Dogs have played an integral role in every one of mankind’s great aspirations. In the early days, they assisted us in hunting, gathering, and exploring new lands. They’ve accompanied us to war and have helped keep peace in our own cities and neighborhoods. They’ve provided a much needed home sanitation alternative when we’ve felt too tired to vacuum up the crumbs on the kitchen floor. And they haven’t done too shoddily in the pop culture department, either.
Just as faithful and endearing as dogs have proved across human history have they likewise shown themselves to be in film, television, literature, comics, and whatever the umbrella term under which you’d shamefully slot memes. Dogs have proven themselves particularly prominent in the nerdiest divides of art and entertainment, always ready for a trek into space or a skulk across one of many acrid post-apocalyptic wastelands.
While there are indeed no best dogs, as every single dog who has ever lived is and will forever remain the greatest living thing to grace the mortal realm, we thought it only fair to give credit to some of nerd culture’s most adored four-legged champions. Prompted by the release of the latest adventures of incurable dog lover John Wick, here are Nerdist’s favorite pop culture dogs–a pick for every single breed we could manage.
Best in Breed: Hachikō, the endlessly loyal pooch who became a cultural phenomenon thanks to his proclivity to wait daily by the train station for his human roommate (“owner” is so passé) to arrive home from work, showing up regularly even after the latter had died. Accepting the honor on Hachikō’s behalf is his fictionalized counterpart Hachi from the 2009 Lasse Hallström film adaptation (Hachi: A Dog’s Tale).
Best in Breed: Chance, the precocious “bad boy” of the runaway trio that headlined the perennial mid-’90s home-viewing treat Homeward Bound. His witless bravery in the face of the mighty porcupine was his greatest undoing.
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Best in Breed: Backup, teenage sleuth Veronica Mars’ shape-shifting pet. (We’re going with the second, longer-tenured version.)
Best in Breed: Champion, the three-legged adoptee of Andy Dwyer and April Ludgate from Parks and Recreation. Though recognizable as an American Staffordshire Terrier, Champion has also been identified by Chris Traeger as an amazing-terrific hybrid.
AUSTRALIAN CATTLE DOG
Best in Breed: Max Rockatansky’s unnamed pooch pal from Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. Doesn’t say much, but then again, neither does Max.
Best in Breed: Viral celebrity Staines, whose craving for cupcakes is matched only by his will power.
Best in Breed: Droopy, animator Tex Avery’s famously dysthymic canine hero.
Best in Breed: Snoopy, who is canonically recognized as a beagle despite looking nothing like one. What do you want me to do about it? He’s a war hero, for goodness sake! Let him call himself what he wants!
Best in Breed: Einstein, Doc Brown’s easygoing second dog (that we know of) in Back to the Future, and the first ever living thing to travel through time.
Best in Breed: Darla, who played both Queenie in The ‘Burbs and Precious in The Silence of the Lambs. This dog liked her acting gigs creepy.
BLACK MOUTH CUR
Best in Breed: Old Yeller. The classics are classics for a reason, you know.
Best in Breed: McGruff the Crime Dog. I know, kind of a square choice. But he may be the sole reason my life hasn’t careened down a morbid trajectory of bad choices. (If a dog tells me not to do something, I’m not gonna do it!)
Best in Breed: Fly, the second dog on this list to herald from a George Miller movie, and the much kinder of the two pooches featured in Babe.
Best in Breed: Seymour Asses, Fry’s relentlessly faithful stray pup from everybody’s favorite and least favorite episode of Futurama. Go ahead, slink into the supply closet and get in that 30-minute cry that comes anytime you even hear mention of Seymour.
Best in Breed: Butkus, Rocky’s dog in Rocky. Appropriately, he seems kind of like the Rocky of dogs.
Best in Breed: The unnamed star of the Brad Bird- and Tim Burton-produced cartoon series Family Dog, and the aesthetic precursor to the undead hero of Burton’s 2012 film Frankenweenie.
Best in Breed: Toto from The Wizard of Oz, naturally.
Best in Breed: Ren and Stimpy‘s titular Ren Hoek, who also identifies as an asthma hound.
Best in Breed: Sir Didymus of the Labyrinth! You know, the one from Labyrinth.
Best in Breed: Lucky, a.k.a. Pizza Dog, Hawkeye’s closest chum, who really should be getting his own standalone Marvel Cinematic Universe movie one of these days…
Best in Breed: The high society hopeless romantic (and pasta junkie) Lady from Lady and the Tramp.
Best in Breed: Lassie. Duh.
Best in Breed: The Star Fox franchise’s dutiful General Pepper, who is known for–and you’ll forgive me for this, as I have like 80 of these to write and can only resist the urge to make obvious puns for so long–barking orders.
Best in Breed: Ein, the intellectually augmented runaway from Cowboy Bebop. Smart as hell, cute AF.
Best in Breed: Toy Story‘s synthetic stretchy pooch Slinky Dog. One of the last holdouts of the “Woody is innocent” camp, per his canid proclivity toward loyalty.
Best in Breed: It’s a 101-way tie.
Best in Breed: The accident-prone but generally effectual superhero dog Dynomutt. (Okay, does anyone else know who Dynomutt is? Maybe I should have picked Blackie from Hugo. [Okay, does anyone else know who Blackie is?])
DOGUE DE BORDEAUX
Best in Breed: Hooch, as in Tom Hanks’ slovenly crime fighting partner in Turner and Hooch. Certifiably unconcerned over what you think may or may not be “his room.”
Best in Breed: The impressively stretchy, and even more impressively reliable, Jake from Adventure Time.
Best in Breed: Kazak, the physics-bending dog from Kurt Vonnegut’s The Sirens of Titan. Accepting the honor on his behalf is a referential gag from the TV series Archer, which I figured you’d all enjoy anyhow.
Gary playing with a truly big dog in Rome….. pic.twitter.com/vg4cTYAOzq
— Carrie Fisher (@carrieffisher) October 15, 2016
Best in Breed: Gary Fisher, dauntless companion and Instagram muse of our beloved hero Carrie Fisher. She who herself came closer to dog-like valor and integrity than most of us ever will. We love them both.
Best in Breed: Samantha, friend and ally of Will Smith’s zombie apocalypse survivor in I Am Legend. A very good dog, and even a relatively decent zombie, all things considered.
Best in Breed: Zero, the ghost dog found beside Halloweentown’s local celebrity Jack Skellington in The Nightmare Before Christmas. I put in a good deal of effort to try and figure out what breed Zero may have been in his time before passing on–assuming that he was ever anything other than a ghost–but never landed on anything definitive. So “ghost dog” it is! (Though he even had some competition in this field.)
Best in Breed: Buddy, the star of the very first entry in the 12-film-long Air Bud franchise.
Best in Breed: Notorious vigilante and incurable glutton, Scoobert “Scooby” Doo.
Best in Breed: Belle of Belle et Sébastien, the 1965 French children’s novel; not the band all your indie friends in college were into whose stuff you kept meaning to check out but never did. Accepting on Belle’s behalf is the dog who played her in the 2013 film adaptation of the Cécile Aubry book.
Best in Breed: The Simpsons‘ family’s reformed racing dog, the borderline untrainable Santa’s Little Helper.
Best in Breed: Redbeard, the particularly affectionate mental machination of Sherlock Holmes’ childhood traumas on Sherlock.
JACK RUSSELL TERRIER
Best in Breed: Wishbone, whom many children of the ’90s can thank for our familiarity with Cyrano de Bergerac.
Best in Breed: Rowlf, the Muppets’ perpetually melancholic pianist.
Best in Breed: Well, Laika. Although it has never been ascertained that Laika was indeed of the Russian-originated Laika breed, which itself has some murky margins, I thought the first dog in space deserved at least the benefit of the doubt.
Best in Breed: Ms. Tiger, Aunt May’s frilly pet from the 1980s cartoon series Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends.
Best in Breed: The dog from The Thing. Oh, that poor, poor pooch.
Best in Breed: Snowball (don’t call him Snuffles), the Smith family’s dog in Rick and Morty, who achieves hyperintelligence and leads an army of fellow canines to seize temporary control over the human race. He sure does love his Morty, though.
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Best in Breed: Spunky, Rocko’s intellectually lacking dog on Rocko’s Modern Life. Loves Rocko, food, and mops.
Remember that David Lynch comic strip “The Angriest Dog in the World”? It me, lately. pic.twitter.com/nyJVZCj44e
— Bill Chambers (@flmfrkcentral) February 2, 2017
Best in Breed: The unnamed, rigor mortis-stricken protagonist of David Lynch’s comic strip series The Angriest Dog in the World.
Best in Breed: Fang, the appropriately behemoth sidekick to Rubeus Hagrid in the Harry Potter movies. (Yes, he was a different breed in the books, but I’m trying to cover all bases here.)
Best in Breed: Nana, the put-upon caretaker dog of the Darling children in Peter Pan.
Best in Breed: The masterpiece of 1960s production design that was Alpha 177 Canine from the Star Trek: The Original Series episode “The Enemy Within.”
NORTHERN INUIT DOG
Best in Breed: Nymeria, the reigning champion of Game of Thrones‘ direwolves. (And yes, I fully expect to get a lot of heat from the Ghost people about this.)
Best in Breed: Winky, the supremely adorable gold medal-winning pup in Christopher Guest’s hilarious mockumentary Best in Show.
NOVA SCOTIA DUCK TOLLING RETRIEVER
Best in Breed: Laughing Dog, the sick, sadistic antihero featured in the classic Nintendo game Duck Hunt.
OLD ENGLISH SHEEPDOG
Best in Breed: Ambrosius, the shaggy chauffeur upon which the previously referenced Sir Didymus rides.
Best in Breed: Sandy, lifelong sidekick to the musically inclined orphan Annie from her eponymous musical of stage and screen.
POLISH LOWLAND SHEEPDOG
Best in Breed: Paula Anka, the fittingly neurotic dog that Lorelai Gilmore adopts to cope with her loneliness after Rory goes to college. Fun fact: Paul Anka was played by the same dog in Gilmore Girls’ original run as he was in the revival series, nine years after the fact.
Best in Breed: That vampirious little fluffball from Blade Trinity.
Best in Breed: Frunobulax, as featured in the musical stylings of Frank Zappa, originating in his 1974 Roxy & Elsewhere song “Cheepnis.”
Best in Breed: Frank, the oft costumed extraterrestrial secret agent from Men in Black, and the second dog on this list to spend most of his time hanging around Will Smith.
Best in Breed: Anwar Sadat, Jason Segel’s unfathomably cute pet in the comedy film I Love You, Man.
Best in Breed: Blood from Harlan Ellison’s sci-fi series A Boy and His Dog. Now, the dog pictured above, Blood as he is depicted in the 1975 film adaptation of the story, is decidedly not a puli. Pulis look like this:
But rest assured, Blood as Ellison wrote him was 50 percent puli. And truth be told, there aren’t that many other pulis in the pop culture sphere, so I’m counting it.
Best in Breed: The K-9s from Doctor Who. I wouldn’t forget you, Whovians.
Best in Breed: Hellhound from The Omen. (Shudder)
Best in Breed: Cujo from Cujo. (Shudder)
Best in Breed: The ever valiant Cross from Ginga: Nagareboshi Gin. A true survivor.
Best in Breed: Colin, the somewhat aloofly cared for house dog on the comedy series Spaced, and the subject of a great prison break parody episode.
Best in Breed: Richard, who really contributes very little to The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time beyond a secret heart piece, but whom I always loved chasing around Hyrule when it was my turn to play (much to my friend Ben’s chagrin).
Best in Breed: Martin Riggs’ easygoing dog Sam, who appears in all four Lethal Weapon movies.
Such sleep pic.twitter.com/cvjysHveSY
— Doge (@DogeTheDog) February 4, 2016
Best in Breed: Doge, the wonderfully stupid meme that has held my heart since piercing the internet back in 2005.
Best in Breed: Heen, the languid, ostensibly boneless palace pooch from Howl’s Moving Castle.
Best in Breed: Balto. Gotta go with Balto.
SMOOTH FOX TERRIER
Best in Breed: Snitter, one of two protagonists in Watership Down author Richard Adams’ equally despaired The Plague Dogs. As if the title didn’t give that away.
Best in Breed: Growlithe and Arcanine. Generally speaking, most Spitzes aren’t armed with fire-spewing abilities, which is what gave them the edge.
STAFFORDSHIRE BULL TERRIER
Best in Breed: The diamond-digesting dog from Guy Ritchie’s Snatch.
Best in Breed: Clifford, famed principally for his bigness and reditude.
Best in Breed: Each and every one of those dogs that William Wegman had participate in that nonsense gimmick he called art. You are all champions of patience alone.
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Best in Breed: The unbearably cute dog from the Cesar commercials.
Best in Breed: Krypto, the Krypton-born canine who traveled to Earth, presumably by will of the benevolent Jor-El, to aid in fellow ex-pat Superman’s quest to fight crime in Metropolis.
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Best in Breed: Snowy, boy reporter and de facto detective Tintin’s scrappy li’l sidekick and fellow adventure addict.
Best in Breed: Vincent. The absolute greatest character on Lost and, perhaps, in the history of fiction.
Now that you’ve run through our list, what are some of your favorite dogs from pop culture history?
Featured Image: Adult Swim
Images: Stage 6 Films; Buena Vista; NBC; Warner Bros; MGM; 20th Century Fox; Universal; Fox; CBS; Nickelodeon; TriStar; Marvel Comics; Disney; Nintendo; Funimation; Cartoon Network; FX; Gaumont; HIT Entertainment; First Second Books; Disney-ABC Domestic Television; Adult Swim; HBO; Columbia Pictures; The WB; New Line Cinema; DreamWorks; LQ/JAF Productions; Anita Ritenour/Flickr; BBC; TV Asahi; Channel 4; Toho; Embassy Pictures/MGM; the Pokémon Company; PBS/Scholastic Entertainment; DC Comics; Paramount Pictures
Michael Arbeiter is the East Coast Editor of Nerdist, and a part-time dog-walker. Send Michael dog GIFs aplenty on Twitter @MichaelArbeiter.