Project Puppy: first installment

A few years ago, a friend of mine who is a well-known animal photographer asked me to assist her with handling dogs on a shoot she was doing for a pet food company. The photos were to be used for the packaging and advertisements for this new brand.

Throughout the two days of shooting we had a stream of dogs coming and going, each one as deliciously cute as the previous and next. By midway through the first day, I expressed my concern about how they could possibly choose amongst them. My friend explained that the company had a specific vision for what they were looking for and had actually spent many months making lists of their criteria for the best spokesdog partner for the brand. Taking photos of numerous dogs allowed them to ‘test-drive’ many options in order to make their final choice.

Being that I was helping to handle the dogs on set, I had an opportunity to get to know each of them and their families a bit, and I couldn’t help but to express my concern about the ones who weren’t going to be chosen. As far as I could see, each was a dog that anyone would be proud to have as a representative. My friend smiled and reminded me of how often she had heard me tell people to carefully choose a dog for their family that had the best potential to be a great match.

It was clear that much effort was being put into the choice of a dog spokesmodel and it was considered of extreme importance to all involved. My friend was right that one could only hope that prospective puppy parents would proceed with the choice of a puppy in a similar and even more selective manner. Unfortunately, people tend to spend far more time and effort researching and test-driving cars (or in this case spokesdogs) to find the right one than they do when choosing a canine companion. With that said, there is no doubt that the choice of a family companion dog is deserving of equal or greater consideration than the choice of a spokesdog or car. After all, a dog will be part of your family and live in your home for many years to come.

First thoughts: the ABCs

Care and expense

Mixed breed or pure bred?

Size and activity level


Test drive

Andrea Arden is an animal behavior counselor, rescuer, author, speaker, and a resident pet expert on the Today Show. For more information, check out her website,