Pet the Dog

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. It's just any attempt to soften the edge of a villain (or Anti-Hero) by showing him engaging in a moment of kindness.

Sub Tropes 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 could also work (if the people they favor aren't evil). Contrast Kick the Dog (doing something evil to establish an evil personality), Must Make Amends (when a character tries to undo or atone for having Shot The Dog), Bait the Dog (when this is darkly subverted).

Example subpages

    Professional Wrestling 
  • When he was not tearing people's faces open with his teeth or stealing masks, Perro Aguayo Jr. could often be found playing with dogs.