Famous Dogs: Real And Imaginary

By Bailee Noella July 22, 2020

Dogs are man’s best friend, so it comes as no surprise that they show up frequently in our media! From dogs owned by famous people to dogs with their own movies and TV shows, countless pooches have managed to reach stardom. Below are some of the most famous dogs of all time — both fictional and real!

Famous Hero Dogs

  • Bretagne

There are many stories of dogs protecting and helping humans. Some dogs are trained specifically to carry out heroic acts, like search and rescue, police work, water rescue, detection work, and more. One Golden Retriever in particular is well-known for all of the rescue work that she participated in. Bretagne was deployed at the World Trade Center after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and later went on to work rescue missions after Hurricanes Rita, Katrina, and Ivan. After her retirement, she continued to help people by working as a reading dog at an elementary school. Kids who were having a hard time reading confidently were happy to tell Bretagne stories!

  • Hero

Even dogs without training have proven to have heroic instincts. There are countless stories of average, everyday pooches saving their families. One such dog, appropriately named Hero, started barking in the early hours of a February morning in 2011. The Pennsylvania family awoke, surprised to find a wall in their kitchen completely engulfed in flames. They quickly and safely escaped, and the fire engulfed their home. Had it not been for Hero, the Rankin family might have not been alerted in time.

  • Naida

Strays, too, have shown their life-saving capabilities and love for people. When a four-year-old boy fell into a freezing pond in Russia, Naida, a stray at the time, began barking to call for help. Fortunately, a woman heard her cries and followed her back to the wintry body of water. It was a happy ending for all, as people nearby gathered to help pull the boy out of the pond, and Naida later found a home with a doting family.

Famous Movie And TV Star Dogs

  • Old Yeller

We all remember watching the heartbreaking tale of Old Yeller. Arliss, the youngest son of the Coates family, grows a deep attachment to the Labrador Retriever mix. Travis, the older son, is unimpressed by Old Yeller and his tendency to steal food. However, Old Yeller proves his undying love and devotion to the Coates family many times, protecting them from a black bear, a cow, and feral hogs. Later in the film, a rabid wolf tries to attack the family. Old Yeller fights him off until Travis is able to shoot the wolf. Unfortunately, the courageous pooch sustains a bite to the neck and becomes infected with rabies. Travis reluctantly shoots him and mourns the loss of his brave, loyal dog. Luckily, he later accepts a puppy that was sired by Old Yeller and names him Young Yeller.

  • Air Bud

Another famous on-screen dog that many people will recognize is Air Bud. Even those who aren’t interested in sports loved watching this comedic (and cute!) franchise. In each film of the series, the well-known Golden Retriever named Buddy shows that he is a master at a variety of different sports. From soccer to football and baseball to basketball, this pup proves to be a star player. More recently, there has been a spin-off known as the Air Buddies series. These movies get even more adorable, as they are based off of Buddy’s adorable talking puppies! In the series, watchers get to follow these tiny Golden Retrievers on their exciting adventures.

  • Rin Tin Tin

Dogs don’t just show up in movies — some of them have their own TV shows, too! One such pooch, a stoic German Shepherd, starred in 164 episodes about adventures in the American West. The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin ran from 1954 to 1959 and originally featured a German Shepherd who was saved from a World War I battlefield by Lee Duncan, an American soldier. He and his offspring would become international stars.

Famous Presidential Dogs

  • Bo and Sunny

American presidents are well-known as soon as they take office — and so are their dogs! The most recent political pups were Portugese Water Dogs Bo and Sunny. Both belong to the Obama family, and they are popular in the media for being cute “First Dogs.” Bo in particular had four children’s books written about him and a plush toy of his likeness created. He appeared in several television series and in the comic book Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers.

  • Fala

President Franklin Roosevelt also had many dogs while he was in the White House. One of the most famous was a Scottish Terrier named Fala. He knew how to do many tricks, including sit, roll over, and jump. He accompanied Roosevelt to many different places. When Fala passed seven years after the President, he was buried behind the Roosevelt tombstone. Two statues have been erected in honor of Fala; one is in Washington, D.C., and the other is at Puerto Rico’s “Paseo de los Presidentes” in San Juan.

  • Fido

If you’ve ever wondered why people refer to dogs as “Fido,” you can look to President Lincoln for the answer. Fido was a yellow mixed-breed pooch who was extremely friendly and easily spooked. He was well-loved by the President, his sons, and the public. Because of his popularity, “Fido” became a generic name for dogs.

Famous Fictional Dogs

  • Carl

Good Dog, Carl may have pulled at your heartstrings as a child. The lovable Rottweiler featured in the children’s picture books written by Alexandra Day is known for babysitting a young girl named Madeleine. The captivating illustrations capture the love and trust between the caring dog and the baby. Many Rottweiler enthusiasts were happy to see the often misunderstood breed get featured in such a positive light!

  • Shiloh

While Shiloh has since been adapted into a film, the story originally came out as a novel. Published in 1991, author Phyllis Reynolds Naylor received many awards for the heart wrenching story. In it, the young protagonist, Marty, rescues an abused beagle and goes to great lengths to keep him safe, even going so far as to lie and blackmail. The book touches on many difficult themes, and these days, Shiloh (despite being fictional) is one of the most well-known pooches.

  • Buck

Shiloh isn’t the only dog-centered book that tackles hard topics. Another classic, The Call of the Wild, visits primitivism, survival of the fittest, love, and more. The book centers around Buck, a Saint Bernand and Scotch Collie mix, and his trials as he tries to determine whether or not he should return to the wild. Since being published in 1903, the story has been adapted into multiple movies and Buck’s human-like inner turmoil is still discussed to this day.

Famous Cartoon Dogs

  • Lady and Tramp

When people think of Disney, usually princesses, dwarfs, and castles come to mind. However, two Disney movies in particular are loved for their cute canine characters. The first one is the romantic musical film Lady and the Tramp. In it, a beautiful cocker spaniel named Lady and a straggly stray mutt named Tramp fall in love despite their different lifestyles. The movie captures the secret lives that dogs live and their unrelenting loyalty to each other and their humans.

  • Pongo and Perdita

The second movie won’t come as a surprise: One Hundred and One Dalmatians. The villain of the film, Cruella de Vil, is perhaps one of the most distinguished characters in history. After she kidnaps a litter of spotted pups, parents Pongo and Perdita set out to rescue their kids, inadvertently saving many more puppies on the way. The film was an immediate success and still remains a household favorite. After all, no one can say no to seeing that many adorable animated dogs on screen!

  • Brian Griffin

Dogs are always portrayed as sweet and cuddly, though. One of the most well-known cartoon dogs of all time, Brian Griffin from Family Guy, is not your average family dog. Not only does he walk on two legs and talk, but he is often depicted as being rude and blunt. Still, his off-handed comments and comedic timing have made him one of America’s favorite (anthropomorphic) pups.


As long as dogs are around, they will continue to play a major part in our lives by being featured in our favorite books, movies, and cartoons. We can’t help but love seeing them on-screen and in the White House. Which famous dog is your favorite?

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