In a television series surrounded by families, when said family actually has one, it’s often the four legged family member that steals the show. Sometimes dogs on TV shows serve as a part of the family, an intercessor to humans in need or just a funny edition to the week’s script. It is said in Hollywood: “Never work with kids or dogs”, but I think some dogs (and children) prove that they are the most professional actors. It’s often times the dog that is most well behaved on set, not to mention most receptive to direction. Sure they may not be able to talk but that’s a small trade off in our opinion. That being said, here are our picks for the top 20 dogs from TV Shows.
Maybe the most iconic television pet, Lassie endeared television viewers for 2 decades. “Lassie” was a film before it became a television series on CBS in 1954. The movie and TV show were based on the novel “Lassie Come Home” by Eric Knight. The original episodes of “Lassie” followed an eleven year old boy, his mother and grandfather and their pet Collie Lassie. Seven year old John Provost would take over the role of Lassie’s companion, Timmy Martin. Timmy’s adoptive parents Ruth and Paul Martin were played by Hugh Reilly and June Lockhart. The first 10 seasons focused on the pet dog Lassie frolicking and helping in a small farming community. Lassie would go on to work for the Forest Service and in a children’s home before the series ended in 1974. Lassie was originally played by a dog named Pal who was trained by Ruth Weatherwax who helped create the show with Robert Maxwell. Pal’s five male descendants would play Lassie. Although Lassie was a female, she was played by male dogs because they shed less and appear more dominant on film because of their larger size.
Scooby-Doo (Scooby-Doo Where Are You!)
Scooby-Doo may have been animated but his image as the “scaredy cat” dog is endearing. “Scooby-Doo Where Are You!” debuted on CBS in 1969. The cartoon was produced by Hannah-Barbera and was a major part of Saturday morning cartoons even after the series went to ABC in 1975. The cartoon lasted until 1986 and lives on in syndication. Scooby-Doo launched spin offs and, decades later, movies. Scooby-Doo is the pet Great Dane who helps his human buddies solve crimes. Each mystery is centered around a ghost or monster that turns out to be a human, and the gang typically solves the crimes by bumbling, especially Scooby (originally voiced by Don Messick) and Shaggy (originally voiced by DJ Casey Kasem). The kids include Fred, Velma and Daphne who along with Shaggy and Scooby-Doo drive a psychedelic decorated van called the “Mystery Machine”.
Backup (Veronica Mars)
Backup was the protective and beloved pet of Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) in the UPN/CW series that ran from through 2007. Backup was originally played by an American Bull Dog named Gordo and later changed to a Pit Bull named Lefty. Back up served as a protector to the teen and young adult on the TV series “Veronica Mars”. Veronica was a southern California high school student whose best friend was murdered which sparked her career as a private detective. Backup remained loyal to Veronica Mars throughout her noir adventures.
Rin Tin Tin (The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin)
Rin Tin Tin was the star of the television series that ran on ABC from 1954 through 1959. Rin Tin Tin was a real dog rescued by US soldier Lee Duncan during World War I. The German Shepherd starred in 27 films before his death in 1932. His offspring would star in “The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin” which was about an orphaned boy, Rusty, and his companion, Rin Tin Tin, who are rescued following an Indian raid and raised at a US Cavalry post in Fort Apache in Arizona. The television show starred child actor Lee Aaker as Cpl. Rusty, James Brown as Lt. Rip Masters, and of course Rin Tin Tin who helped establish the American west.
Jack Russell Terrier, Eddie, was the pet dog of Martin Crane (John Mahoney), Frasier Crane’s (Kelsey Grammer) father. The series was a spin off of “Cheers” and ran on NBC from 1993 until 2004. Psychiatrist and radio talk show personality Frasier returns to Seattle from Boston and takes in his father, a retired police officer. Martin’s was very obedient to his master but drove Frasier crazy, mostly by staring at him. Eddie was often featured as the shows credit rolled with a joke related to the episode. Eddie was played by Moose until his death and then played by Moose’s son Enzo.
Tiger (The Brady Bunch)
Tiger was the shaggy pet of “The Brady Bunch”. Tiger appeared in many episodes in the beginning seasons of the television series. The beloved dog even appeared in the pilot as he created chaos while chasing a cat at during the marriage of Mike (Robert Reed) and Carol (Florence Henderson). Tiger was a major part of the family and was featured in several episodes including the one where objects kept disappearing from the Brady Home. When Bobby lost his kazoo and Cindy lost her favorite doll, Kitty Carryall, it turned out it was Tiger who was taking off with the toys and hoarding them in his dog house. When the family discovered the culprit, Tiger begged for leniency. Tiger was played by a dog named Tiger. Unfortunately the cute yet mischievous dog was hit by a car in real life.
Petey (The Little Rascals)
Nothing is cuter than “The Little Rascals” from the television series from the 1930’s. These depression era kids got into trouble while having fun and being silly. The best part of “Our Gang” was their mascot, Petey. Petey was a Pit Bull Terrier originally played by Pal the Wonder Dog. The dog had a distinctive ring around its eye and was a big part of playing along with children on all of their adventures. Pal the Wonder Dog had a natural ring around his eye which was enhanced by Hollywood make up artist Max Factor. Pal started acting in film during the 1920’s. Pal died in 1930 and was replaced on “The Little Rascals” by his offspring, Pete. Pete is the best known dog who played Petey.
Buck (Married…With Children)
A big part of the dysfunctional Bundy family from the 1980’s and 1990’s Fox series “Married…With Children” was the family dog Buck. Buck was a Briard-French Sheepdog played by a dog named Michael. Michael also appeared in 1988’s “Scrooged”. Buck was voiced by Kevin Curran, a producer on the show. Although Buck appears like a dumb dog, when the thoughts in is head are voiced, he is actually cynical and smarter the smartest in the Bundy family. Cheech Marin voiced Buck in a few episodes. Buck’s death was written into the show because Michael retired. The family took Buck’s death hard.
Santa’s Little Helper (The Simpsons)
Another animated pet dog on a television show that won the hearts of viewers is Santa’s Little Helper on “The Simpsons”. Homer and Bart Simpson adopt the dog at the race track after its owner abandons it because it loses the race. The greyhound becomes an important part of the Simpson Family. Stories that include Santa’s Little Helper come from staff writers own experiences. During the series, Santa’s Little Helper has puppies, passes obedience school, has surgery, becomes the mascot for Duff Beer and joins the Springfield police academy.
Comet (Full House)
Next to Michelle Tanner (Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen) the cutest member of the Tanner Family in the ABC sitcom “Full House” was the Tanner’s pet dog Comet. “Full House” aired from 1987 through 1995, and Comet debuted on the series in the third season. Comet was played by Buddy who also starred in the Disney movie “Air Bud”. Buddy led a full life and died in 1998. Fans of the “Full House” Netflix spinoff “Fuller House” were excited to see the pet Golden Retriever live on. Cosmo is grown up Tanner daughters’ pet.
Stella (Modern Family)
Stella is the Pritchett family’s pet French Bulldog on “Modern Family”. The dog was written into the second season as a rival to Jay Pritchett’s (Ed O’Neil) wife Gloria (Sofia Vegara). Of course Jay becomes very close to the dog. It’s also well known that actor Ed O’Neil get along well with the dog offset. Stella was played by a dog named Brigitte who came to the set completely untrained. In 2012, Brigitte was honored with the Golden Collar Award for Best Dog on a Television Show. Due to a dispute with between Brigitte’s owners and the training agency, she was replaced with her understudy, Beatrice.
Cinnamon (The Big Bang Theory)
Cinnamon is the cute Yorkshire Terrier who becomes Raj’s (Kunal Nayyar) best friend. When Raj is having a difficult time with his love life, his friends Howard (Simon Helberg) and Bernadette (Melissa Rauch) give him the dog as a companion. Raj enjoys babying the dog. Howard even invents a game called “Emily or Cinnamon” where Raj’s friends have to guess who Raj was talking about when he said certain things, his girlfriend or his dog.
Jim (Mike and Molly)
Jim is the loveable little dog of Mike’s mom Peggy (Rondi Reed) on CBS’ “Mike and Molly”. The James Burrow’s series ran from 2010 through 2016. It starred Michael Biggs (Billy Gordell) as a Chicago Police Officer who dates and later marries Molly Flynn (Melissa McCarthy). Mike’s mother Peggy (Rondi Reed) is a domineering mom, although very funny, who hates to see her adult son find another woman. Peggy has a pet toy dog, Jim, who she fusses over as if he were replacing her adult son in the comedy series. Jim is a Brussels Griffon mixed with Chihuahua played by a dog named Suzie Q. The dog is endearing and despite some disgusting habits Jim has with Peggy, the dog provides several hilarious moments on “Mike and Molly”.
Jack (Little House on the Prairie)
Jack was the loveable sheepdog who was an important member of the Ingalls family. Jack was a part of the premier of the television series “Little House on the Prairie” in 1974. The NBC series followed the lives and adventures of the Ingalls family during the 1870’s and 1880’s as they settled on America’s frontier. The TV show was based on the stories written for young adults by Laura Ingalls Wilder, the middle child of the real family. In the first episode Jack gets lost foraging a river but is found by the family. In the books, Jack was a bulldog but the actor who played Jack, Barney, was a scruffy sheepdog who endeared himself to Pa (Michael Landon) and Laura (Melissa Gilbert). Jack was a major character in the first three seasons of “Little House on the Prairie” until the Ingalls’ pet until Laura found him dead in the barn from foxtails embedded in his ears. Jack survived a rabies scare and protected the family from wolves and Native Americans. When Jack died, Pa brought home a new family pet Bandit.
Murray (Mad About You)
Murray was the pet dog of Paul and Lisa Buchman on the NBC series “Mad About You”. The show premiered in 1992 and was an important part of NBC’s primetime lineup until the series ended in 1999. The show about a newly married, career couple living in Manhattan. The couple have a pet dog who adds to the warmth and comedy of the show. Paul Reiser played Paul Buchman and his wife Lisa was played by Helen Hunt. Murray was a Border Collie mix played by a dog named Maui who was a well trained television acting dog. According to sources from the show, Murray showed up excited to act every day of taping and the staff and actors loved him. Maui also appeared in the 2005 Christmas movie “Santa’s Sleigh”.
Digby (Pushing Daisies)
“Pushing Daisies” was a “forensic fairy tale drama” that aired on ABC from 2007 through 2009. The series starred Lee Pau as Ned, a man who discovered the ability to bring the dead back to life while he was a child. Ned first learned the ability when he was able to resurrect his dog who was killed by a car. Together with his dog, Digby, and Ned’s deceased childhood friend, Chuck (Anna Friel), they solve murders. Digby is played by an adorable Golden Retriever. Unlike some dogs on TV shows, Digby was essential to the show’s plot and brought not just humor but warmth to the show.
Dreyfus (Empty Nest)
Dreyfus was the pet dog of Dr. Harry Weston (Richard Mulligan) who played a recently widowed pediatrician living in Miami, Florida. Weston and Dreyfus were featured on “Golden Girls” as neighbors before the spinoff “Empty Nest” premiered in 1988. Dr. Weston lives with his 2 adult daughters in the sitcom “Empty Nest”. The series aired on NBC until 1995. Dreyfus was played by a dog named Bear. Bear was a mix of Saint Bernard and Golden Retriever. The dog was a companion to Dr. Weston and provided comic relief to the series.
Boomer (Here’s Boomer)
“Here’s Boomer” premiered on NBC in 1980. Boomer was a stray dog who went around helping people. The dog was portrayed by a mixed breed dog named Johnny. “Here’s Boomer” was inspired by the films about Benji, a stray mixed breed dog that helped people. The cast changed each week as Boomer met and helped different people. “Here’s Boomer” won the 1980 Young Artist Award for Best TV Series For Family Entertainment. “Here’s Boomer” remained a popular and inspiring television series until it ended in 1982.
Apollo and Zeus (Magnum PI)
“The Lads”, Apollo and Zeus, were the loyal Doberman Pincher guard dog’s of the Hawaiian estate, Robin’s Nest, the home of wealthy Robin Masters on the 1980’s CBS series “Magnum PI”. The guard dogs were handled by the estate’s caretaker, Jonathan Higgins (John Hillerman) and gave the show’s star Thomas Magnum (Tom Selleck) a difficult time. Magnum was a laid back private investigator invited to live in the estate’s guest house. The dogs were a constant thorn in Magnum’s side along with Higgins. Apollo and Zeus were played by several Doberman Pinchers. In the first season Cola, Hohea and Joe played the 2 dogs and in the second season Whiskey, Brutus and Dominique played Apollo and Zeus. The show’s producers wanted to switch to less expensive dogs, but Tom Selleck convinced them to keep the trio. Producers later considered of leaving the dogs out of future scripts, but again Selleck stepped in along with John Hillerman, and Whiskey, Brutus and Dominique continued to play the two guard dogs that drove the laid back private investigator, Thomas Magnum, crazy.
Astro (The Jetsons)
Astro was the robotic dog and pet of the Jetson family in 1962-1963 animated Hanna-Barbera cartoon. The Jetsons were a typical middle class family living in the future in a home filled with technologically advanced equipment and of course a robotic pet dog. Astro was an important part of the family and played an important role as a companion particularly to son Elroy and dad George.