Sunday, 10 August 2014

The Barking Blondes: What makes a good dogumentary?

Joanne Good and Anna Webb
Dogs TV 768x1024 The Barking Blondes: What makes a good dogumentary?This week we were approached by a TV production company to assist with research into another dogumentary. This is not for the first time, as having presented a designated radio show for dogs for many years, our list of contacts is ever increasing as is our fascination with owner/dog scenarios. However, we declined, not through unhelpfulness but more because one day, when we have time, we hope to reveal on screen the mad, emotional and fantastic doggy world that we have occupied all these years.
But we did ask ourselves “Is there any angle on dogs that is left to tell?” And what makes a good dogumentary?
Dogs have never been this popular, and as the pooch population grows and the hound pound booms, the popularity in dog programmes increases. So far, we have been fed the history of the dog, documentaries showing their intelligence or life saving capabilities, owners who look like their dogs expose, what to feed your dog and the reality show that allowed dogs to speak! It seems every aspect that is ‘amazing dogdom’ has been covered – often several times.  All of them interesting to fellow dog lovers, some better than others, but all covering the same facts.
A while back we agreed to be included in Sky’s A Different Breed.  Radically it looked at the psychology of the dog owner and went on to become a cult TV show in Australia.
So where will these programs go from here?
Perhaps the answer is to focus more on the humans that perpetuate the world of dogs in our modern age. In the past two weeks both Channel 5 and ITV have aired dogumentaries. Five’s examined the dangerous and status dog culture, while ITV provided insight to the horrors of puppy farming. Both touched on the people behind the dogs, but did either present anything new to engage and supply answers?
ITV focused on the surge of illegally imported puppies from eastern Europe, fueled by a demand for buying dogs over the internet, only briefly touching on the ongoing issues of mass puppy farming in the UK.
Channel 5’s airing on why people keep ‘pitbull types’ raised awareness again and threw some light on the situation, however, will it help fix what is rapidly becoming an out-of-control situation? We all know rescue centers are full to the brim with lovable Staffies, and without enough homes to go round, many face death row, but this has been a constant for several years now. Nothing has changed. Despite being an illegal breed under the Dangerous Dogs Act, apparently there’s an estimated 10,000 plus Pitbull types living in the UK. Of course every programme that highlights how with responsible ownership all dogs (including Pitbull types) can be good dogs is commendable, but so far none have succeeded to make any constructive change to what is a bleak outlook for many bull breeds.
Perhaps its time to look at the darker side of dogs? The human machine behind dog exploitation, the mass consumerism, TV adverts, films, or the effects of our throw away culture. The bitching and backbiting often heard out amongst dog trainers would shock many.
So to all you producers out there – you are missing a trick. The history of the dog is being rewritten daily and maybe dogmentaries need to keep up.
Barking Blondes by Jo Good & Anna Webb, published by Hamlyn, £

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