Dog Movies Create Ten-Year Spikes in Breeds’ Popularity

“Lassie” alone led to a 40 percent increase in the number of border collies that families adopted

Photo: Blue Lantern Studio/Corbis

After Top Gun came out, the air force saw a spike in military service applicants. After Brave was released, family vacations to Scotland began trending. When a blockbuster features a dog hero, according to new research published in PLoS One, that dog's breed enjoys a boom in popularity. 

The researchers analyzed data from 85 movies that featured canine lead characters and compared those films with millions of records from dogs registered with the American Kennel Club. As ScienceNOW reports, "The effect on dogs has been huge." On average, a popular dog movie can create an increased interest in that particular breed for up to ten years, the team found. 

After Lassie came out in 1943, for example, collies* increased in popularity by 40 percent; the 1959 film The Shaggy Dog did the same for sheepdogs, doubling the popularity of that breed. More recently, the strength of this effect has waned somewhat, the team found (perhaps because of the sheer number of dog movies). But it's still detectable.

As ScienceNOW reports, however, there is also a dark side to this otherwise adorable trend. "Those that became the 'it' dog following their movie debuts were also overbred to meet the demand and through inbreeding have developed the greatest number of inherited disorders," ScienceNOW reports. 

*This post previously said the popularity of border collies increased. but it wasn't border collies specifically, just collies in general.