thing here. You’ve got the rap and pop stars carrying around the highly bred dogs …. They think it’d be embarrassing to be seen carrying a mutt … when actually it would be endearing — people would think they cared more about the dog than their image.
I think we’ve got to be balanced on this…I think it’s nice that they have made an issue of buying a dog for the kids. What I think would be great would be if they also took in a shelter dog, just from anywhere, to balance it. I’ll even pay for the dog food!
On dog shows:
Well, again, I have two thoughts about them, because I think the vast majority of people who go and watch something like Crufts or who are involved are animal lovers, not animal haters. The problem (in the U.K. at least) is that we have elitism in the dog world, which does bother me, for who’s to say what makes the perfect dog?
Yeah, dawg. The nerve. What gives those dog show judges the right to put contestants through the hoops and then sit back in judgment?
For Cowell’s full remarks, visit The PETA Files blog.
Posted by jwoestendiek May 14th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: american idol, anti-fur, blog, bo obama, bobama, campaigns, cars, celebrity, crufts, dog food, dog shows, dogs, fur, interview, judges, judging, mutts, neutering, pedigree, personality, peta, purebreds, rescue, shelter, simon cowell, spaying, strays, the peta files, westminster