A nice house in the suburbs with a picket fence, 2.5 kids, and a dog playing in the yard. For many and for many years, this was the American dream. Interesting that no other kind of pet is mentioned. Not cats, not birds, not fish. Dogs. Though this affinity for canine companionship isn’t shared everywhere around the world, dogs have been a much loved part of television for almost as long as the genre has existed. Here is a list of 10 of the top TV dogs and why they’re great.
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The ideal pet. Lassie is perhaps the most famous dog in film and television history. She’s well behaved, intelligent, and handy to have around in case Timmy falls into the well again (Oh, that Timmy!). For many, Lassie is the incarnation of the ideal dog- she’s incredibly loyal and protective, great with kids, and she manages to never age, headlining her own series for almost 20 years. While she’s far from realistic, television is rarely about realism, so why shouldn’t she be the dog all animal lovers wish they could have?
Bulldogs get a bad rap. At some point, the media decided they were mean and since then, they’ve been frequently portrayed as mean or threatening, when in fact, if they’re not abused, they’re usually more like Winston. He’s sweet and likable, he doesn’t bark too much, and he holds a special place in all of his owners’ hearts. His role on the series is more as an object that action moves around than as an agent of change, but he’s still a delightful addition to a fun show.
Ya got heart, kid! A broken down former race dog, Santa’s Little Helper is the perfect addition to the Simpsons family- he’s a bit of a ne’er-do-well and he’s not that bright. Despite this, though, he’s an absolutely loving dog. He always wants to please the family and he showers them with affection. He also (usually) manages to get along with Snowball (I and II) and steers clear of much of the family shenanigans. He may not be a dog everyone would want, but he’s just the right dog for his family, and for that reason, he ranks on the list.
Sometimes being cute really is enough. Eddie is resourceful and fun, but what puts him on the list is the strength of his bond with Martin. An ex-cop, one would expect Martin to prefer a larger, stronger, or more stereotypically manly dog, particularly in his role as a foil to Frasier’s more sophisticated nature. Instead, we get the cute and seemingly ever-quizzical Eddie, who is well behaved enough for Frasier and laid-back enough for Martin. He’s a good companion and he always nails his reaction shot. What more do you want in a sitcom dog?
The dog for just-in-case. Backup has one of those traits you love in a pet- he’ll attack the crazed psycho trying to kill you and give you time to escape. He may have been recast after the pilot, but both versions of Backup are staunch defenders of Veronica while secretly being an ol’ softie, there to comfort her after a particularly tough day. Plus, as seen in season 1, he’s a bit of a Veronica/Logan ‘shipper, which will make certain fans very happy.
Who says you need to be alive to be a good dog? Rowdy is one of the most fun recurring characters, for lack of a better word, on Scrubs. So what if he’s taxidermied? He’s a pet to Turk and JD, and that’s enough. He’s a bit of a rapscallion, constantly going over to the neighbor’s or humping someone’s leg, but he’s lovable none the less. Though Carla is initially cold towards Rowdy, they do eventually bond, which is understandable. Who could hate that face?
The name of the game is loyalty. Though he appears in very few episodes of Futurama, his first, and most significant appearance is what makes one of the best episodes of the series, “Jurassic Bark”. Scrappy and fun, and always on the hunt for a slice of pizza, Seymour is probably the best friend Fry had in the 21st century. Though the end of “Jurassic Bark” is a trying one for any dog-lover, his later appearances in the series temper this and give this dog-who-waited a bit of a happy ending.
The perfect dog for when you’re itching for a soft shoe. Brian may not always be good, and is in many respects more human than dog, but he’s close enough for this list. He’s intelligent, funny, and is definitely the dog on the list you’d most like to get a drink with. Over the years, he’s proven himself an excellent nursemaid to Stewie, always bringing him home safely from their excursions and curbing his more megalomaniacal tendencies, and he manages to make the descriptor “singing dog” a good thing. Not an easy feat.
Very few dogs will go exploring with you, track down scents, and finish up the day by beating you at chess. K-9 is all of this plus a laser nose and the delightful ability to come back as a new model, complete with all the memories of the previous one. Any fear of the trauma of losing one’s pet is taken away. He has a hilarious deadpan sense of humor and is incredibly brave in the face of danger. Plus, let’s be honest- robot dogs are cool.
You’ve got to love a well-read dog. Wishbone is curious, imaginative, and fun, and his flights of fancy provide a window for children to the literary world. Both the dog and the show itself make reading come alive in a way few others do, and this is more than enough reason to put Wishbone at the top of the list. From Tom Sawyer to Aeneas, Wishbone has played the gamut of characters, but at the end of the day, he’s always his lovable self.
Who’s your favorite TV dog? Post your thoughts in the comments below!
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