Some of the most memorable shows and films have featured dogs in a leading role — but which canine takes the top spot as your favourite on-screen pooch?
Together with top UK dog food provider, Feedem, we’ve created a list of the most loved, iconic and remembered dogs. Check out if your favourite made the list…
Lassie: Lassie Come Home
During the 1940s, Lassie — perhaps the world’s most famous rough collie — was enjoying global success. The series of movies began with Lassie Come Home — an MGM production starring Roddy McDowell, Elizabeth Taylor and canine star, Pal. Despite being a female dog in the books, Lassie was usually portrayed on screen by male canines due to this gender typically having thicker, nicer-looking coats.
Clinching the role of Lassie was no easy feat for Pal, who was born in 1940 in Hollywood — he had to beat 1,500 other pooches to get the role in Lassie: Come Home. However, he didn’t initially impress the casting officials and the job went to a female rough collie, instead. But, Pal’s big break was soon to come. During an action scene featuring raging waters, the female Lassie was unwilling to play her part. Pal, on the other hand, stepped in and stole the scene, completing the take so well that the female dog was released and he became the world’s first film-version Lassie. In his career, Pal starred in seven films and two TV shows before dying of natural causes in 1958.
US TV sitcom, Frasier, was a massive success all over the world — and part of its charm was Moose, a Parson Russell Terrier who played the part of Eddie Crane. Amazingly, Moose won the role after just six months of training and his most famous scenes were usually holding a long, unbroken staring contest with Frasier Crane — which ended up being one of the show’s most popular sight gags.
However, Moose was no born actor. The dog was originally raised in Florida and was a bit of a hell-raiser — barking, digging, chewing, and refusing to be housetrained. As a result, he was sent to the animal training company, Birds and Animals Unlimited, before being flown to a trainer in LA where he eventually made a name for himself in Frasier (1993-2000) and the film, My Dog Skip (2000). Before retirement, Moose also appeared on Entertainment Weekly magazine and released an ‘autobiography’: My Life as a Dog.
Scooby-Doo: Scooby-Doo TV series
Chasing masked villains as part of a brave team of five, Scooby Doo is one of the most loveable mutts in TV history. From 1969 until the present day, the Scooby-Doo character — famous for his well-timed bungles, love of snacks and fear of all things spooky — has appeared in countless cartoon shows, animated films and live-action movies.
At first, Don Messick voiced Scooby ‘Scoobert’ Doo who is remembered fondly for his famous speech impairment of pronouncing words as if they began with the letter ‘R’. Officially, Scooby-Doo has been voiced by five people and has countless on-screen relatives — including Scrappy-Doo, Scooby-Dum, Momsy, and Dad-Doo.
Toto: The Wizard of Oz
The Wizard of Oz, despite being almost 80 years old, remains one of the most loved films in history. The leading canine, Toto, was Dorothy Gale’s male canine companion, however, ‘he’ was actually played by Terry — a female cairn terrier. With major scenes that included escaping the Wicked Witch (twice) and revealing the true identity of The Wizard, some may say Terry earned more than her reportedly $125-a-week salary — a very healthy sum at the time and more than what many other human cast members made!
Aside from The Wizard of Oz, Terry had a great acting career. She was coached by Hollywood dog trainer, Carl Spitz; starred alongside Shirley Temple in Bright Eyes, had a daughter who also went into the acting business, and appeared in 16 films throughout her life — although, she only ever received credit for one, which was The Wizard of Oz. Terry died when she was 11 years old in 1945 and today, she has a permanent memorial at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles.
Beethoven: Beethoven film series
Is there a more recognisable St. Bernard than Beethoven? The first of the Beethoven films — starring Charles Grodin and Bonnie Hunt — was released in 1992 and became an instant hit. Not only was the film warmly received, but the release also boosted the public’s interest in the St. Bernard breed!
Is much known about the lead canine actor, though? The part of Beethoven was originally played by a 200-pound pooch named Chris, who was coached by Karl Lewis Miller — a trainer that also coached animals in the productions of Babe and K-9. Sadly, Chris died shortly after the completion of Beethoven 2. Since no other dog was found that could fulfil the role as well as him, multiple canines were brought in with different acting skills and temperaments for future films — including a boy named Benz and a girl named Dolly.
Brian Griffin: Family Guy
Family Guy is a huge show, and its leading dog character, Brian Griffin, is certainly one of its most popular personalities. This white Labrador — famous for his eloquent musings and rational thinking — is more human than dog in many ways. Firstly, he uses two legs to walk, owns a Toyota Prius, has gone to university, and writes — or attempts to write — novels.
To many viewers’ horror, Brian was killed off in 2013. However, a brief online outcry of anger soon persuaded the writers to reinstate the beloved pooch for disappointed fans. Brian is voiced by Seth MacFarlane and is believed to be one of the show’s best merchandising characters.
Marley: Marley & Me
Marley & Me, starring Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson, is based on a book by John Grogan and is considered by many to be a true Hollywood tearjerker.
This story of an unruly Labrador takes the audience through family life and all its ups and downs. Unlike the other pooches in our collection of most famous dogs in film and TV, the character of Marley was portrayed by 22 yellow Labradors — mainly due to the fact that the dog had to age throughout the film. Released a decade ago to mixed reviews, Marley & Me has since made a total worldwide box office of approximately $242,717,113!
This is a collaborative post.