Would you get a dog based on Hollywood’s portrayal?

Many of you may have gone to or have seen the trailer for the newest dog movie out in theaters, DOG. It is a story of adventure between “Briggs” (played by Channing Tatum) and a dog named “Lulu,” a Belgian Malinois (who is actually played by three different dogs throughout the movie). And if you’re like me, who doesn’t love a dog movie who makes you root for the underdog?!

Unfortunately, many of us in the dog training industry cringe every time a movie like this comes out knowing what the result can be. Remember when the movie 101 Dalmatians came out in 1996? Within a few years, more and more Dalmatians were being surrendered to humane societies and rescue organizations, because what people saw in the movie did not match the reality they were living with their new pet. 

So now we have this movie, DOG, highlighting the Belgian Malinois. Of all breeds for a dog-seeking individual to fall victim to a Hollywood fanfare, this is not the one to do it with. Here is my personal response to the movie; what it got right, what it didn’t, and a plea for the dog-seeking individual. 

And don’t worry, I won’t spoil the movie for you. 😉

What the movie got right.

Originally bred as a livestock herding dog, the Belgian Malinois is more commonly sought after as a police and military K-9 today due to their high work drive and confident nature. The American Kennel Club (AKC) lists a few common breed traits as:

  • Highly intelligent with a high prey drive
  • Athletic and muscular
  • Exceedingly devoted

The movie starts by revealing a variety of photographs showing Lulu’s job as a military canine including the intense training she received and her efforts during wartime. The adventure that Briggs and Lulu then embark on depicts a dog with high energy, aggressive tendencies, and a destructive nature. The handler, not bonded to the dog or understanding of her needs, even resorts to drugging her to get her to “take it down a notch” – sadly, a miss-placed practice all too common today for those misunderstanding the high-energy breed of dog they have chosen.

Is this typical of a Malinois? The answer to that is a bit greyer than it is black and white. With the wrong owner, these behaviors are certainly possible and the movie does a good job portraying that. The AKC puts it well by saying:

“…the Malinois needs to be actively engaged with his owner, both mentally and physically. This is not a dog who can be left in the backyard, and daily walks are not enough, either. Exercise, and plenty of it, preferably side by side with his owner, is paramount to the breed’s happiness.”

I consider myself to be pretty dog savvy, and the ownership of a Malinois is intriguing to me. However, I am very aware of my own capabilities, both in physical and mental fulfillment, when it comes to owning a dog that I know I likely can not provide the life a Malinois deserves. So for me to get one, thinking it would be “cool and fun” is sentencing myself and the dog to a long relationship of trouble and unhappiness.

What the movie got wrong.

In my opinion, this movie didn’t get much wrong. I feel they accurately portrayed the (potential) behavior/personality of this breed when its physical and mental needs are not fulfilled. What I will blame them for is for pulling on my heartstrings and making me feel for the dog – but then again, I assume that was their intent. 

Could someone walk out of that movie wanting to buy/adopt a Malinois? Yes, absolutely. And that’s where the problem starts – IF they aren’t prepared and informed.

Do your homework.

At That’s My Dog! we see many cases here in Dubuque, IA, and the surrounding area, of dogs miss-matched to their owners. These dogs were chosen based on the fact that they looked cool or cute, parents were looking for an “energetic dog for the kids,” or an individual wanted an intimidating looking companion for protection. That’s My Dog! dedicates our time by helping owners train their dog the best we can. This includes a lot of education on how to fulfill their dog’s needs, and obedience training to both manage social situations and make the owner/dog relationship stronger.

But when an individual doesn’t have the time or energy to do so, it breaks our hearts, because we know where that story goes.

So today, I ask two things of you…

First, if you are thinking of buying or adopting a dog, no matter the breed, educate and prepare yourself BEFORE you decide on the dog and bring it home. As one of our dog trainers here at TMD says, “Don’t expect to get an A on a test that you didn’t study for.”

And second, buy a box of tissues before you go see the movie DOG. You can thank me later for this one!

~ Sherry

P.S. To all the men, women, and canines who have served, and are currently serving, to keep our country safe and free, we thank you!

Click here to learn more about the three dogs who starred in the movie.

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