Have you ever heard a story that seemed so filled with promise yet it never delivered? While it had a great beginning, it then meandered aimlessly and never culminated into a satisfactory resolution? If so, you’ve been the victim of a Shaggy Dog story.
Here’s an example Shaggy Dog story.
Once upon a time there was a shaggy dog names Shaggy. One day, his owner entered the Shaggy into a shaggy dog contest. He won first place. After getting his trophy, Shaggy met up with his surfer friend, Floppy. The two drove to Zuma Beach where they rode the waves all afternoon. That’s when one of the waves carried Shaggy all the way to the beach where he met Shagita, the most beautiful shaggy dog that he’d ever seen. Shaggy asked Shagi out for burgers and milkshakes, but when the check came, Shaggy couldn’t find his wallet. Luckily, Floppy was in the next booth and lent him some money. And then…
See how the story shows promise yet never delivers? It dribbles information that seems relevant, yet the facts never coalesce into anything with significance. If you want to experience a modern day Shaggy Dog story, just go watch reruns of television show, Lost.
Two types of storytellers tell Shaggy Dog stories: bad/honest ones and good/deceitful ones. Bad/honest storytellers pile meaningless facts and arrive at pointless endings. But, there’s also something redeeming about them. We all have friends or family members who are terrible storytellers, but that’s what we love about them.
Good/deceitful storytellers, on the other hand, use their yarn-spinning skills to string audiences along. They know how to dole the right facts at the right time to hold an audience’s interest artificially. Since audiences can only take so much of this abuse, they eventually give up just as the good/deceitful storyteller laughs at how he yanked the audience’s chain.
Business storytellers must be on the lookout for long-winded expository lacking a point. A target rich environment for Shaggy Dog stories can be found in press releases that are filled with sycophantic praise, meaningless facts, and never deliver any form of resolution.
So, are you the creator or the victim of a Shaggy Dog Story? The only way to know is to pay attention.
Photo Credit: Mrs. Robt. W. Hopkins with English sheep dog, 4/19/26. Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/2016841986/