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Pet Fad Starter

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"Dogs appear in TV shows and commercials as main characters. That starts a fad, and people get those kinds of dogs. Then for various reasons, they can't keep the dogs anymore, and they abandon them. This kind of case still happens every day."

When the appearance of an animal in a work of media leads to a sudden spike in demand for it as a pet. Basically, an animal version of The Red Stapler. This is quite common with dog breeds that become popular due to a TV show, as many dogs on TV are purebred, and anthropomorphized animal superheroes such as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

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This should go without saying, but buying an animal on impulse is a bad idea, and can lead to undue stress on both pet and owner. When a movie featuring a certain animal comes out, advocacy groups often put out messages to discourage people from suddenly buying it, and for good reason: when the hype dies down, people—especially children—often grow bored of the pet, especially when it turned out to be more work than they expected. This has led to a lot of animals being killed, abandoned, released into the wild regardless of the effect it may have on the local ecosystem, or worst yet, living a short, miserable life due to inadequate care. It doesn't help that high demand can lead to breeders churning out the animals as fast as possible and passing off creatures prone to various health problems, like inbred dogs or wild-caught reptiles, onto unwitting buyers. On top of all that, oftentimes, media will skate over the messy parts of pet ownership, like a given species or breed being aggressive, high-maintenance, difficult to train, bad with kids, hard to house, or unsuitable as a pet altogether—resulting in clueless first-time owners picking up a pet that they really should not be trying to take care of, even if it's one in good condition and they're willing to tough it out.

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Fortunately, this trope is not as rampant as it used to be, since social media has the power to put any species in the spotlight. Nowadays, any creature that can be kept as a pet (one way or another) will have a slew of websites and forums dedicated to its captive care, allowing would-be owners to do plenty of research before making a purchase. In the past, people had to trust the word of their local pet store, whose biggest concern was obviously making the sale, and whose clerks might not be the most knowledgeable about specific breeds/species. While the internet doesn't eliminate this trope completely, it does reduce the number of turtles ending up in sewers for real.

Sub-trope to The Red Stapler.


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Examples:

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     Advertising 
  • The famous "Taco Bell Dog" is often cited as the original source of the popularity of the Chihuahua breed.
  • Morris the Cat, the 9-Lives cat food mascot, is sometimes cited as a pre-Garfield example of this occurring for orange tabbies.
  • The mascot for the dog food company Cesar is a West Highland White Terrier. Advertisements for the brand helped boost the Westie's popularity.
  • "Hush Puppies" is an American brand of shoes whose mascot is a Basset Hound. This has been cited as helping popularize the breed as a pet dog instead of just a hunting dog.
    • The dog has such a strong association with the brand that there are people who actually believe the breed is called "Hush Puppy".
  • In the UK, the toilet tissue brand "Andrex" has been advertised by a Labrador Retriever puppy for decades. It is the UK's most popular dog breed. It doesn't hurt that Retrievers are a relatively docile and beginner-friendly dog breed.
  • Paint brand Dulux started using the Old English Sheepdog as its mascot in the 1960s. The adverts have done at least as much for sales of the dogs as it has the paint.

     Anime and Manga 
  • St. Bernard dogs became very popular because of the dog Joseph in Heidi, Girl of the Alps. Curiously, he doesn't appear in the original novel.
  • The popularity of the 1977 anime Rascal the Raccoon was single-handedly responsible for the introduction of feral raccoons in Japan. Up to 1500 raccoons were imported as pets, but now the descendants of abandoned or escaped raccoons live wild in 42 of Japan's 47 prefectures.
  • Hamtaro made many people want hamsters, and in some lands it was a true boom. It faded some years after, however.
  • Discussed in-universe in Massugu ni Ikou. A news clip talks about abandoned fad pets at a shelter that's received 36 dogs this year (with 28 of them being put to sleep). Gen's owner got him as a middle schooler but didn't know how much trouble a Husky would be. Gen begins acting sullen and barks to nothing, so his owner decides to give him to someone in Hokkaido so that Gen can have space to exercise.

     Art 
  • A relatively obscure dog breed, the Weimaraner has gained popularity through William Wegman's photos and videos featuring this breed.
  • The Saint-Bernard Rescue trope helped popularize the breed. It dates back to an early 1800s painting by Edwin Landseer.

     Film — Animation 
  • One of the more famous examples is 101 Dalmatians. The film made the breed more popular, and as a result, demand jumped up. Like many "fad" animals, several were abandoned a few months later, aided by the fact that Dalmatians are very high-maintenance dogs that many owners aren't prepared to deal with.
    • In addition, Dalmatians—descended from Croatian warhounds and bred specifically as coach and carriage guard dogs—consistently score in the top 10 (and often top 5) of the most aggressive dog breeds. High maintenance plus an aggressive breed equals a lot of problems. They are described as not an appropriate first dog for anyone.
    • Even worse, Dalmatians are notorious for having hearing problems—up to 30 percent are either hard of hearing or completely deaf.
  • As with Dalmatians, Lady and the Tramp led to a sharp spike in demand for the Cocker Spaniel breed. While cockers are genuinely very sweet, friendly dogs appropriate for most beginning dog owners, the poor breeding done to meet the demand compounded the health problems the breed already had.
  • When the film Rio came out, some people feared that the film would lead to an increased demand for parrots, which would've been particularly bad since parrots are extremely high-maintenance animals that need constant attention and lots of patience, not to mention they often live for several decades. Thankfully, that never came to pass, though likely for cost reasons; parrots (except for budgies) are expensive and run from several hundred to a few thousand dollars. Not exactly an impulse buy, especially for a first-time bird owner.
  • Ratatouille caused a demand for pet rats. Not the worst case, as rats are relatively easy to care for even for a child, but it did lead to some abandoned rats.
  • Finding Nemo made tropical saltwater fish popular for a while, which was pretty ironic because a major point of the movie was that wild fish belong in the ocean.
    • Precautions were taken so the phenomenon wouldn't repeat with the sequel Finding Dory. Signs were put in pet stores advising beginning aquarium owners against adopting saltwater fish like Dory, pointing out how expensive and difficult taking care of them is.
  • All Dogs Go to Heaven increased demand for German Shepherds. Of course, German Shepherds have always been highly popular, and are an easy-going and relatively low maintenance breed.
  • Balto:
    • Balto thankfully didn't do this for wolf-dogs (who are very high maintenance and more like wolves than dogs, not to forget illegal in many regions), however it did help boost interest in the Siberian Husky.
    • It might have had something of a pseudo-effect of this trope: there was already a practice of selling Husky mixes as wolf-dogs (without even a drop of wolf blood in them) to owners wanting an exotic pet, and Balto's success increased viewer interest in the hybrids.
  • Thanks to Zootopia's huge popularity in China, demand for red fox and fennec fox pets increased. Not surprisingly, wildlife experts express concerns for this trend since most foxes found on the pet market "are not commercially domesticated, often not vaccinated and can be dangerous".
  • Averted with Coco. There were worries that Dante would cause a surge in Xoloitzcuintli's, however that didn't happen. It caused many people to learn about the breed, though.

     Film — Live Action 
  • The Disney film Snow Dogs led to a short spike in demand for Huskies, the breed featured in the film.
  • Legally Blonde is one of a few things that has been credited with popularizing Chihuahuas as "accessory" dogs.
  • Marley & Me made the already popular Labrador Retriever even more popular despite the fact how high-maintenance Marley was. Luckily, as mentioned before, Lab Retrievers are relatively docile and beginner friendly.
  • The original Our Gang shorts helped popularize the Staffordshire Bull Terrier (also called the American Staffordshire Terrier, according to some sources) in the early 1900s. Pete was smart, loyal, and good with kids, which made the breed become popular with families (to the point where it had a nickname of "Nanny Dog").
  • 101 Dalmatians (1996) sparked a new rise in the sales of Dalmatian puppies 35 years after the animated film. The Dalmatian looks funny but is an extremely high-maintenance dog, and any child who thinks that this would be a good dog to own without the sort of dedication children are well known for being incapable of should be set straight rather than obliged in their request.
    • The release of 102 Dalmatians, with a blue-eyed white puppy named Oddball, triggered a run on blue-eyed white Dalmatian puppies from parents who didn't realize that the blue-eyes gene is strongly associated with deafness. (You thought a hearing Dalmatian was high maintenance? Try a deaf one...) Blue-eyed white Dalmatians (and indeed, Dalmatians in general) were bred at such a rate that puppy mills would inbreed lines with extreme prejudice if they could get away with it. They usually did, and caused enormous damage to the breed in general, with congenital defects ranging anywhere from extra dewclaws to clubbed limbs to clinical insanity.
  • Cujo inverted this trope. It caused a decline in the sales of St Bernard dogs (despite the fact the dog is actually rabid instead of naturally mean). This later ended up fixed by the release of Beethoven.
  • The Air Bud franchise boosted the popularity of the Golden Retriever, which was already popular.
  • The Marmaduke film averted this, as the eponymous Great Dane is portrayed as being very high-maintenance to say the least. Certain animal welfare groups were concerned about this trope, but it doesn't appear that the film has done much to increase or decrease the popularity of Danes. The utter failure of the film at the box office probably didn't hurt.
  • I Am Legend likely boosted the popularity of German Shepherds.
  • Beverly Hills Chihuahua did its best to avert this with a message in the credits saying, essentially, "make sure that you really want and are prepared to care for a dog should you get one." Ostensibly, this film is immune to the effect, as it was made in response to a terrible cultural trend that was already in existence (and apparently on the decline at the time). If anything, The Simple Life and Paris Hilton are to blame for the trend that led to the film.
  • The only reason pretty much anyone outside of Africa has even heard of the Basenji is the 1950s novel and film Goodbye My Lady.
  • Most people who saw Turner & Hooch probably couldn't have named Hooch's breed to save their lives. Demand for the French Mastiff didn't explode by any means, but that movie and other appearances in media have definitely invoked this trope, since it's a massive, high-maintenance dog that, as the vet herself said, "not many people [have room for]." they might not have time or money to devote to it either. That's with the movie actually portraying how high-maintenance Hooch was fairly realistically.
  • Jurassic Park increased the demand for frilled lizards as pets, due to their looking like the portrayal of the dilophosaurus in the film.
  • The Lassie and Lad A Dog movies (as well as the Lassie TV show) spawned such a demand for Collies that pet breeders nearly managed to ruin what had been a really good breed. Even today, there are tons of badly-bred Collies with poor health and the brains of an ice cube.
  • The famous true story of the Akita Inu Hachikō and his two movies (one Japanese and one American) might easily lead some viewers on in wanting their own Akita puppy. While the breed is indeed known for their bravery and loyalty, the Akita should only be cared for by an experienced owner as they can be challenging to train and are actually prone to aggression, to the point that some countries have breed-specific legislation banning them or imposing specific responsibilities on their owners.
  • The documentary Pedigree Dogs Exposed created an inversed reaction to this. It brought to the mainstream the health issues of various breeds such as the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Boxer, Pug, and German Shepherd. This in turn caused many people to get into mutts instead of purebreds and start protesting dog breeders. The documentary caused a lot of controversy around dog breeding in general.
  • The popularity of Black Panther (2018) caused an increase in black cat adoptions. Happily, this means previously unwanted cats, who were shunned for being considered unlucky, can now go to loving homes.
  • Toto from The Wizard of Oz put the Cairn Terrier on the map for most people. Even decades later, the popularity of the film leads many to buy or adopt one.
  • Demand for guinea pigs went up significantly for about a year after G-Force came out.
  • When a live-action Disney comedy about a pug called Patrick came out in the UK, Disney collaborated with veterinary groups on a publicity campaign in order to avert this and avoid backlash from advocates. They pointed out that many pugs suffer from severe health problems due to their extreme craniofacial shapes, and agreed to avoid some elements in the film marketing that were considered to pose a risk of getting children to excited about pugs.
  • Similarly averted when Max, a 2015 family adventure movie about a heroic ex-military Malinois dog came out. Enthusiasts of the breed made a serious effort to get into the media and explain that the breed is primarily bred for guard, police and military work; they are highly energetic, strong-willed and predatory, are liable to become aggressive and destructive if they don't have frequent strenuous exercise and mental stimulation, are a terrible house pet, and should not have unsupervised contact with children.

     Literature 
  • The popularity of Harry Potter led to a big demand for snowy owls, to the point that an owl sanctuary had to be opened to accommodate all the owls that were bought as pets but then abandoned. This is not surprising, since owning a "pet" bird of prey is essentially letting a small carnivorous dinosaur into your house. On top of that, they are neither affectionate nor particularly intelligent, stretching the meaning of "pet".
  • The children's book Stargirl provoked some readers to get interested in pet rats.
  • The popularity of Shiloh caused this with Beagles.
  • The popularity of Warrior Cats has gotten many people into cats. Since it's about feral cats, most aren't purebred so fans can't exactly be drawn to certain cat breeds, but fans often get interested in certain pelt colours due to liking characters with said designs. Some cats resemble breeds, such as Bluestar looking like a Russian Blue with the wrong eye colour and Yellowfang resembling a Persian, which also spurs interest in breeds.

     Live-Action TV 
  • The popularity of Lassie led to a large demand for Collies. As with other dog breeds that come into this effect, several were bred to meet the demand, leading to unhealthy, inbred dogs. Many people blame this for health problems the breed has today.
  • Game of Thrones caused a huge leap in the popularity of Siberian Huskies, and other wolf-looking breeds, due to their resemblance to the direwolves from the series. Unfortunately, not soon afterwards shelters began reporting an increase in Huskies due to people abandoning their dogs. Huskies are a large, high-energy breed that aren't recommended for beginners.
  • The 1970s series Baretta, with Robert Blake as a plainclothes police detective, caused a surge in the popularity of sulphur-crested cockatoos as pets (on the show, Tony Baretta has one named Fred). Unfortunately, a lot of people undoubtedly regretted the decision to purchase one, as the birds can be troublesome, loud, demanding pets who chew on just about any solid material they can get their beaks on.
  • For the Jack Russell Terrier segment of the Animal Planet series Dogs 101, a dog trainer gave a report that Moose, the Jack Russel Terrier who played Eddie the dog on ''Frasier, was so well-trained that he made the breed especially popular. Many people thought all Jack Russells were as intelligent as Moose/Eddie and would be just as manageable right from the point of sale. The broadcast of the PBS series Wishbone during its run probably gave the breed's popularity a boost, too.

     Newspaper Comics 
  • Garfield and Heathcliff caused this for orange tabbies.
  • Fred Basset is a comic strip starring a Basset Hound. It has helped popularize the breed as a house pet.
  • Peanuts and Snoopy's popularity caused beagles to become one of the most desired dog breeds ever.

     Video Games 
  • Nintendogs Defied this by including a message in the manual:
    Nintendogs is an interactive entertainment experience centered on puppies. In the uniquely imaginative world of Nintendogs, the young dogs do not age, always remaining puppies. They boast docile habits and personalities, and are easy to handle.
    However, since real puppies are living things, they have habits and personalities that may be different from those of the Nintendogs, so when training and caring for a real puppy, please be sure to understand the real puppy's habits and personality.
    When caring for living dog, the trainer holds ultimate responsibility for the survival and well-being of the dog, so be sure to consult with your family before raising a real dog.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog did raise interest in pet hedgehogs. Adding to this, one of the most popular pet hedgehog names is "Sonic".

     Web Original 
  • Shiba Inus have experienced a spike in popularity thanks to Doge the Internet meme, according to the experiences of Jonathan Fleming, the photograph of the picture that would become the "hipster doge." Fans of the breed advise against first time dog owners owning them. While not bad pets by any means, Shibas are quite a stubborn breed (to the point where many call them "cat-like") and could be hard to handle for inexperienced owners.
  • Several social media influencers, particularly on Instagram and YouTube, have been accused of popularizing brachycephalic (flat-headed) dog breeds, namely Pugs, French Bulldogs, and Boston Terriers. Due to their smushed-in faces, these dogs have very short life expectancies (a typical French Bulldog only lives for about six years on average, whereas most breeds live for about 10-13 years) and a huge menagerie of health and breathing problems, which are only further propagated by the aggressive backyard/puppy mill breeding that's done to meet consumer demand. These issues often lead to massive vet bills, causing many owners to abandon their expensive pedigree pooches. Because of this, rescues dedicated to brachycephalic dogs have cropped up.
  • Many YouTubers and Instagrammers who own unusual pets like foxes and hedgehogs will try to Defy by putting disclaimers in the profile or video descriptions pointing out the difficulties of owning such a pet.
  • Similarly, YouTubers featuring even relatively common pets (whether as the main focus of their channel or as a side feature) will have disclaimers or videos specifically detailing the amount of effort needed to keep one in an attempt to avert this. A notable example is the rabbit-based channel Lennon the Bunny; in addition to general rabbit tutorials and cute videos of Lennon, the channel has videos such as Lorelei (the uploader) showing things Lennon has destroyed, her picking up abandoned rabbits from a shelter so they could receive medical treatment, and her looking at Craiglist ads of bunnies being given away (not without a visceral amount of anger). The point of such uploads is to illustrate the amount of effort needed to make sure a rabbit is healthy, and the impact careless owners would have on an animal.
  • Parodied by The Daily Mash, which wrote a joke article called “Women Under Increasing Pressure To Have Dragons”, about women feeling that they need to have baby dragons as pets because of the popularity of Daenerys Targaryen and her pet dragons from Game of Thrones.

     Western Animation 
  • The fad for pet red-eared slider turtles that began when Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was a big deal in the United Kingdom. A lot of imported turtles were abandoned after the show fell out of favour and the luckiest of them were dumped in rivers and reservoirs. Various areas of Britain report that water features suddenly developed resident turtle populations after the end of the show's run on TV, possibly when owners realised they weren't going to morph into superheroes and that the real thing is rather prosaic and boring - and possibly long-lived. Sefton Park in Liverpool, for instance, now has an unwanted turtle population which defies attempts to cull it and is a pest, preying on native fish and wildfowl. Fishermen across the UK hate the imported alien population of snapping turtles, for their part in depleting fish stocks. Attempts are periodically made to cull them.
  • Many people want a Great Dane due to Scooby-Doo. This is despite Scooby intentionally being the antithesis of what a Great Dane "should" be like. The creators researched Great Danes and made Scooby the opposite of breed standards.
  • Dan Povenmire and Jeff "Swampy" Marsh were apparently aware of this trope when they developed Phineas and Ferb, which is why they deliberately gave their protagonists a pet that was impossible in real life, an animal that kids could not "pick out at a pet store and beg [their parents] for". Perry is a Platypus.
  • Rufus the Naked Mole Rat in Kim Possible has led to kids wanting one for their very own. Common sense provides it's not really a Speech-Impaired Animal in real life, but what even parents might not know is that the naked mole rat is basically blind, not cute, and one of the only mammals that are eusocial — like bees — and so can only survive in an underground colony with hundreds of other mole rats.
  • Sagwa, the Chinese Siamese Cat led to a short spike in demand for Siamese cats, the breed of the titular feline. Much like Warrior Cats, it also got many people into cats.

     Other 
  • Paris Hilton is often credited with/accused of (depending on who you ask) popularizing tiny "purse dogs" like Chihuahuas.
  • Demand for Portuguese Water Dogs went up 50% after the Obama family adopted one so that the allergic daughters could have a puppy.
  • An odd example in that the news is responsible, and a rather tragic one at that: All of the news stories regarding pit bull attacks and dog fighting rings has solidified their image as vicious attack dogs (which isn't accurate), leading to a rise in their popularity amongst unscrupulous owners who just want a tough-looking dog to show off, or, worse yet, to fight against other dogs. Many of these dogs will end up being abused or left tied up in backyards, which causes them to develop behavioral issues (as any dog, not just a pit bull, would in that scenario), and eventually leads to yet another incident of a pit bull attack, and the subsequent news story, and the cycle continues. Dobermans and Rottweilers also suffer from this, to a much lesser extent, but the pit bull breeds tend to get the worst of it. Many have also blamed those who run dog-fighting rings for this problem.
  • The American president Theodore Roosevelt helped popularize the Rat Terrier.
  • Queen Elizabeth II's adoration of Pembroke Welsh Corgis helped transform the breed from an odd-looking herding dog into one of the most popular breeds out there.
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