Is it just me, or has television really gone to the dogs? Clearly I can’t resist a good (or bad) pun.
However, there is definitely some truth in that statement.
Pupsters are on the big screen pretty regularly these days, and it isn’t a new concept. Our four legged friends have been stealing the limelight since before films even had color—or sound!
The International Film Magazine explains that the role of dogs in film shows three very distinct stages throughout the years.
First, we see the era of the incidental dog. Before being trained to follow command on set, dogs made their appearances mainly by way of pure accident.
Filming was much less buttoned up in the 1800s when it first started. Sets were more or less open to the public, allowing for a stray dog to easily make its way into the outskirts of a frame.
When their appearance was planned, the part they played was still very much different than the Pawscar worthy roles we see today.
In one of the earliest pup-formances in the 1894 film called “Athlete with Wand,” the dog is intentionally present, but is more of a prop or afterthought than a main character.
The second stage of dogs in film is when their talents truly got to shine as the lead focus in movies like “Lassie” and “Old Yeller.”
Although, it is Rin Tin Tin who is credited with really starting the dog movie star movement. Everyone was so crazy over the talented German Shepherd that the demand for more like him skyrocketed.
Finally, the role that is most commonly seen today is that of the prop or supporting character. Think back to Puffy in the film “There’s Something About Mary” who provided amazing comic relief for an example, or the adorable Chihuahua, Bruiser, from “Legally Blonde.”
Regardless of the part they play on the big screen, they always manage to command all of my attention. So here’s a list of some of the most popular canine celebrities for you to enjoy too!
Rin Tin Tin
Arguably the pooch who started it all, the lovable German Shepherd starred in 27 films.
Not only is he considered the first true dog star, Rinty was even almost given an Academy award. He actually received the most votes for best actor in the first ever event in 1929. But ultimately the academy decided the award couldn’t be given to a dog.
Whether you’ve actually seen one of the films or not, chances are you know exactly who Lassie is. Unless of course you’ve been in a well all this time (see what I did there).
Lassie is one of the most popular and widely known film dogs of all time. In actuality, however, Lassie isn’t just one dog. The lovable pooch is played by nine different dogs throughout the years.
All of which were male despite the character itself being female.
To this day I can’t manage to talk about “Old Yeller” without getting a little bummed.
That movie hits even the toughest of the tough right in the feels thanks to Spike the Labrador/ Mastiff mix and his excellent portrayal of canine loyalty at its finest.
I don’t want to spoil anything for someone who hasn’t seen it, so I’ll just say there’s a reason it’s still one of the most widely known tales today.
“…and your little dog too!” Cairn Terrier, Terry, was actually a pretty active little starlet in her time. She acted in a total of 16 movies, but her 7th film “The Wizard of Oz” where she played the infamous Toto is what she is most remembered for.
Terry was the real deal, too. She was paid more than most of her co-stars in the film.
Ok, so Cujo isn’t exactly popular for giving you a good chuckle or the warm and fuzzies. But he is well-known.
A little lesser known is the fact that Cujo was actually played by five different Saint Bernards, a mechanical dog head, and an actor in a dog costume.
Who doesn’t love a Tom Hanks film—or Tom Hanks for that matter (Wilsonnnn!!!)?
He’s had some equally amazing co stars over the years too, including a dog named Hooch (Beasley) in the late 80s blockbuster “Turner and Hooch.”
Hooch stands out for me because I think he is the only French Mastiff I’ve seen in a film.
The second Saint Bernard on the list—and one with a better reputation—is none other than the big slobbery mess that you couldn’t help but love, Beethoven.
The movie spawned an amazing seven sequels, so needless to say, there have been many different Beethovens over the years including the original named Chris.
Am I the only one who didn’t know the movie “Milo and Otis” was a Japanese film? In the original Japanese version, his name was Poosky, not Otis. A rose by any other name…
Also, I’m pretty sure Otis/Poosky is responsible for my love of smooshed faces.
Soccer is the Jack Russell Terrier that us growing up in the 90s knew by the name of Wishbone. Wishbone wasn’t just adorable, he was well read.
I couldn’t wait to see what he would be dressed up as next, as he played all the classic literature protagonists from Ichabod Crane to Romeo Montague.
Another well loved Jack Russell is Moose. Better known by “Frasier” fans as Eddie, Moose received the most fan mail of the entire cast.
If you loved Eddie and Wishbone and want more Jack Russell in your life, check out this article.
Mischievous Marley from the best selling autobiographical novel “Marley & Me: Life and Love With the World’s Worst Dog” found his way into our hearts by way of yellow Lab, Clyde in the 2008 film adaptation.
Though her time on screen wasn’t as long as say a film or television show, Gidget the Taco Bell Chihuahua will forever be remembered for her famous line, “Yo Quiero Taco Bell?”
What’s your favorite famous T.V. dog? Let us know in the comments below.