A dog is not just for ‘likes’

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The UK is well documented as a nation of animal lovers, so it should come as no surprise that we have just as avid an interest in our furry friends on social media as we do in the real world.

However, national pet charity Blue Cross is appealing for Britons to “put love above likes” today, after new research revealed that one in seven people (14%) would choose a specific breed of cat or dog based on the number of “likes” they think the pet will get on social media.

The research was conducted by Blue Cross to encourage pet owners and would-be pet owners to put love above social media ‘likes’ when choosing a pet and instead consider the unique and individual qualities of every pet, regardless of breed.

The tendency to think about potential “likes” when choosing a pet is arguably a consequence of the explosion of pet content online in the last few years and rising popularity of certain breeds like the French Bulldog and the Pug. The charity’s research also showed that over two thirds of Brits (67%) follow a feed on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest that is “run by” or dedicated to a specific breed or animal, while 10% of us follow over 10 animal accounts.

What’s more, the research suggests a direct connection between the quantity of pet images on social media and the breeds Britons choose to bring into their homes: one in six (12%) pet owners or would-be pet owners said that although they conducted thorough research into a certain breed before choosing their new pet, they were initially attracted to the breed because of images seen on social media.

As part of the research Blue Cross has also compiled a league table of the most Instagrammed cat and dog breeds today:

TOP 15 DOGS BY HASHTAG USE:

Pug (34.5m)

French Bulldog (24.4m)

Chihuahua (21.4m)

Bulldog (18.7m)

Husky (12.9m)

Boxer (15.5m)

Labrador (11.1m)

Beagle (11m)

Dachshund (10.97m)

Shih Tzu (10.4m)

Corgi (10.5m)

Golden Retriever (10.7m)

Poodle (9.4m)

German Shepherd (9.3m)

Pomeranian (8.4m)

TOP 15 CATS BY HASHTAG USE:

Tabby (4.5m)

Maine Coon (4m)

Bengal (3.6m)

Siamese (3.5m)

Persian (2.4m)

Sphinx (3.3m)

Rag Doll (3.2m)

British Short (1.9m)

Birman (590k)

Manx (210k)

Himalayan (177k)

Burmese (162k)

Russian Blue (145k)

Moggy (89k)

British Blue (25k)

The tables reveal a trend amongst dog lovers to focus on pedigree breeds on social media: there are just 159,603 uses of #mongrel and 735,035 uses of #mixbreed meaning they don’t feature anywhere near the top 15, compared to #tabby and #moggy which are prominent amongst Instagram cat posts.

Mandy Jones, Director of Rehoming from Blue Cross commented: “We certainly sympathise with anyone who loves taking photos of their pets or following cats and dogs on social media, but we wish we could get our homeless pets the same numbers of followers! We love every breed; be they pugs and bulldogs or mongrels and mixes. Choosing based on fashion can lead to heartache too; the current fashion for flat faced dogs is resulting in thousands of puppies being born who will have a lifetime of chronic health problems due to being unable to breathe comfortably.

Most importantly we believe every pet is unique and beautiful in its own way so we’d always encourage anyone thinking of getting a pet to consider a rescue and make a decision based on personality as well. Pets come in all shapes and sizes and are much better in real life than online. We hope that anyone who loves looking at pet profiles on social media, will take time to visit the dogs and cats on our website and maybe find a perfect new companion to rehome.”

In light of the research findings, Blue Cross is appealing to pet owners and would-be pet owners to champion the unique and individual qualities of every pet, regardless of breed or appearance. It takes in thousands of pets every year and each one is photographed for their rehoming page when they are ready to find new homes – so, to help make sure that all pets enjoy social media popularity, the charity is sharing some of its expert tips for capturing every pet’s best side, regardless of breed, age, size or temperament.

SOME TOP PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS FROM BLUE CROSS: (more available online)

PLANNING YOUR SHOOT

Get them used to the camera sound in advance – even phones make a “shutter” sound. Give them a treat every time the camera makes a noise so they associate the sound with something positive.

If you’re using a larger camera give them time to get used to your gear as well – lenses look like eyes, so may freak them out the first time they see a big old DSLR with straps hanging down and flashes stuck on top – particularly if you’re holding it up so it obscures your face while you take pictures.

Practise using your camera one-handed so you’re prepared when you need to capture that perfect shot – you’ll be able to use the other hand to hold a toy or treat to get your pet’s attention.

Be prepared - bring toys and their favourite treats. Cut larger treats into small chunks... you may need to use quite a few!

ENSURE EVERYONE IS HAVING FUN

Photograph in short bursts – many pets will get bored and lose interest if you keep them too long

Don’t stick your camera in your pet’s face – though it’s fine for your pet to come to you: try taping a treat to the top of your camera to make it more inviting.

CAPTURING PERSONALITY

Great photography is not just about re-creating perfect portraits – some of the most interesting and charming pictures are ones that capture candid moments - if you’ve got a lazy see if you can capture a big yawn for example.

Make sounds to get their attention – nothing scary of course! But try making making a kissing noise, or click or whistle to capture that quizzical tilted head look.

Celebrate the thing that makes them unique! Old dog? Capture those distinguished greys. Big drooler? Bring along their favourite treat and let them know you’ve got it capture them licking their lips. Cross-eyed kitty? Capture them front on. Loves playing fetch? Get a friend on board and head to the park for some action shots.

GET CREATIVE

Try shooting from the hip or get near the ground – you can even use a selfie stick to get unusual angles. Often, shots from the pet’s eye view are the most engaging.

Bring in some props – is your puppy or kitten really tiny? Accentuate that by having something in the picture like a football to accentuate scale, or perhaps get a friend to be a hand model.

Try getting close-ups of individual parts – a close up of an ear, long whiskers or tufted paw pads for example.

TECHNICAL TIPS

If you can focus on one particular feature of your pet, try playing around with that too. (“Proper” cameras will enable you to do this, but many smartphones also have a feature that lets you pinpoint an area to highlight.) And if in doubt - focus on the eyes.

Anyone looking for the full list of tips and advice can find them on the Blue Cross website at: www.bluecross.org.uk/petphotos - and can rehome one of the many different breeds and cross-breeds waiting for homes at Blue Cross at bluecross.org.uk