Let’s get one thing straight. Viewers of Britain’s Got Talent vote for their favourite act. They vote for the routine that they like the best. So when it emerged that Jules O’Dwyer incorporated a ‘Matisse lookalike’ into her performance, why should anybody feel outraged, or worse, that they’ve been ‘conned?’
Sure, the act was billed as ‘Jules and Matisse’. But audiences were under no illusion that just one canine was involved, with ‘Skippy’ the three-legged Sheltie also making an appearance in the final. Viewers voted for Jules’ act because, quite simply, it was brilliant. Although comparisons to BGT 2012 winners Ashley and Pudsey are futile, since their act consisted of heelwork to music as opposed to the storyline style portrayed by Jules, it is safe to say that Jules and Matisse were one of the best dog acts seen in the show so far. I’ve never seen a dog perform a ‘pawstand’ before. And it’s not surprising that the performance was so successful – Jules herself is a professional Guide Dogs trainer based in Belgium.
Perhaps the people who feel that they’ve been conned by Jules do not realise how much time and effort goes in to training a dog to that standard. Each part of the routine has to be taught separately before being put together in a process known in the training world as ‘backchaining’, where each individual behaviour becomes linked to the next in a series of hidden cues. Months of dedication from both dog and owner goes into a short performance. Jules has said that she chose to use Chase, another dog belonging to herself, instead of Matisse for the tightrope act as Matisse didn’t cope well with heights and presumably she made the responsible and ethical decision not to force her dog into doing something he didn’t want to do. No doubt some of those outraged at Matisse’s stunt double were the same people who felt that the ‘dog ventriloquist’ act was cruel, because it involved putting an animal in an uncomfortable situation. By that standard, wouldn’t it also have been cruel if Jules had forced Matisse to perform the tightrope act?
Ultimately, a vote for Jules and Matisse wasn’t just a vote for Matisse. Do the people who said that they voted for him alone believe that Matisse would be able to create the routine all by himself? Although Matisse is undoubtedly a fantastic dog, it is Jules who has the talent and I personally hope that she achieves her goal of creating a children’s series with her dogs. So what if a different dog was used? Can your dog walk the tightrope? Mine certainly can’t. There was no fakery here – just ask any of the disabled people whose lives have been enriched by Jules and her dog training.
You can watch the winning performance by Jules and her dogs here.
Note about the blog:
I stopped working on Not So Dangerous Dogs after starting university in September 2014. Now under a new title, I’m hoping to continue the blog’s success by writing about canine topics on a broader scale than just breed specific legislation.
Thanks for all the views!