This term was coined by cynical screenwriters, basically meaning: show the nasty old crank petting a dog, and you show the audience, aw shucks, he's all right after all.
Often used to demonstrate that a Jerkass
is really a Jerk with a Heart of Gold
, or, if more limited, that the character is goal oriented rather than sadistic and/or thoroughly evil. If used as an Establishing Character Moment
then you skip right past the jerkass phase.
Of course, this doesn't mean specifically petting a cute animal, but any sign of nobility within a morally ambiguous character.
include Photo Op With The Dog
, Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas
, Morality Pet
(a character's entire relationship with a villain is one long Pet the Dog
moment), and Androcles Lion
(where the dog would later reward the one who petted him/her). Compare Licked by the Dog
. A few ways to pet the dog include: being an Anonymous Benefactor
, I Was Just Passing Through
, and Even Evil Has Standards
. Demonstrating Moral Myopia
can also do the trick, by proving the character is not actually It's All About Me
but does regard at least someone else as having rights. Contrast Kick the Dog
, Must Make Amends
(when a character tries to undo or atone for having Shot The Dog
), Bait the Dog
(when this is darkly subverted