Behind The Scenes With Dogshaming.com: Helping People Humiliate Pets With WordPress

dogshamingSome dogs are just plain naughty. Mine is 100% mischief so naturally I’m a pretty big fan of Dogshaming.com. I was thrilled to find out that this popular site is running on WordPress.

Inspired by her own naughty pup who chews holes in underwear for kicks, Pascale Lemire originated the online trend of “dog shaming.” The idea went viral and soon dog owners around the world were posting pictures of their wicked canines with homemade signs to illustrate their crimes.

Lemire now had a unique idea for a website. She got in touch with her husband’s friend, Jairus Pryor, who happens to be a WordPress developer. Together they built Dogshaming.com to offer dog owners a place to publicly shame their dogs.

WordPress + DogShaming: Optimizing for Performance

I asked Pryor if he builds with other platforms and why he selected WordPress for Dogshaming.com. He answered that for him it comes down to the community surrounding the project. “I work mostly with WordPress. I find the developer community to be second-to-none.”

While building the site, he had no idea that it would become so popular. “I don’t think anyone could have anticipated just how much the site has resonated with people! Just the other week I saw Annie Lennox post a photo of the Dogshaming book to her Facebook page. It’s completely amazing.” Due to the heavy traffic the site receives, Pryor needed to have a performance plan in place to support the site’s heavy traffic load. Dogshaming.com regularly posts images that can easily go viral and take the server down if not properly optimized. After some experimentation, he settled on WP Super Cache and Jetpack’s Photon CDN:

We’re using WP Super Cache along with XCache on the server end and Jetpack’s Photon CDN on the front end. We tried a number of different solutions (including W3TC and Cloudflare), but this combination ended up being the most stable.

In addition to keeping up with traffic, Pryor also keeps track of the site’s maintenance requirements. “There’s a fair amount of maintenance involved. With high-profile sites you’re always discovering a new bug or trying to roll out a new feature, so there’s usually something you want to keep an eye on.”

The Dogshaming Custom WordPress Theme

I did a little snooping into the theme and found that Dogshaming.com makes use of the increasingly popular Foundation framework. Pryor explained why he selected Foundation as the backbone of his custom theme:

The Dogshaming site is built on a custom theme, using the Foundation framework as a basis for the presentation layer, and the Bones Theme as a basis for the theme itself. I generally use either Underscores or Bones, depending on the project. I love how easy Foundation is to work with if you’re into SASS, and Bones comes with SASS out of the box, which is really what sets it apart from Underscores.

If you view Dogshaming.com on a mobile device, you’ll see that it responds nicely due to the combination of Foundation and Bones. The theme’s framework was a crucial part of helping the site gain more mobile traffic.

Plugins Behind Dogshaming.com

Dogshaming.com makes use of a small collection of plugins to power the site. Content is generated by regular submissions to the site. Pryor opted for a simple implementation of Gravity Forms. “We use Gravity Forms for the ‘Submit a Dog‘ section, pretty much out of the box,” he said. “Each submission is a new post, which makes the workflow to publish approved submissions simple.” The Dog Shaming Generator is actually a standalone app, created as part of the book launch and isn’t actually run by WordPress.

I asked Pryor to highlight some of the plugins that are necessary for running the site. They’re keeping it fairly lean:

Akismet, Gravity Forms, Jetpack and Super Cache. The site lives and breathes by those four plugins. Nothing beyond that, we wanted to keep it as light as possible.

I’m always amazed to see how quickly someone can build a kickass, performance-optimized website using plugins that are already available. No custom plugin development was required for this project.

If you visited the site on April Fool’s Day, you may have gotten to see Pryor’s sneaky dev prank:

The owners of the site are obviously big on dogs, but I’m actually a cat person. On April Fools Day I dropped in a piece of Javascript that changed all of the dogs on the site to images of kittens from placekitten.com, which I thought was hilarious. Turns out that some people who come looking for dogs get very upset when they see kittens instead! How can you be upset with so many kittens looking at you? It doesn’t even make sense.

Pryor said that the Dogshaming site has been a great addition to his portfolio. These days he’s working with his partner through their company Townhall Communications. While in discussions with a potential client who asked for portfolio examples, Pryor sent over a list of high-profile projects. The client sent back a one-line reply: “I’m sorry: I didn’t read anything after Dogshaming. BIG FAN!”

Who is Sarah Gooding


Sarah Gooding is an Editorial Ninja at Audrey Capital. When not writing about WordPress, she enjoys baking, knitting, judging beer competitions and spending time with her Italian Greyhound.