This week is National Dog Week – an occasion that is always celebrated on Live with Kelly and Michael. Everyday, they show pictures of viewers’ dogs and have one segment each day dedicated to sharing information about dog adoption, ownership and care. Overall, it’s pretty great, and consistently advocates for animal rescue, considering Kelly adopted her dog from the North Shore Animal League five years ago.
But this past Tuesday’s segment appalled me, for lack of a better word. Watch it here. Then, when you’ve finished watching the video, continue reading.
The segment featured Dr. Karen “Doc” Halligan, who has been on the show several times, as well as having written several books and works at the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Los Angeles (spcaLA). I provide this information to show you that “Doc” is a very accomplished, and respected, veterinarian – as she should be, she’s done lots of great work and provided lots of a great information. I’m sure many people turn to her on regular basis for advice about their pets, as I do with my vet. However, her showing on this segment was probably not her best. What went wrong?
Well, first and foremost, the entire segment’s concept (“How to pick the right breed for your family”) is not only misleading for those looking to add a dog to their family, but downright dangerous. To publicly disseminate the idea that every dog of a specific breed is appropriate for, say, a family with kids puts families and children at huge risk for disappointment, injury or worse. This exemplifies exactly what we, as pit bull advocates, fight against. It is unfair, and unsafe, to assume that all dogs of one breed will behave exactly the same. Every single dog needs to be examined as an individual. The only important information knowing a dog’s breed can give an owner is the dog’s general appearance and potential congenital health disorders, but it will not allow you to determine that dog’s temperament.
When choosing a dog for your family, take the advice listed in this article written by Lyn McCallister for Woman’s Day. Her four bullet points will lead your family to thoughtful, considerate and appropriate choices in adding a pet.
Secondly, Dr. Halligan is clearly pressed for time. This is TV, people, and we’ve got to fit in as much information into the allotted time period, right? So, as a result of that, Dr. Halligan seems to have forgotten most of her good dog handling skills. The first dog she shows, the Great Pyrenees, is a senior dog, as she says during the segment. The dog probably has some arthritis, maybe some hip problems, and she tugs and pushes it around with such force that it even makes my joints hurt. Next, she brings out a Pug and Shih Tzu. The Pug clearly only has food on the brain (and is pretty darn cute, no?), but the Shih Tzu is clearly very stressed out. A tucked tail, tense body language, lip licking, dilated pupils. In fact, it even refuses to take a treat from Dr. Halligan several times. The dog then tries to get away from her, just as Kelly throws to commercial break causing Dr. Halligan to inadvertently drag the dog back. To put that dog on television, let alone handle it so haphazardly, shows an incredible amount of carelessness.
Lindsay A. Wood wrote another article for the daily camera explaining some basic positive and negative canine body language which can also be helpful in deciding which dog to take home with you. Using her advice when meeting and evaluating potential new pets can prove to be invaluable later on in a family’s life.
Do I think that Dr. Halligan is at fault for this misinformation? Maybe , but probably not. Do I blame Kelly and Michael? Certainly not, they’re not just doing their jobs, after all (and pretty darn well, I might add). But I do think the producers of this segment, and the producers of the show overall, should make more conscious decisions about the information they allow to air on a nationally syndicated morning show. Sure, they may not know any better – after all, their expertise is in creating great TV. But in doing so, they carry a responsibility to reinforce safe and positive impressions on their viewers. Telling people to pick a dog based on breed simply does not fulfill this responsibility.