While movie fans may be swooning over the four-legged star of Channing Tatum's film 'Dog', experts fear that it may lead to an increase in cases of abandoned Belgian Malinois, the dog breed featured in the film.
The dog star of the hit movie is Lulu, who is played by three different Belgian Malinois. In the feel-good comedy, an army ranger - portrayed by Tatum - is tasked with bringing the military working dog down the Pacific Coast to attend her handler's funeral.
While Lulu is presented as lovable, smart and mischievous, all of which is accurate about the breed, Belgian Malinois experts are asking film fans to do their research before bringing the breed into their home.
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Celebrity dog behaviorist Vladae Roytapel agreed that although the portrayal of Lulu acting "like a hellion" is reflected in the movie, first-time dog owners to the breed might not realize just how challenging the Belgian Malinois can be.
Known for their extreme agility and drive, a Belgian Malinois is regarded as a high energy dog breed with an intense focus to work.
Similar in appearance to the German Shepherd and physically packed with muscles, the breed is frequently used as a K9 police dog due to their high drive, highly territorial nature and keen desire for mental and physical stimulation.
A Belgian Malinois is regarded as a specially bred working dog and is not suitable for the novice owner, as they require plenty of daily outdoor exercise and mental stimulation. Without appropriate handling, they can become dangerous.
"If you don’t genetically fulfill a Belgian Malinois, they're going to be a liability," Somma said. "This breed has a huge financial responsibility. The amount of training and cost for that training is something people need to think about. They are not bred to be standard house pets."
Somma warns film fans against being swayed by the well-trained behavior portrayed in the movie.
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"After $50,000 to $100,000 dollars of training and thousands of hours of training, (the dog) can become that. That is why the breed is so amazing," he indicated.
"(But) the dog doesn’t come to your house knowing how to protect. Because they're untrained, that protection (instinct) becomes a liability."
Abigail Lightning-Bingham, director of Cecil County Animal Services in Maryland, told TODAY she hopes anyone interested in the breed as a result of the movie "Dog" does "as much research as possible."
"As a director of a busy, open-admission animal shelter and experienced Malinois owner, I can’t help but worry about the future implications surrounding new and inexperienced Malinois owners as a result of movies such as this," Lightning-Bingham said.
"Our shelters could very well see an increase in this misunderstood breed resulting in a burden on local shelters to find adequate placement."
Vladae Roytapel agrees that any new Malinois owner should think very carefully before welcoming the breed into their home and should carry out full research beforehand.
"The major mistake people make when they are selecting dog breeds (is) they think that every dog breed is created equal like people," he said. "They are anticipating behavior that dogs are not designed for and that is the root cause of the problems."
"Malinois are truly brilliant animals, and with the appropriate training, make a stellar addition to a household that can provide a Malinois a job and a true sense of purpose," Lightning-Bingham summarized.
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Ashleigh is Digital Editor on PetsRadar. With over 8 years of experience in print and digital media, she has acted as an editorial lead on a variety of projects, with animal themes a keen interest. As an avid animal lover, you can often find Ashleigh checking out the newest trends in animal care or looking at cute cat videos on TikTok.