Good Boy! 10 of TV’s Top Dogs

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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.

 

10. Lassie, Lassie
Rough Collie

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?

9. Winston, Terriers
Bulldog

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.

8. Santa’s Little Helper, The Simpsons
Greyhound

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.

7. Eddie, Frasier
Jack Russell Terrier

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?

6. Backup, Veronica Mars
Pit bull

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.

5. Rowdy, Scrubs
Yellow Labrador Retriever

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?

4. Seymour, Futurama
Border Collie

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.

3. Brian, Family Guy
Melan-Collie

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.

2. K-9, Doctor Who
Robot dog

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.

1. Wishbone, Wishbone
Jack Russell Terrier

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!

Kate Kulzick
Follow me on Twitter @theteleverse to see what I’m watching and to let me know what you’d like SoS TV to cover

19 Comments
  1. David Fiore says

    ah, the Hobo will astonish you, Kate!

    here’s an album full of photos of a feline friend of mine watching the show, to whet your appetite:
    http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.711110397384.2163239.48305983&type=1&l=fdd4d9b225

  2. David Fiore says

    very expressive list — but I feel honour-bound to make a plea for the Littlest Hobo!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=banXT6azA-4

    1. Kate Kulzick says

      You’re not the only one to suggest the Littlest Hobo, David. Clearly I have some catching up to do- I’d never heard about him ’til I wrote this list. Thanks!

  3. Justine says

    Rowlf the Dog from the Muppets!

  4. Vlad N says

    Underdog! I knew I was forgetting someone…oh wait I just remembered a few more dogs not on the list.

    Pluto: Micky’s faithful companion, and the 9th planet in the solar system.

    Goofy: He is technically a dog (though I think its over looked) but Goofy is basically the second best Disney cartoon character (Donald being the best). Though I guess he is not really a TV dog…

    I don’t think you can knock of Lassie from the list. I mean it’s Lassie. As much as I love Futurama I think Seymour probably should rank lower than Lassie simply because he is not a main character or integral to the show (though that episode was the saddest thing I have ever seen in a comedy, and has to be one of the shows best episodes)

  5. Derek Gladu says

    Great idea for an article, and good on you for sticking up to the almighty Scooby lobby.

    And to set the record straight (and to not let Ricky put words in my mouth) K-9, which is a cool name for a robot dog, is not my favorite companion, mostly because he strayed the show away from the more horror oriented themes and tones of the mid seventies. However, he truly was an important canine companion in the annuals of history and truly desreves to be on the list.

    1. Ricky says

      No I accurately recall Derek calling K9 a stupid idea. LOL

  6. Kate Kulzick says

    Stacey- Nice pick.

    Vlad- Droopy is a definitely an overlook on my part. Him and Underdog- I should’ve bumped Lassie. Oops!

    Blane- I remember liking Due South when I was a kid, but it’s been forever. As for Astro, he was on the list, but got bumped by Santa’s Little Helper.

    Bill- I’ve never seen any of the Little Rascal’s shorts. Sounds like a solid premise!

    Ricky- K-9 is one of my all-time favorite Doctor Who Companions, so, in a word, yes. Derek may not be a fan, but I definitely am. :)

    1. Ricky says

      The dude is named K9 – couldn’t they have given him a better name. That would be like calling the Doctor Human.
      Why you all love this show so much is beyond me :P

    2. Bill Mesce says

      You’ve NEVER seen a Little Rascals? Spanky, Alfalfa, Darla, Farina and the rest of them — don’t know them? You have led a sheletered life. We need to do something about that.

  7. Ricky says

    wait, so Scooby Doo doesn’t make the list but that robot dog from Dr. Who does? Seriously ? Even Derek from the Doctor Who podcast called it the most ridiculous idea of the history of the franchise… so scratching my head right now.

  8. Bill Mesce says

    I don’t know if this counts because the Little Rascals were originally theatrical shorts, but I saw them as a kid on TV. The Rascals’ Petey — whom I recall hearing was actually a pit bull — was always one of my favorites. The one where a very little Spanky thought Petey had been gassed by a mean dog catcher always made me cry! (he lived)

  9. Blane Mather says

    I love Diefenbaker, partly because he was deaf (in the show) and partly because his name was a sly dig at an unpopular Canadian politician. Also he was smarter than just about any other dog in your list, and he had a whole episode centered around him, “Diefenbaker’s Day Out”. Unfortunately, “Dief” was actually a wolf, not a dog.

    (BTW, Kate, if you’ve never watched “Due South”, I’d strongly recommend it. It’s one of my favorite series of all time. See if you aren’t hooked after 3 episodes.)

    I’m not sure I’d have put cartoon dogs on this list, but if you do – what about Astro from The Jetsons? Also, It’s hard to ignore Scooby Doo’s place in American culture. And then there’s Bandit from Johnny Quest!

    When I was a kid we watched blocks of Sunday afternoon TV that included The Lone Ranger, Zoro, The Cisco Kid and Sargeant Preston of the Yukon. And Sargeant Preston’s dog, named Yukon King, was an active participant in Preston’s weekly efforts to track and capture criminals … sometimes subduing the crooks himself and earning a “Good boy, King” from his master. I always thought I’d have a dog like that when I grew up.

    Finally there’s Tiger from The Brady Bunch and Tramp (the loveable English Sheepdog) from My Three Sons.

  10. Vlad N says

    Wile E. Coyote: Smart, resourceful, and a metaphor for the constant frustrations and failures of life.

    Droopy: Calm, cool, sarcastic one of the best and funniest cartoon dogs.

    Also what about Rin Tin Tin. He’s a police dog and a fine looking German Shepard?

  11. Stacey A says

    My favorite was always Diefenbaker from Due South. :)

  12. Sean says

    Scooby and Scrappy suck.

    Good list, Kate.

  13. Ricky D says

    Flash from The Dukes of Hazard

    I will have to come up with my own list and link to this one

  14. Ricky D says

    Where the hell is Scooby Doo and Scrappy ?

    1. Kate Kulzick says

      In their rightful place- not on the list. Sorry, internets. I don’t like Scooby and as for Scrappy, Eddie Izzard said it best. A magnum.

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