Top 10 Dogs in Popular Culture

Dogs in real life are funny and interesting creatures. Animated dogs in cartoons are even funnier and more interesting (most of the time). With so many dogs in popular culture to choose from, it was difficult to make this list of just ten dogs, but here are top 10 canines that really stand out in my mind.

10. Petey:

Petey was an American Staffordshire Terrier featured in Hal Roach’s series of short films of the 1930s and 1940s called the Our Gang series (later changed to The Little Rascals). He is sidekick to a group of elementary school children who’ve formed a club known as the “He-man Woman-Haters” which is headquartered in a dilapidated clubhouse the children have built. The characters in the series, including Petey, have inspired numerous imitations and spinoffs and have become cultural icons. So much so that The United States Library of Congress has deemed them “culturally significant” and has included one of the Our Gang shorts in the National Film Registry.

9. Dogs Playing Poker:

In 1903, a series of 16 oil paintings of dogs playing poker was commissioned by Brown and Bigelow for use in cigar advertising. The originals were painted by C.M. Coolidge but have since become among the most reproduced artworks of the 20th century. Nine of the paintings feature dogs seated around a card table while smoking cigars, drinking and arguing over the poker hand, and have become symbols of kitsch decoration and synonymous with poor taste in American culture.

8. Scotty:

One of 8 playing pieces or tokens in the beloved Parker Brothers board game monopoly, the Scotty dog does not have an official name but has surely been handled by millions of children playing the most popular board game ever created. The game originated as an illustration of single tax theory called “The Landlord’s Game” in 1906 but was adapted into Monopoly by Parker Brothers in 1933. Since then, the game has had many settings but remains basically unchanged in rules and look. The Scotty was one of the original pieces and is still included in the basic Monopoly game set.

7. Santa’s Little Helper:

The Simpsons’ family dog has been put through the ringer during the 15 years since the animated sitcom first appeared on television. The rescued greyhound has had to put up with a rotating cast of Simpson cats, all named Snowball, as well as numerous illnesses, a stint as the mascot for Duff beer, and almost flunking out of obedience school. He appeared in the very first episode of The Simpsons and has been the star of numerous episodes, including one where his history as an abandoned racing greyhound who the family takes in on Christmas Eve was revealed.

6. Toto:

In the novel and film version of “The Wizard of Oz” the main character, Dorothy, is accompanied everywhere by a Cairn terrier named Toto. In the 1939 film, the role was played by a dog named Terry, who made Cairn terriers among the most popular breeds for the next decade. Toto is steadfast and loyal to Dorothy no matter how harrowing a situation, even enduring kidnapping and the threat of murder by the Wicked Witch. The phrase from the film “Toto, I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore” is listed by the American Film Institute as #4 on its list of the 100 most recognizable movie quotes.

5. Brian Griffin:

Family Guy’s talking dog is the intellectual of the series and often voices the opinions of the show’s creator, Seth Green. Brian can also be neurotic, as when he dates human women and finds that he has trouble committing or when he takes to heart the ridicule of his writing by his frenemy Stewie, the family’s talking baby. The show is deliberately unclear about whether Stewie can be heard by the rest of the family, but Brian can, and is usually on hand with a sarcastic remark or quip. In the 2013 episode called, “Life of Brian”, he dies when he is run over by a car but returns 3 episodes later.

4. Goofy:

The tall, anthropomorphic dog belongs to Disney’s Mickey Mouse and first appeared in an animated film in 1932. Originally a sidekick, Goofy later got his own series of film shorts and in the 1950s starred in television cartoons as a family man, struggling with the trials and tribulations of middle class suburban life. Goofy’s appearance and ability to talk has changed over the years but he has remained one of Disney’s most recognizable and beloved characters and has made appearances in films and commercials as recently as 2007.

3. Scooby Doo:

The mystery-solving animated Great Dane first appeared on television in 1969 as the star of Hanna-Barbera’s “Scooby Doo Where are You?” and has since gone on to fame in various spin-offs. According to the show’s producers, Scooby’s name was inspired by Frank Sinatra’s version of the song “Strangers in the Night”, which ends with Sinatra singing, “Doobie doo be doo”. Scooby has been present on countless adventures with his friends Fred, Daphne, Velma and best friend Shaggy, always riding in a van called the MysteryMobile and revealing that what seemed to be ghosts were merely scam artists posing as apparitions. Scooby is naturally fearful but can usually be coaxed into investigating if he is given a Scooby Snack

2. Lassie:

The fictional female collie first appeared in the short stories and novels of Eric Knight in 1940. In 1943, MGM began filming the first in what was to become a series of beloved movies about Lassie’s various adventures. In all, 13 Lassie movies were made between 1943 and 2008. Lassie also starred in a radio program in the 1950s, and various television adaptations in the 1950s, 60s, and 80s. Multiple generations of American children have grown up with Lassie and see her as a symbol of canine love and fidelity.

1. Snoopy:

When cartoonist Charles Schultz created a Beagle character named Snoopy for his comic strip “Peanuts”, he could not have known that he would become the most popular fictional dog in history. Snoopy was modeled after a dog named Spike that Schultz had as a child and his name comes from a Norweigan term of endearment suggested by Schultz’s wife. He made his first appearance in the strip in October 1950 and remained silent for 2 years, but by 1952 was communicating with readers via thought bubbles. His thoughts are often sardonic or involve a fantasy life in which he is, among other things, an ace flier in World War I. Snoopy plays shortstop on Charlie Brown’s baseball team, has his own dance, bails Charlie Brown out of numerous scrapes, and generally observes the goings-on of the Peanuts children, often with a somewhat skeptical eye. The extent to which Snoopy has become a beloved American icon is clear from the fact that the name Snoopy has been in the top 100 most popular dog names in the United States since 1950. In 2013 it ranked #182.

Honorable Mention: Clifford the Big Red Dog

Clifford first appeared in a children’s book,   making his debut in 1962. Although the books, written by Norman Bridwell, were popular, this animated dog leaped into superstardom with the PBS animated series, which ran from 2000 – 2003. As an homage to the original author, Clifford and Emily Elizabeth live on Birdwell Island.

Parents should know that kids are often magnetically drawn to stories about Clifford because he’s the magical pet every child wishes for. The program is chock-full of positive lessons and likable characters — and may remind parents of their own childhood fascination with the big red dog. The TV series is highly recommended is full of educational messages on social, emotional, and physical matters.