Thinking back to my earliest memories of dogs, I remember my father’s Doberman, Vicky, who let me ride on her back when I was very young. I can still feel the visceral exhilaration of her speed and her concern in making sure I didn’t fall off. But beyond that experience, and a maybe a few others, most of my earliest memories originate from dogs in cartoons. Some of them are so deeply embedded in my psyche that they almost seemed more real than my actual dogs did. That’s because cartoon dogs are creations of our imaginations, highlighting what we’d like to believe about them, capturing their sweetness, zaniness and weirdness while, at the same time—for those of us of a certain age—making those attributes all the more real because we saw them on TV. All these dogs are imbued with humor, joy and the fond memories of childhood which add a new and wonderful layer to our enjoyment of man’s best friend: When it comes to our relationship with dogs, cartoon or not, there’s a part of us that never has to grow up.
So here, in no particular order, are just a few of Petswelcome’s Picks of the Greatest Cartoon Dogs Ever.
Snoopy—OK. Even in an unordered list, Snoopy is number one. No doubt about it. He can fly as the Red Baron, he can decorate a mean doghouse, go one-on-one with Lucy, make fun of his owner, Charlie Brown, and, above all, he can ice skate. Check him out in Rockefeller Center. From the moment he taps the ice he’s nothing short of sublime.
Muttley—The more we researched, the more we discovered that Muttley is kind of an uberdog in the canine cartoon world, one who left a long and lasting impression in the genre. Kind of like Faulkner in Southern literature. For those not familiar with him, he was Dick Dastardly’s dog and always took joy in his owner’s ill-conceived plans, which somehow always blew up in his own face. But it’s his wheezy chuckle that we all remember.
Brian Griffin—Brian from Family Guy is a struggling writer dog who drives a Toyota Prius and moves through the world like a human, dating human women and always incredulous about the behavior of his close friend Stewie as well as his owner, Peter Griffin. In this segment, you can see the lasting influence of, you guessed it, Muttley.
Scooby-Doo—Can’t talk about cartoon dogs without mentioning Scooby from Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?, the much-loved Saturday morning show that debuted in 1969. A weird combination of Dobie Gillis, The Milton the Monster Show and The Archies, Scooby-Doo Where Are You? follows the adventures of Scooby, Shaggy, Fred, Daphne, and Velma as they investigate ghosts, monsters and/various supernatural creatures. Truly strange but lighthearted and REALLY popular.
Astro was immortalized in the closing credits of the Jetsons as he runs his master, George Jetson, through the treadmill. It is one of the lesser-known facts of Canine Cartoondom that the same person, Don Messick, did the voice of Scooby and Astro. When you think about it, they sound pretty much the same. Both used Ruh-roh (for Uh-oh) when things got tough. Evidently, when dogs talk, they always put Rs in front of everything which, in scientific terms, is called Rhotic Replacement. Really. Not kidding. There’s been studies.
Goofy—Aw shucks, he’s just sweet. Check out this episode when Goofy and the usual buddies go on a Hawaiian vacation and the Goof gets some surfing in. Classic Disney. Goofy was known for his really silly—some might say annoying—laugh which, if you’re next to him someday in hell, could get on your nerves, as captured on the Family Guy.
Droopy Dog—Not many people remember him specifically. Just the voice. Jon Stewart from the Daily Show compared him to Joseph Lieberman the senator from Connecticut who ran as the Vice Presidential candidate with Al Gore in 1992. Despite not being well-remembered, though, Droopy had some serious acting chops. Check out his demure response to a kiss in an early 1960s’ feature.
Snuffles—Okay, I admit it. I originally mixed Snuffles up with Muttley. It’s a common occurrence in ACCS (Advanced Canine Cartoon Studies). However, what I remembered was a treat-loving dog who levitated every time a biscuit was tossed his way. I just forgot it was Quick Draw McGraw’s beloved hound, Snuffles. Evidently his brood of pups didn’t fall far from the tree.
Max—Truly a legend, poor Max had the unfortunate luck of living with the Grinch in his cave high atop Mt. Crumpet. In the end, though, he found his place on the sleigh which, not to get too profound or philosophical or anything, is what we’re all trying to do when you think about it.
Gromit—Alright. Gromit isn’t technically a cartoon, he’s Claymation. But he’s so awesome and smart, he needs to be included in any list of truly great animated TV dogs.
Dexter’s Laboratory Dog—Simply the greatest rendering of what dogs would be like if they could really talk. In this episode, Dexter comes up with a potion that allows a found dog to say what’s on his mind. Which isn’t much. If you want to know what’s on your dog’s mind throughout most of the day, we suggest you watch the rest of the episode.
If we left any of your favorites out, please let us know. We’d love to hear about them.
Coming soon: The Best Cartoon Cats Ever