Dudhound
Audience knows something and a pet or other animal is trying to alert the protagonist or character, who is oblivious
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(permanent link) added: 2013-01-12 13:54:56 sponsor: putigress83 edited by: TropesofTV (last reply: 2013-01-14 13:15:54)

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"Not now, Fido" or "Ignoring the barking dog"

I think there's a variant that's between Not Now, Kiddo and Evil Detecting Dog - In this case, the dog (or other pet) doesn't have special powers to detect evil or danger; the dog is just an ordinary dog doing its job of alerting its owner/character to an intruder. So, the audience knows that there's an intruder (or something else amiss nearby) and wishes the character would pay attention to the dog, but the character remains unaware, because "we all know" that dogs bark all the time for no reason whatsoever.

The intruder could represent danger to the character or to someone else in the household (sleeping baby), or the intruder could be there to steal something (or plant evidence). The character (frequently, but not necessarily, female) may not be doing anything important at the time - could just be sitting down, reading, watching television, making dinner, coming home.

In a romantic comedy, the intruder may even be a (misunderstood) good guy and by ignoring the dog, the character may miss observing behavior or an incident that sheds a favorable light on the good guy [or gal].

It's not Speech-Impaired Animal, because there's nothing anthropomorphic about the animal. It's also sort of the opposite of Timmy in a Well - if they had paid attention to the dog, Timmy might have been saved, but they didn't. It has characteristics of Faileda Spot Check and may even be a specific instance of a Faileda Spot Check except that ignoring barking dogs in real life doesn't mean you are missing something obvious. The barking is only obvious to the audience because of the story's genre, or because the audience knows that the intruder is there. It is also different because of the author’s purpose. Described Below.

This trope usually is found in mystery, suspense, detective and horror stories, less often in adventure stories and spy thrillers and sometimes in romantic comedies.

It's not Too Dumbto Live, because it's something the audience can relate to - dogs seem to bark for no reason whatsoever; although there usually is a reason, just one we can't see or that's not important to us, but is important to the dog -- like the time I figured out my dog was barking at a well-camouflaged rabbit.

If the dog is ignored completely, the character remains unaware that the dog is sending an alert. This may put the character, someone else, or the dog in danger. If the dog's persistent barking alerts the character, or the dog has stopped barking because it's been silenced by the intruder (killed or distracted with meat), the character will still fail to understand the dog's message and may actually make things worse by following the dog (typically saying "What is it, Fido?) and falling down a hole, walking into a trap, or walking right into the intruder.

In a romantic comedy what distracts the dog and thus stops the barking is likely another dog of the opposite sex. In a romantic comedy, if the character follows the dog and walks into the intruder's arms the result will likely be awkwardness or romance. In both romantic and non-romantic comments, the failure to heed the dog's warning may result in a humorous situation - like stepping in something or having paint spill on the character.

If the pet is a cat, the situation may be identical to that of the barking dog, except the cat will be hissing. An alternative is when the cat completely ignores the danger to the character and doesn't give an alert, because of the stereotype that cats are selfish and useless. In this case, the audience is expected to curse the cat for not being a dog.

If the pet is a horse or other animal, the animal may be physically agitated, may neigh or bleat, and may try to get away, sometimes successfully. This may happen in westerns where the danger is an approaching storm of which the audience is aware, but the character is not. It could also be another non-human danger like a snake the character is about to step on.

It's also different from Not Now, Kiddo, because these are the kinds of things we want and expect a dog or a horse to do - guard us, or keep us from stepping on a snake yet we frequently ignore them.

Authors use this device in order to get the audience involved in the same way that fans watching a game will talk to the players (who can't hear them because the game is televised, or there's too much noise), or try to use mental telepathy or sympathetic magic, in order for the player to make or stop a play/score. It could also be something used to elicit a [[Viewer Stock Phrase]] such as “Look behind you” or “Don’t go in there,” but in this case the phrase is “Listen to the dog, why does no one ever listen to the dog.”

I didn't find any existing tropes, nor suggested tropes in [[YKTTW]], that cover these situations. Is this a sufficiently different trope that it warrants a section or should some of these elements be incorporated into the tropes already there?

This trope can be found all over the place, unfortunately I can only think of the instance I saw last night.

Examples

[[folder: Live-Action TV]]
  • Elementary – In the episode M, Holmes knows that M is about to strike. Cut to living room of potential victim. The dog begins to bark and gets off the couch. The dog is ignored. The dog goes to the kitchen and continues barking, then is silent, because it’s been given food (Is it poisoned?). This raises issues of Notthe Dog or Ruleof Empathy or Kickthe Dog. Potential victim now follows the dog and walks right into M’s arms.
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