The difficulties of being a ‘dogfluencer’

Pets made famous on social media can receive hurtful messages and threats of dognapping

Gatsby and Khalilah. (Ari Lee)

Gatsby and Khalilah. (Ari Lee)

As an animal lover and owner whose amazing pets ultimately became family, I want to share their experiences with the whole world. Although this is not an easy task, I have learned that persistence and appropriate interactions with followers make this possible. 

I have two Catahoula leopard dogs. The breed is not commonly known and is not for novice dog handlers and definitely not for first time owners. 

Initially, I created my dogs’ social media account for personal use like documenting their growth stages and saving memories. Out of curiosity, I set the social media account as public instead of private. All of the pictures and videos strictly and only involved my pooch. There were no politics, controversial topics, or other agendas that could serve as a reason to be offensive. 

For the first few months, I did not pay attention to my dogs’ followers or the uploaded content. I would post anything that served as a memorable moment that involved my dogs, and I was content with their social media status.

My dogs’ social media account started generating followers not long after, mainly from other dog accounts. Most of my dogs’ followers were of the same breed, which was interesting. 

Through social media, I had the chance to connect with my dogs’ littermates, extended family members from Ontario and all over Canada. There were great bonding moments that brought both the owners and the dogs together as we scheduled play dates and kept in touch.

My dogs are full of personality, and I take full advantage of this. Since they were puppies, I used to dress them up head to paws, literally, so they are used to playing dress up. 

Giving them clothes has its advantages because when temperatures reach subzero, I put my furbabies into parkas and hoodies to keep them warm. 

However, sadly, finding fame online is not all sunshine and rainbows. It has its negative aspects such as hate comments, hurtful private messages, and the possibility of dognapping the worst of my worries.

Earlier this year, Lady Gaga’s french bulldogs were dognapped while out with a private dog walker. The dog walker suffered gunshot wounds trying to defend the dogs, but the dognappers ultimately fled with them. Some readers may be under the impression that the dogs were stolen due to Lady Gaga’s celebrity status, but even during COVID-19 lockdowns, police say that dognapping is on the rise

The American Kennel Club, a registry for purebred dogs, has issued a warning for pet owners because dognapping cases are increasing. Dogs are stolen to make profit through breeding and flipping, which is reselling a dog for fast profit. Thieves also use them to make money through extortion, demanding money from the original owners to get their dog back. 

I understand that the good and the bad are all possible outcomes for my furbabies, so I am always careful about what I post on the internet. I do not disclose my location and I only upload general information so my dogs will not be targeted. 

The extra safety measures may seem over the top, but I would rather be safe than sorry. I do not mind them being dogfluencers, but this is not why I keep them, and their protection is the most important thing.