From the well-known Toto to Lassie and many more, we’re sure that you agree that film dogs make any film so much better. We probably did not pay much attention to it, but the dogs that we watch in these films are major contributors to the industry, much like other dogs in history, they brought about change in their own way.
Throughout the years, filmmakers have seen the value of having dogs be a part of their motion picture, either as the main focus or as an adorable sidekick. Not only did it make their films more successful, but it also opened a new door for possibilities in filmmaking. From actual dogs to animated ones, it was a new thing they could explore and experiment with.
The films have become a part of many people’s lives – in household family bonding or even just individuals having a good time. Some have even made it a tradition to watch these dog films every once in a while. There’s just something about watching different stories that take you on a journey with furry friends. It’ll never fail to tug on the heartstrings.
If you are one of those people who enjoy dog films, then you will surely recognize several of the dogs listed below, and if not, it’s something new that you can possibly check out:
1. Higgins (Benji)
A mixed-breed mutt that originated the role of Benji, Higgins was one of the well-known animal actors during the 1960s and 1970s. Most remembered for his roles as the original Benji, and the uncredited dog from Petticoat Junction, two of the most popular roles he played during a 14-year career in show business. His son, Benjean, also took over and went on to play the role of Benji.
Benji, the film in 1974, featured a dog who’s simply looking for a home. He took a liking to a family that he has been seeing from afar and longed to be a part of theirs. When the two children in the family were kidnapped, Benji helped the humans solve the case, leading the children back to safety, and earning a loving home in the process.
2. Tiger, Freddie & O.J (Einstein in Back to the Future)
It took a while for people to actually pinpoint who these dog actors were. After several investigations, it was discovered that Tiger was the one who originated the role of Einstein in the film and was only a part of the first movie. While the dog actor who took over the role, because Tiger was too old to reprise his role by that time, is still debated. In the credits that can be found in various sources, they say that it’s played by either Freddie (trained by Matilda de Cagny) or O.J (trained by Bob Weatherwax, Lassie’s trainer).
Einstein played an important part in the Trilogy; he was Doc’s constant companion and seems to be his only friend. Doc even built an automatic dog food feeder to make both his and Einstein’s lives easier. He was the latest of many Doc’s pet dogs named after famous scientists, in this case, Albert Einstein. It was, therefore, quite fitting that he became the world’s first time traveler.
3. Fly (Babe) – (The real name of this dog actor is unidentified.)
Voiced by Miriam Margoyles, this female border collie captured the hearts of many as her role Fly in Babe. She first appeared in the first film and made another appearance in Babe: Pig in the City. Her role in the first film played an important part in Babe’s life. Fly adopted the titular pig Babe and taught him how to herd sheep. Fly was at first reluctant but quickly became eager to teach Babe to herd sheep while her mate Rex is hesitant. She also learns more about sheep herself along the way.
4. Spike (Old Yeller)
He was a lop-eared yellow Mastador (Mastiff/Labrador Retriever mix) best known for his performance as the title character in the 1957 film, Old Yeller.
In 1957, the movie tells the story of a stray dog and a young boy who sees potential in him. If you’ve seen the film, you know that he was protecting them from all sorts of danger. He didn’t even think twice about risking his life for them.
After his heartbreaking role in the Old Yeller, he went on to appear as Patrasche in A Dog of Flanders and as King in The She-Creature.
5. Pal the Wonder dog (Petey the Pup in Little Rascals)
There were actually two Pete the Pups, but the original one that starred in the film Little Rascals back in the 30s was an American Pit Bull Terrier owned and trained by Lieutenant Harry Lucenay, reportedly born in 1924. He’s famously known for the ring around his eye. It was a natural ring that was almost completely around his right eye and dye was just used to finish it off. People started calling him “Pete, the dog with the ring around his eye” or simply “Petey.”
Unfortunately, the dog’s career was cut short when he was poisoned. Pal the Wonder Dog died in 1930. Many believed that it was by someone who was holding a grudge against Harry for some reason or another. But death did not stop Petey’s legacy from continuing on, Harry had already begun breeding Pal and eventually training his offspring.
6. Moose (Eddie Crane in Frasier)
A wire-haired Jack Russell Terrier is famously known for the role he portrayed, Eddie Crane, on the American sitcom, Frasier. Moose had the ability to fix Kelsey Grammer with a long hard stare; this became a running sight gag on the show.
Like Pal, the original Lassie, the rambunctious puppy was too much for his original owner. He could not be house trained. He apparently chewed everything and he dug and barked a lot. Eventually, he was given to the Florida manager of Birds and Animals Unlimited, a company that trains animals for TV and motion pictures.
At 2½ years old, they sent Moose off on a plane and sent him to train under Mathilde de Cagny, an LA trainer working for the showbiz animal company. Despite his rambunctiousness, he managed to get his role on Frasier after only six months of training with Mathilde.
Moose is one of the first few, well-known film dogs, at that time, that went on to make a name for himself.
7. Kelley (Max in The Grinch)
Her origins are unknown, but it is said that she is an Airedale/Wheaten Terrier mix. Initially, the role was supposed to be CGI, but they discovered this talented dog. They decided that she should play the lovable companion of The Grinch in the 2000s film How the Grinch Stole Christmas starring Jim Carrey.
8. Beasley (Turner & Hooch)
Only 17 months at the time, this French mastiff starred as Hooch in Turner & Hooch alongside Tom Hanks. He only had five months to prepare before the start of their shoot. He had several alternates in the role, a stunt double named Igor and two (2) more, but he was the most notable one.
It was said that Tom Hanks spent a lot of time with him and his alternates to be able to build trust among them. Hanks even started using the clicker that the dog trainer would use so that the dogs would look at him instead of the trainer during the takes. Beasley, although well behaved, still had a habit of running around the set, as well as slobbering a lot. There was a time when they discovered that the new car’s seat had eroded from all of Hooch’s slobber.
In 2013, Tom Hanks said that Beasley and the rest of the Hooch actors of the film had passed and gone to “doggy heaven.”
9. Air Buddy (Comet in Full House and Air Bud)
Air Buddy was a stray golden retriever that was found by Kevin Dicicco in the Sierra Nevada in the summer of 1989. He was trained in different kinds of sports, such as basketball, baseball, football, soccer, and hockey. The sport that he excelled the most at was basketball.
He was cast as Buddy in the 1997 Disney film. It told the story of a golden retriever abandoned by his alcoholic abusive owner. He appeared at the Kids’ Choice Awards in 1998, where he was nominated for a Blimp Award for the film. Air Bud was Buddy’s final acting role. He also went on to play Comet in one episode of Full House in 1995. Prior to his death, Buddy sired nine puppies who eventually took over some of the roles that he had.
10. Pal (Lassie)
A rough collie that was first seen as a nuisance for her lack of “star quality” as well as her poor behavior. After training under Weatherwax, she became one of the most well-loved film dogs in history. If you’re interested in her full story, visit this dog in history link.
That was quite the trip down memory lane, wasn’t it? These are just 10 of the many dogs that have starred in films throughout the years. Were you able to recognize the dogs listed above?
We have more stories about the other film dogs, as well as underrated dogs in history. Feel free to check them out!