The Changing Status of Dogs:
One Bark at a Time
Why do pet owners have paintings and photographs of there pets? Author Katherine Grier writes, “Since the seventeenth century, having portraits made of family members has been one of the most important ways that Americans made statements about their feelings toward one another, their status in their communities, and their desire to preserve the history of their families for posterity” (124). As time progressed animals that were kept as pets began to have different roles for their owners and now they too are being considered a family member. Pets are slowly taking over the world of art as their own roles within the ...view middle of the document...
One other thing that dogs were and will always be used for is teaching. Teaching children gentility is not easy. This is a very young child in the painting and the small dog in the portrait could have also been used to teach the boy/girl about being gentle towards animals and dogs in particular. As the seventeenth century concluded and society began changing, so did dogs.
Eighteenth century artist, Jean Baptiste Oudry, created the work of art named, Dog Guarding Dead Game. This 1753 French painting was created using oil on canvas as well. Grier states, “In the eighteenth century, some pet owner must have dedicated time to training their pets…” (95). This is true, especially with people that used dogs like Labs to hunt with. Training any animal is a difficult task to due and it is apparent that owners did in fact take the time to train. Some of the best trainers in the eighteenth century were hunters. They had to train their dog to track, retrieve and guard their killed game. Oudry’s painting depicts exactly that relationship between hunter and dog. The hunter that tied up the dead game has placed his Labrador-looking hunting dog as the guard dog. This dog and other dogs used for hunting made great companions for hunters because of there ability to be trained and perform there given task on command. Dogs have always been used as hunting partners and always will be, but since the end of the eighteenth century, pets have been taking over more of a family member role than anything else.
Nineteenth century artist, Thomas Waterman, developed his piece of work, His First Smoke, in 1891. The native painting was also made on oil canvas in the United States. The author, Grier, says, “…by the 1860s, a good bi of this literature was directed to children, reflecting the assumption that all children kept, or should keep, pets,” (17). Waterman’s portrait of the young kid and his pet, a St. Bernard, reinforces this quote. This boy and dog appear to have a much more intimate relationship with each other than the seventeenth century portrait. Dogs were no longer used as status symbols as much in society as they were. The St. Bernard is more than just a pet to the child. He/she is family to the young boy and is almost like a guardian to the child. The...