Max and the Curse of Popularity

I’m worried about the future of the Malinois*. On June 26 MGM will release the movie Max and I hope it tanks. I really do.


People will get a Malinois wanting this


Movies can influence dog choice and the upcoming release of this movie threatens to make the Malinois the trendy dog to have; this effect can be felt 10 years after a movie’s release (Ghirlanda 2014). To make things worse, dog popularity isn’t affected by health or temperament (Ghirlanda 2013); people aren’t choosing a ‘movie’ dog because it fits with their lifestyle but simply because it’s trendy.

The disregard for temperament by trend-driven buyers will result in great misery for the Malinois. This is not a dog that will fit into your lifestyle; this is a dog you get to fit into its lifestyle. Even those who own and love this variant will admit they are difficult and challenging to own. They bite; if it moves they chase and bite it, if it doesn’t move they bite it just in case it might move. They require prodigious amounts of exercise and could tire out an elite Ethiopian marathoner. They are intelligent and highly motivated; but intelligence and motivation is good if you want to do an IronMan triahlon and learn a second language. It’s a curse if  you are stuck alone with nothing to do. For a Malinois, a normal pet life is torture. And you can be sure he’ll make it torture for you too. And did I mention they bite?

People will watch Max, get a Malinois and expect to own the “Air Jordan of Dogs” but that’s movie magic and the work of 5 professionally trained dogs. Instead of Air Jordan of Dogs people will get this:

People will get this

Off to the pound

So I want this movie to fail because if it doesn’t too many good dogs will suffer the curse of popularity.

Also see:

  • Most of the world views the Malinois as one of the 4 varieties of Belgian Shepherds. The AKC considers it a breed and calls it “Belgian Malinois”; I consider the arbitrary reduction in genetic diversity a crime and refuse to use the AKC name.


Ghirlanda S, Acerbi A, & Herzog H (2014). Dog movie stars and dog breed popularity: a case study in media influence on choice. PloS one, 9 (9) PMID: 25208271

Ghirlanda S, Acerbi A, Herzog H, & Serpell JA (2013). Fashion vs. function in cultural evolution: the case of dog breed popularity. PloS one, 8 (9) PMID: 24040341


8 thoughts on “Max and the Curse of Popularity

  1. I agree. They are an exceptional brilliant breed, but they are a lot of dog and do not train like your basic golden or lab. They also have issues with anesthesia and can die if the vet doesn’t know the breed.

    I hope the breeders keep a very very tight rein.

  2. I agree with your assessment. I hope this movie does not get kids wanting the Malinois. I never thought the dalmatian (101 Dalmatians) belonged in a home with other pets or even kids. I saw a few of them bite without provocation.

  3. Baloney. People will be interested in the Malinois. The dog isn’t presented as Rin tin tin or Lassie, but a hero dog with his own psychological issues. Maybe a Malinois will be rescued because someone will consider it possible instead of a Devil dog. Those who want a “bad dog” will have seen the millions of videos out there. One movie won’t convince them any more than it will convince thousands to get into search and rescue. A fair portrayal of the dog, both good and bad, joy and sorrow, can only help canines, just as “My dog Skip” did. As an owner of Belgian Sheepdogs (in Europe, they are called Belgian Shepherd, Groenendael), I hope this movie enlightens people — makes them thoughtful about the war dog and what happens to them after the battle is over. Keeping the dogs as some deep dark secret only plays into the very mystique people so fear from this movie. Put out good information about the dogs — that they require dedication, management and a job, but don’t think that making the dogs a mystery full of mythologies will solve the problem of unwanted or poorly managed Malinois.

    • The research, included in the references shows otherwise; movies do influence what kind of breed people choose and people don’t pay attention to looks more than temperament or health. I wish what you were saying was true; it isn’t.

      Like you, I’d like it if people got a Mal based on such rational decisions but it just does not happen.

  4. Even ads on TV seem to create public demand, for border collies as an example. People uninformed about this breed just assumed that they were so smart they would train themselves, and then rescue groups started to get one-year old BCs who were discarded as pets because when they were bored and neglected they became destructive and neurotic. Also some greedy dog breeders sold carelessly bred dogs just to cash in on the BC craze. Many of these poor dogs didnt have a chance at the life they should have had. The lucky ones thrived at obedience and agility if they were not part of a herding team. Working breeds must have jobs to do. Why is that so hard to understand? Thank you C elegans for your good discussions.

  5. When walking my Mali, people are always stopping me to say how beautiful she is. I am often asked if she is a Malinois. I always try to get the point across, that this not a breed that you can put in the back yard and expect it to stay. I explain that she gets very restless if she does not get enough exercise. I put in minimum of one hour in the morning and one in the evening, without fail. This breed is very smart and has a very high drive. Not a dog you would trust to a child with no experience with handling canines. I agree I hope our fears are for nothing and this does not happen.

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