Video shows terrified German Shepard forced into rough waters on set of A Dog’s Purpose

4 min read

A Dog's Purpose german shepard abuse surfaces

Update: Following an investigation by a third-party, American Humane have found no evidence supporting claims of animal abuse and mistreatment, and claim the original video was edited with the intention of being disingenuous. Original report follows.

Animals used within the film industry have had a chequered past. Often, their inclusion is done under the trusty supervision of handlers and welfare supervisors to ensure that they’re not harmed during filming. Other times you get some truly horrific stories about their treatment on set.  The latest one is a new video showing some abhorrent treatment of a German Shepard on set of the (would be) animal lover’s film, A Dog’s Purpose.

The footage, which was filmed all the way back in November 2015 but published by TMZ last night, shows an attempt to shoot a scene featuring one of the many dogs featured in the film battling some simulated, rough waters. The German Shepard is clearly not at ease with the situation, clawing at the sides of the platform while his handler attempts to get him in the water. Hercules, the name of the German Shepard, is eventually thrown into the water by the handler, and moments later falls beneath the surface as the footage cuts.

It’s clear that’s not part of the scene, as other handlers scramble to the scene after the director shouts “cut it” in the clip. The clip immediately went viral, with animal rights group PETA jumping on the case. Shortly afterwards the American Humane Association member on duty during the shoot was suspended, with PETA releasing an official statement on the matter.

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The producers of the film underneath Amblin Entertainment were quick to react, releasing a statement of their own that stated Hercules was not only unharmed from the incident, but completed filming of the scene at a later date. In other words, they shot it again.

“On the day of the shoot, Hercules did not want to perform the stunt portrayed on the tape so the Amblin production team did not proceed with filming that shot.”

Amblin made it clear that Hercules was not thrown in the water, and that the shoot was not undertaken with him being uneasy. Which is a little difficult to swallow, given that the footage above shows none of that care being taken in the first place. So why assume subsequent shoots were any different?

For a film that’s all about the “celebration of the special connection between humans and their dogs,” this is the sort of treatment of man’ best friend that not likely to sit well with any of the intended target audience. And it’s completely unnecessary too – given the progression of CGI and it’s ability to yank actors and animals alike out of would be dangerous shooting situations. There’s no need for an animal to be put at risk like this, and especially so for the purpose of entertainment.

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A Dog’s Purpose is out sometime in the near future. I won’t be watching it.

Last Updated: February 7, 2017

Alessandro Barbosa

You can all call me Sandy until I figure out how to edit this thing, which is probably never. Sandy not good enough? Call me xXx_J0k3R_360degreeN0Sc0pe_xXx. Also, Geoff’s a bastard.

  • Alien Emperor Trevor

    That dog did not want to get into the water. You can fucking see it was as scared as hell. Fuck that guy.

  • MonsterCheddar

    Now that makes me the MOER in!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Captain JJ

    This is why we have CGI. And on the flip side, the artists get paid so damn little for doing CGI that the big heads probably just opt for the real thing then. They don’t care about either.

    • Hammersteyn

      I’d like to toss that guy down a well, let him tread water for a couple of days

      • Lord Chaos

        Dog should have ripped his arm off.
        This guy should rot in that well

  • Hammersteyn

    I’ve never sworn so much in one minute.

  • Andre116

    yeah…fuck those guys and this film.

  • This is some sick shit. I have connections to an organisation that deals with animal abuse. I have seen abuse and that is abuse, plain and simple.

    For once I actually agree with Peta. This shit should be boycotted, that animal confiscated and re-homed, the Director/handler/whatever should be fined severely and globally banned from owning or handling any form of animal.

    • konfab

      My cats would probably report me to you when it comes to being sprayed for fleas…

  • Hammersteyn

    Head of Amblin when he saw the video went viral

  • Admiral Chief

    From everyone’s reactions I’m glad I did not watch it.

    I LOVE doggos

    • HvR

      I’m undecided, never footage of the dog being thrown in.

      One video of the dog distressed, next cut is the dog already in the pool being sucked under with a handler being at the dog side within second

      Do have a problem with the setup not being checked to see the potential that dog could be pulled under but negligent oversighted doe not equal abuse.

  • Ek voel naar 🙁

  • DragonSpirit009

    What the hell!! How can they force the poor doggy like that just for a film!! That is just a bad trainer. They should be able to see the dog won’t do it. Not to mention at the end of the video. My heart raced with anger!

  • Skyblue

    Ooh this movie is so DOA after that. It does look somewhat edited to make it look pretty awful and it really is awful but compared to what Leo did to that poor bear ;-p

    • Magoo

      I’ll allow it.

      • Magoo

        I mean your joke. I will allow your joke.

        • That was unbearable! 😛

          • Magoo

            Almost barked up the wrong tree!

          • This could be one hell of a cat-astrophe. 😛

  • konfab

    Everyone calm down and look at the video carefully:

    “is eventually thrown into the water by the handler,”
    You are incorrect there. You can see the handler doesn’t let go of the dog during the first clip. At 0:42 you can see the handler pulling it up.
    Which means they are probably trying to get the dog used to the water. This isn’t too different to the way I made sure my cats could get out the pool- you get them used to the water by holding them and slowly dipping them in.

    ” and moments later falls beneath the surface as the footage cuts.”
    At 0:44 you see a different clip spliced onto the first one, which shows the dog going under with a diver next to it. Which means that you don’t really know the time difference between the two clips. Which means you don’t know if the dog was thrown in, or it jumped in on its own accord.

    • So if you were standing on the edge of a bungie jump and did not want to go but were forced to jump you would not be fussed? Make no mistake … he was forced … maybe not thrown but FORCED.

      This is animal cruelty at it’s best.

      • konfab

        I force my girlfriend’s dogs out my room. Does that make me cruel to them?

        Here is what I would consider animal cruelty at its best.

        • Alessandro Barbosa

          “I force my girlfriend’s dogs out my room. Does that make me cruel to them?”

          You doing that in no way puts the dog’s well-being and life at risk. A very important differentiation.

          • konfab

            The dog in the video’s life isn’t at risk as there are people around them who would immediately save it if it got into trouble (which is what looks like happened).

            As for the well-being: they get sad and whine if they cannot sleep in the room.

          • Alessandro Barbosa

            And yet could easily still come to harm if not comfortable in the water, which has enough force to throw him under or against the sides causing harm well before anyone can help.

            But it’s clear by your last line what your overall feelings towards animals are, so I won’t try argue with you any further. Waste of my time

          • konfab

            Isn’t it easy to jump to ad hominem? I can’t have animals in the room where I sleep because I get really bad asthma

            Here is the number to the SPCA where I got my two fur babies from: 021 864 3726. You better report me as clearly I am not suitable to adopt cats.

            Tic toc. The time is ticking. Every second you wait is another second they are in my clutches.


          • Alessandro Barbosa

            Condescension noted.

          • Alessandro Barbosa

            “I can’t have animals in the room where I sleep because I get really bad asthma”

            I think then I interpreted your last line incorrectly, because I was in no way implying that not letting animals sleep in your room is bad. If that’s the case, I apologize for that.

        • Forcing dogs out of a room is not forcing them into what they could considder a dangerous situation. Forcing two dogs in a ring is then also okay …. even if only one walks out alive?

          • konfab

            You think this is comparable to dog fighting: where the intent is for one dog to kill another?

          • Forcing a dog into any situation that might be dangerous without regards to the animals feeling …. yes … yes I do.

    • konfab

      Though it doesn’t help with the running commentary saying it must be thrown in.

    • Alessandro Barbosa

      “This isn’t too different to the way I made sure my cats could get out the pool- you get them used to the water by holding them and slowly dipping them in.”

      Uh, yeah it is. A pool is a pool. This is a gushing track of water with eight motors used to simulate a wild river. I’m pretty sure you, as a human who can rationalise the situation at hand, wouldn’t want to get into that without any sorts of harness and protective gear. Nevermind an animal being forced to do so.

      “At 0:44 you see a different clip spliced onto the first one, which shows the dog going under with a diver next to it.”

      According to the release, the dog went under and divers were sent in to rescue it. That’s what happened on set according to the film company, so not sure where you get that conclusion.

      • konfab

        You said:”
        Hercules, the name of the German Shepard, is eventually thrown into the water by the handler, and moments later falls beneath the surface as the footage cuts.”

        There is a distinct break between the two incidents at 0:43. You are making your premise based on edited footage, which was clearly done in such a way to provoke a reaction.

        • Alessandro Barbosa

          No, I’m making off the press release statements and reports of witness, who state that the dog went under, the director yelled to cut and handlers were sent in to save it.

          • konfab

            Put links to those press release statements and witness reports.

          • Alessandro Barbosa

            Links are present in the article

          • konfab

            Neither one of those links contain a witness report from someone who was there…

            This is smelling of sensationalism…

          • Alessandro Barbosa

            So the witness report isn’t so much a report, but rather the indication that a crew member was disturbed by the events that occurred during the shoot. Although not a witness report, if the scene was played out as amicably as the studio implies (dog wasn’t happy, they tried only when he was calm), this wouldn’t be the case.

            Digging a little further, one of the films producers seems incredibly distressed at the footage, and brings up the question as to why this scene, filmed in 2015, was not brought to the attention of the rest of the crew when these clear complications arose.

            ““In the time I was on set, I never saw, in any way, the animal handlers stressing out the animal,” he continued. “But I wasn’t there for the second unit. If I had been, I would have stopped it. All I can say is that I hope that bringing this out leads to better treatment of animals. I know the studio is outraged and investigating this.”” –

            American Humane also reviewed the footage and found enough evidence to warrant further investigation, and suspended their representative who was on set and supposed to watch over and prevent these events from occurring. “When the dog showed signs of resistance to jumping in the water, the scene should have been stopped.” (same link, and linked in the via the sources in the article).

            The film’s director (who apparently was not on set) has also lashed out at the footage and welcomed the investigation into checking who was responsible

            So it’s pretty clear that those closet to the film are all disturbed by what they saw, and are looking to the investigation to see what wrongdoing might have occurred. If it was a cut and clear as “this has been edited, it never happened that way”, I think both the studios statement and the ones from both director and producer would be vastly different. Of course until that investigation concludes, that’s still up for question. But it’s evident the dog was not comfortable with the situation he was being forced into, and that alone should’ve been grounds to call it off.

            Funnily enough, the same producer describes a scene with a dog and fire, but “(the fire) was done digitally so it never stressed out the dog”. Not sure why the same couldn’t be done here, so as to avoid the exact same sorts of traumatic stress.

          • Skyblue

            Not to play Devils Advocate here but when you argue a case from “So the witness report isn’t so much a report” and factor in that TMZ waited until the week of release before making this clearly edited video public, it clearly smacks of sensationalism.

            In no way, shape or form do I agree with what Hercules was put through because it’s clearly traumatizing to the animal but the outrage sparked is a clear indicator of the age we live in where EVERYONE gets a voice, regardless of their ability to reason.

      • HvR

        There is a diver/handler in the water the whole time. Women, green wetsuit, blue squeaker in hand.

        Not very happy with what I see there but would also like to see unedited version before casting judgement. PETA and TMZ doesn’t have the best record when it comes to the truth.

        • shebeast

          The American Humane Association has pulled their rep that was on site to make SURE crap like this doesn’t happen. And Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, who had formed a partnership with them, has severed that tie and will not receive the donations from the film originally set up. They would rather do without the blood money than support this.

          • Matthew Holliday

            No, they pulled her because thats what you do when you make an investigation.
            No comments have been made as to her guilt yet.

    • Matthew Holliday

      Im with you on this
      Defranco makes a few pretty valid points on this topic.

      There is no clip showing them forcing the dog in, and there is a massive time skip.
      That is alot of missing context.
      Titling this “dog forced into pool” is jumping the gun. clickbait etc.

  • They should be jailed. Simply boycotting the movie is not enough.

  • Viper_ZA

    Daai ou moet dik gedonner word!~

  • Magoo

    This dog’s purpose is to make money. But tell the audience what they want to hear.

  • 40 Insane Frogs

    Where’s John Wick when you need him!?

  • shebeast

    I have a GSD, and the thoughts of what that dog went through make me want to seriously harm those people. I want to know what happened to him. As the clip ends, he’s doing under. Did he get out safely, did they continue to film with that dog, did they force it to do that scene over and over again? Google searches haven’t turned up anything. Someone’s, or several someones’s, asses should be a sling over this. Pure, unadulteraded animal abuse.

  • Fuck these people

  • Fiona

    ag no and i really wanted to see this movie – how can anyone do that to a dog?
    Ok honestly i did not watch the clip as these things upset me way too much – I cannot bear to see animals in pain or distress :'(

  • Daniel Hallinan

    So… uh… this is a bit late to the party in internet terms so I’ve no idea if ANYONE here will see it, but a dog trainer and behaviorist commented on this.

    In summery: The rushing water is naturally a scary environment for any animal, but the trainer is seen encouraging the dog and SLOWLY INTRODUCING it to the water. The trainer isn’t acting violently, you can see their actions aren’t snappy with frustration, anger, or cruelty. Listen to the commentator – the dog’s legs touched, he knows it’s not cold, etc. Stunt dogs do this shit all the time, and this is clearly a one that’s not been exposed to this type of stunt as of yet.

    It’s all about context. If you watch the video under the assumption that cruelty is happening, you’ll see cruelty. If you watch it under the assumption that they’re slowly introducing and training the stunt dog to the environment in which it will perform.

    I’m honestly disappointed with several people that reacted so hotly and blindly to this, and with such conviction :/

  • HvR


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