Millions of people enjoy the Game of Thrones television show, which features many fantastical creatures including “direwolves”. But the TV show’s popularity is having an unintended and negative impact on breeds of dogs resembling the mythic beasts.
Shelters and rescue groups across the United States are reporting a higher number of surrendered and abandoned Siberian Huskies and husky mixes, because the dogs closely resemble the show’s direwolves.
“There’s been an increase over the last several years, and the last three in particular,” Angelique Miller, president of Northern California Sled Dog Rescue (NorSled), an organization that rescues northern dog breeds, told The Dodo. “Last year and this year we’ve really seen an increase that’s about twice what we would normally see.”
She told the news outlet that she knows the TV show and the abandoned dogs are connected because the dogs are showing up with names from characters on the show like “Ice”, “Ghost”, “Sansa” etc.
Unfortunately, people are buying or adopting the huskies soley based on their looks without having done their research into the dog’s temperament, the work required to keep them and whether the breed would be a good fit in their home.
Unlike many dog breeds bred for companionship, huskies are an active, working breed with a high prey drive. They are also highly intelligent and oftentimes don’t like being indoors or fenced in. Furthermore, in their formative years they need a lot of training.
“They are escape artists…so if they get bored, they’ll get under your fence,” Miller said. “And they are pack animals. They do like to be with other dogs and they do like to be with humans, and they like to be inside with you when you’re home.”
Northern California Sled Dog Rescue (NorSled) says they currently have 40 adoptable dogs in their care. They’re struggling to find foster homes and forever homes for the dogs. It’s a common refrain among rescues of the northern dogs. Bay Area Siberian Husky Club (BASH) also has many young dogs in their care.
Hollywood has a long history of creating demand for certain dog breeds featured in their films. When 101 Dalmatians came out, everyone wanted one of the polka dotted dogs. The “dog du jour” phenomenon has actually been studied. Three researchers from the University of Bristol, the City University of New York, and Western Carolina University recently conducted a study titled, “Dog Movie Stars and Dog Breed Popularity: A Case Study in Media Influence on Choice.”
They looked at 87 movies released between 1927 and 2004 and found that the duration and intensity of the rise in breed popularity was shown to correlate with a movie’s success. Lassie Come Home was associated with a 40 percent increase in Collie registrations in the two years following its release in 1943. The Shaggy Dog (1959) saw a 100-fold increase in Old English Sheepdog registrations at the American Kennel Club.
For rescues, such as NorSled, they’ve seen the increase in the past three years as Game of Thrones popularity has surged.
Please spread the word that dog ownership is a big responsibility and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Purchasing or adopting a particular breed of dog based on impulse or love of a TV show or movie is not a good idea. It’s suggested that you reach out to animal rescues, dog breeders and the like to ask questions and to help determine if the dog breed you are interested in will be a good fit with your lifestyle and your family.