Pug Mania

Any of you who know me, know I have a little white pug named Winter who I absolutely ADORE. He is my World and honestly I could write a whole blog post about him alone. But today I’m not going to just talk about him, but dogs in general (and use this as a great opportunity to share lots of Winter pictures).

Small white pug, pug on a walk, pug puppy, puppy pug, white puppy, white pug puppy.Pin It

Whilst cuddling Winter this morning I was wondering what makes me so obsessed with him. Of course he’s adorable, playful, loyal etc … but I didn’t know that before I brought him home, so how did I know I would love him so much? Why do humans love dogs so much that they’re willing to spend so much on them? In the UK the amount of pugs registered has sky rocketed, going from around 1000 a year in 2000 to 10,000 a year in 2015. Reports suggest pugs in the UK are sold for up to around £1500 per puppy.

You may not see traditional advertisements to buy puppies as much as many other products (like clothes or food) but merely their presence in media and around us can increase consumers’ desire for them – in a similar way to how influencer marketing works (read more about that here).  Dogs are allover the place – television, family members’ houses, friends, walking down the street, featured within advertisements etc. I’m not sure how others feel, but I hate the idea of thinking of Winter as a product but that doesn’t change that he is/was one.

Small white pug, pug on a walk, pug puppy, puppy pug, white puppy, white pug puppy.Pin It

Many advertisements are based on showing how a product can fulfil a core human need (physiological, safety, belonging, self-esteem & self-actualisation) as discussed by Maslow. Dogs also appeal to these human needs naturally, mainly our need for belonging due to their loyalty and affection toward their owners. In turn, this reinforces feelings of belonging within the owner making humans want to have one in their lives to make them feel loved. This feeling can also help to increase self-esteem within owners, aswell as creating opportunities to meet more people (e.g. other dog owners). Additionally, dogs often provide unconditional love, which could be deemed the equivalent of unconditional positive regards for humans, which is essential human wellbeing and healthy attachments to form.

Small white pug, pug on a walk, pug puppy, puppy pug, white puppy, white pug puppy.Pin It

Another way in which pups ‘sell’ themselves to us, is by literally flooding our blood with ‘love’. Looking at dogs can stimulate release of oxytocin within humans, a hormone which creates feelings of love within a human. In a phenomenon referred to as the Oxytocin Gaze, this is mirrored in dogs when they look as us too – meaning Oxytocin is also released into their blood stream.

Small white pug, pug on a walk, pug puppy, puppy pug, white puppy, white pug puppy.Pin It

Dogs being shown in these ways (loyal, loving, affectionate) in movies, YouTube, magazines, in the street, on your Facebook feed etc. unintentionally acts as advertisements. Which many people have argued is how popularity of brachycephalic (flat faced) dogs has soared over recent years. Additionally, merely being repeatedly exposed to dogs in media increases both a person’s positive toward them and their desire to have one. This could have interesting applications within the advertising industry in regards to new ways to advertise.

It almost feels wrong to try and justify what feels like such a pure love, but it was really fun to be able to spend the day reading about pups and looking at Winter pictures. What do you think? Do we love dogs purely because they’re amazing or is there a psychology behind why we love them so much and are willing to spend so much on them? Or are you a cat person?

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64 Comments

  1. Connor_Sumer

    Hi There!

    As the article was dog related I felt that I had to comment!! I too have a great love for dogs, my girlfriend and I bought our first dog together about 6 months ago and Daisy is still as cute as ever (tried to post a photo of her but was unable to…sad times).

    I completely agree that dogs sell themselves without the need for advertisement, by simply seeing pictures of puppies we are infatuated by them and almost instantaneously fall in love – but why? I looked around and found that as humans we are more likely to emphasise with a dog than a human by a considerable margin, this is due to the ‘cute’ factor that dogs possess (Harrisons Fund, 2017).

    Social media is also a great way that dogs can be ‘advertised’ unintentionally, I mean puppy videos on YouTube are a gold mine! As well as the array of instagram pages devoted to specific breeds or simply the owners crating a page for the dog themselves (my girlfriend did this almost instantly with Daisy). All in all, dogs are amazing and I apologise if I went on a bit of a rant…

    References
    https://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/humans-empathy-dogs-more-people-study-animals-pets-a8033056.html

  2. shn18jhy

    One of my favorite blogs of the semester. There’s certainly a halo effect around dogs. As soon as I saw the title of your blog and the pictures of Winter, my mood just soared. I loved your commentary and your explanation into how dogs “sell” themselves to us, but also how they are used in an advertising context. My undergrad background is actually in screenwriting and one of the lessons we learned is that in order to make an anti-hero type of character more likable, they either need to be kind to kids or to a dog. It cannot be a cat. It has to be a dog because of how people react to them. It was amusing to see that reflected in the science and in the marketing here.

    You make a great point about the mere exposure effect, and I also think that the idea of perceived ownership comes into play. We imagine what it’s like to have the dog and feel compelled to pursue those feelings and that sense of belonging and kinship. I especially like how you tied in Maslow’s hierarchy and how advertising is really about curating the various needs of the consumer. A higher-level purchase like a pet is bound to require a more involved type of marketing to prey on those emotional needs.

    The Oxytocin Gaze! I didn’t realize there was a name for it, but that’s brilliant. I’ve heard of Direct Gaze Induction as an advertising tool — having a subject look directly into the camera/the perception of making eye contact with the viewer — increases the saliency of the advert. I wonder if it transfers to dogs as well: whether they seem to be directly engaging with the implied audience.

    All in all, a really uplifting and interesting read. Thanks for sharing and happy holidays!

  3. Carmela Iannotta

    Another amazing post! This concept never really crossed my mind, but thank you for opening my mind to it! The fact that we don’t need to advertise dogs is super interesting and it got me thinking about the way dogs and cute animals are used in advertising (e.g. the andrex puppy, the dulux dog). I came across this paper that finds the presence of dogs in advertising causes an increase in heuristic processing and concurrent processing, and ultimately our own attitudes toward the actual ad. Interesting read, here’s the link if you’d like a look 🙂 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0148296307001889. Well done again x

  4. Marilu Louw

    I love this! As a dog owner and animal lover I can completely relate. In fact I believe that this could be applied to pets in general. I believe that it goes beyond the cute factor and that there is a deeper meaning to why these ads are so effective. It appears that we tend to have a deeper emotional connection to ads that have animals in them as we have bonds with our own pets and see them as part of our families and not just merely a pet. Quite an interesting read and concept is this paper on human-animal bonds https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1545-5300.2009.01297.x . Another interesting paper that speaks about animals in advertising is http://www.huichawaii.org/assets/stone_sherril_the_psychology_of_using_animals_in_advertising_ahs2014.pdf which talks about the emotional response stimulated by these types of ads. Well done on this!

  5. Michelle Ogun

    Winter is adorable!
    Owning a dog does fulfill a psychological need in humans. As in Maslow’s hierarchy, there is a need to want to belong as well as a need to be needed. Dog lovers have a whole gamut of benefits, which they say are scientifically proven, of owning them:
    They improve our mood dramatically
    They protect children from allergies and skin conditions
    Humans with dogs recover more quickly from illness.
    Having a dog improves your physical wellbeing and encourages a healthy fitness routine.
    Dogs make excellent service and alert animals.
    Of course, I have no proof about the veracity of these claims, but dogs are cute, nevertheless. Perhaps a dog’s gaze raises the oxytocin levels in its owner. But they sure do melt hearts!

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