So you went to the movies and one of its unlikely stars was the sweetest little dog. Years later, you are shopping for a puppy and in one of the cages at the kennel, you see the sad eyes of a familiar face… how can you resist? This is a common not-so-Hollywood drama, say a team of researchers from University of Bristol, City University of New York, and Western Carolina University. Their new study found the effect of movies on the popularity of certain dog breeds is related to the general success of the film and is long-lived, lasting up to 10 years.

Given the right data, cultural dynamics and the influence of popular culture can be identified and quantified, or so a team of international researchers believe. Using numbers derived from the American Kennel Club, which maintains the world's largest dog registry covering over 65 million dogs, the team analyzed a total of 87 movies featuring dogs and compared them to registration statistics. Crunching the numbers, the researchers discovered the release of movies featuring a specific dog breed is linked to an increase in popularity of that breed over periods of one, two, five, and 10 years. Plus, these trends relate to the movie’s popularity (or at least the number of viewers during the movie's opening weekend).

The 10 movies with the strongest effect showed a strong influence on registration trends — in the 10 years after premiers of these movies, over 800,000 more dogs were registered than would have been expected from pre-release dog purchases. One example of this is the 1943 hit Lassie Come Home, which, in the following two years, was followed by a 40 percent increase in Collie registrations at the American Kennel Club. A whopping 100-fold increase in Old English Sheepdog registrations occurred after the 1959 Disney hit, The Shaggy Dog.

The authors suggest viewing a movie may inspire a long-lasting preference for a dog breed that remains dormant for years and is only expressed when the time comes to buy a new dog. Unfortunately, this may not be good news for the dogs themselves. “If people buy en masse dogs because they appear in movies the consequences can be negative for the dogs themselves,” said Dr. Alberto Acerbi, a Newton Fellow in the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Bristol and co-author of the paper. “Our previous study found that the most popular breeds had the greatest number of inherited disorders.” When it comes to dogs, it’s probably best to be unfashionable.

Source: Ghirlanda S, Acerbi A, et al. PLOS ONE. 2014.