Tara Huveneers

Dogs as Performers

A Case Study of 'Going to the Dogs' by Wim T. Schippers

'Going to the Dogs' is a theater play by Dutch writer, artist, and television director Wim T. Schippers. The play, performed twice at the Stadsschouwburg in Amsterdam in 1986, featured a cast of six German Shepherds, without any human actors on stage. The play received both positive and negative national and international attention, becoming sold-out both times it played.


'Going to the Dogs' theaterplay by Wim T. Schippers 1986 - Made by Wim T. Schippers, taken from kAdeBoeken .

Breaking Taboos

Wim T. Schippers is known for his provocative and innovative style. Schipper is associated with the Fluxus movement in the Netherlands, and influenced by Dada, he created a number of influential television shows and was the voice actor of Ernie and Kermit the Frog on Sesamstraat. Going to the Dogs, as well, can be seen as a reflection of his non-conformist spirit. The play challenged taboos and expectations by using dogs as the main actors, breaking the convention of human-centered theater.


Schippers claimed that the dogs were trained by the police in their early life and guided them through the stage by throwing meat and cookies from backstage. The play portrayed a storyline of a younger daughter introducing her new boyfriend to her parents. Despite the unconventional casting, Schippers was able to create a somewhat coherent story through the canine actors. To get an impression of Going to the Dogs you can watch this video.


Screenshot of theaterplay Going to the Dogs by Wim T. Schippers 1986 - Made by EtrofOnaip , taken from YouTube .


However, the play also received criticism from animal rights activists. The Underdog, a group advocating for animal welfare, saw the play as animal abuse. Schippers himself admitted that the play's main attraction was the novelty of watching dogs eating, barking, urinating, fighting, sleeping, and playing. The focus was primarily on provoking a human reaction, rather than benefiting the animals involved.


Going to the Dogs raises many questions about the role of animals in art and our perception of them. While it provided a fresh perspective on the inclusion of animals in the art world, it still prioritized human audiences over the wellbeing of the canine actors. The play challenged taboos and expectations but ultimately left the multispecies bond unexplored.








De Esthetiek van het Levende Dier op de Hedendaagse Scène. Master thesis Floria Lomme, University of Ghent, 2014-2015. Retrieved 8 March 2023.

"Show Went To The Dogs (Literally, One Might Say)". Toledo Blade, 23 September 1986. Retrieved 8 March 2023.