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How Subaru Started A Crazy New Dog Trend

Subaru started the dog trend in TV spots with the Barkley family. See why other automakers are now jumping on the bandwagon.


If you are like most people, you don’t like watching those boring car ads on TV unless there is a movie celebrity, a hot female model, or an adorable dog in it. Then you are likely to watch. That’s what Subaru did in 2008 when they launched the first commercial to show a dog driving a Subaru vehicle. The spots were unique, cute, and you watched them. It took a while, but Subaru might have started a crazy dog trend.

Have you seen all the auto ads with dogs in them now? Automakers like Hyundai, Kia, Ford, Toyota, BMW, Honda, and Lincoln all have dogs in some of their TV spots. You see dogs hanging out of car windows with their tongues hanging out looking like it’s the best deal since dog treats. It took about 10 years for other car brands to feature dogs in their new SUVs, but it looks like you are going to be seeing a lot more of them.

2020 Subaru OutbackThe Barkley family started it all and you loved them

The national television spots we created by ad agency Carmichael Lynch on behalf of Subaru of America. They created the “Dog Tested Dog Approved” campaign that has been a huge success for the brand. The ads scored big with families in two ways, as they pay tribute to the scenarios Subaru drivers find themselves in with their own families, while also showcasing the brand’s longstanding love of pets.

Subaru even brought the Barkley dog family to the LA Auto Show when they unveiled the all-new Subaru Ascent family vehicle. Tom Doll, COO of Subaru of America announced the new 3-Row family hauler as the Barkley family drove in the car onto the stage and then piled out to pose for the media.

2020 Subaru AscentThe Barkley family helped launch the all-new Subaru Ascent

Subaru says, “We have a long-term commitment to pets and animal welfare, so the Barkley family has been a natural way for us all to bond over this shared-love of pets. Plus, they’re fun and a bit of whimsy. We’ve all imagined what our pets ‘alter egos’ would be; the Barkleys is living that out loud.”

It’s a smart move by Subaru and now other automakers are jumping on the dog bandwagon. According to a pet owners survey, there were approximately 89.7 million dogs owned in the U.S. in 2017, an increase of over 20 million since the survey began. In, 2000 they were around 68 million dogs in the U.S. alone.

2020 Subaru Outback at the Chicago Auto ShowSubaru hosts pet adoption events at many auto shows

As the automaker does at most auto shows, Subaru is hosting a pet adoption event at the Chicago Auto Show running February 8-17, 2020. If you attend, you can check it out at the Subaru exhibit inside the McCormick Place Convention Center to interact with shelter pets and even adopt a furry friend and take one home.

With so many dog lovers in America, Subaru has capitalized on it for the last 12 years, and now many other automakers are on it. Subaru’s latest TV spot includes the Barkley family driving a newly-redesigned 2020 Subaru Outback wagon.

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Denis Flierl has invested over 30 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. All of his reports are archived on our Subaru page. Follow Denis on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Subaru Report. Check back tomorrow for more Subaru news and updates at Torque News!

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Photo credit: Subaru USA


Suzie Daniwl (not verified)    February 18, 2020 - 11:58PM

I would like to see the Subaru Forreater come equipped w an optional pet package, including a large dog/pet carrier and weatherproof mats or a rear seat cover especially designed for pets, to keep the interior cleaner longer.....muddy pet park dog hair etc!