The pet owner community has been in an uproar this week over a video leaked by TMZ, showing a german shepherd in distress during the filming of “A Dog’s Purpose,” which is released tomorrow.
PETA has called for a boycott of the movie and Universal cancelled the premiere, but filmmakers and the company that supplied the dogs, Birds and Animals Unlimited say the video was manipulated and the dogs were treated with respect throughout filming.
No one can really be sure whose claims are completely accurate at this time, but (assuming the video was not manipulated), we can look at what 2-year-old Hercules was going through.
Like a humans, dog’s have body language and perform actions to show when they are calm, excited, angry or distressed.
Here an article describing dog body language in-depth.
Now let’s look at the video.
As the video begins, Hercules is across the pool with a trainer holding him (likely by the collar). His tail is down, and due to the mist it is hard to tell for certain whether it is relaxed or distressed, but due to its closeness to his legs, he seems anxious.
The trainer then tries to place him into the water. Hercules tries to escape, his ears appear to go back and his tail goes back-and-forth from a low wag to bending between his legs.
The trainer dips Hercules’ back paws into his water in an attempt to show it is not harmful. After bringing him back up, he pats his thigh and pets his head, which seems to relax him as he stops resisting.
When the trainer tries to put Hercules into the water, Hercules tries to run, his ears fall back and his body lowers. His tail flails.
The trainer dips his body in with Hercules appearing to paw at the wall, but pulls him back up.
Referencing the article, Hercules was indeed showing signs that he was distressed.
The video then jumps to a clip of Hercules appearing to fall under the water, where divers rush to get him up. However, I don’t feel there is enough information at this time to analyze if this was a preventable accident or not.
Regardless of whether “A Dog’s Purpose” is successful at the box office, this video will likely spark a conversation on how the film industry treats their trained animals. Something, that will be further explored in this blog in the future.