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20 Famous Dog Actors in Hollywood: Facts & FAQ (With Videos)

Written by: Kathryn Copeland

Last Updated on June 13, 2024 by Dogster Team

dog actor at a shoot

20 Famous Dog Actors in Hollywood: Facts & FAQ (With Videos)

Canines have been a source of entertainment in our homes for centuries, but it has only been about a hundred years since they started appearing on our TV and film screens.

Dogs often make us laugh, and they also bring us to tears, which is why they are frequently used in movies: It guarantees that the audience will become emotionally invested in the story!

However, have you ever wondered about dog actors? Do they receive the recognition that they deserve? As a tribute, we compiled a list of 20 noteworthy dog actors that made a significant contribution to the show or film in which they appeared.

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The 20 Famous Dog Actors in Movies and TV Shows

1. Etzel von Oeringen

Character Name: Strongheart
Film or TV Show: “The Silent Call” (1921)
Breed: German Shepherd

Etzel von Oeringen was originally trained in Berlin as a police dog and assisted the German Red Cross during WWI. He came to American shores to participate in a dog show, where he was scouted by film director Laurence Trimble, who trained the dog for four of his films.

Etzel rose to fame under the stage name “Strongheart,” starring in several films, including the popular movie, “White Fang.” He is widely regarded as the first famous dog actor in history.

2. Rin Tin Tin

Character Name: Rin Tin Tin
Film or TV Show: “Where the North Begins” (1923)
Breed: German Shepherd

Rin Tin Tin is one of the most renowned canine actors and starred in 25 films! Corporal Lee Duncan rescued Rin Tin Tin during WWI and brought him to the United States, where Duncan thought that the dog might be the next Strongheart.

The popularity of Rin Tin Tin has been credited with saving Warner Bros. from bankruptcy in the 1920s. Interestingly, he received the most votes for Best Actor at the 1929 Academy Awards. However, the Academy decided to present the award to a human instead.

3. Pal (the Wonder Dog)

Character Name: Pete the Dog
Film or TV Show: “Our Gang” (1927–1938)
Breed: Staffordshire Terrier

Pal, popularly known as Pal the Wonder Dog, achieved fame for his role as Pete the Pup, or Petey, in the well-known show, “Our Gang,” also called, “The Little Rascals.” He accompanied the kids on many of their misadventures and was easily recognizable by the black circle around his eye.

The original Pete had a natural circle around his eye, but his son, who took over the role when he passed away, had the circle drawn on with Max Factor makeup.

4. Skippy

Character Name: Asta
Film or TV Show: “The Thin Man” (1934)
Breed: Wire Fox Terrier

Skippy was an absolute scene stealer in “The Thin Man,” in which he was a sidekick to William Powell and Myrna Loy. He had been trained to do backflips, play hide and seek, cover his face, and howl on command.

His character, Asta, was such a success that Skippy had top billing alongside his famous co-stars.

5. Terry

Character Name: Toto
Film or TV Show: “The Wizard of Oz” (1939)
Breed: Cairn Terrier

There’s no question of the popularity of the famous Toto! Terry had acted in other movies, but “The Wizard of Oz” was definitely the pinnacle of her career. She was so successful in the movie that she formed a strong bond with Judy Garland, who unsuccessfully tried to buy her.

6. Pal

Character Name: Lassie
Film or TV Show: “Lassie Come Home” (1943)
Breed: Rough Collie

Like Toto, who was a female dog that played a male character, Lassie was a female character played by a male Collie named Pal.

There have been many Lassies, but Pal was the first and the most famous. His original owner brought him to renowned animal trainer Rudd Weatherwax to curb his habit of chasing motorcycles and excessive barking. He wasn’t able to fix the motorcycle issue, so Weatherwax ended up adopting Pal, and the rest is history!

7. Spike

Character Name: Old Yeller
Film or TV Show: “Old Yeller” (1957)
Breed: Mastiff/Labrador Mix

Many of us were emotionally devastated by the movie “Old Yeller” as children. While it’s an excellent film, it’s also incredibly heartbreaking. Spike was rescued from an animal shelter by Frank Weatherwax, an actor and dog trainer. Interestingly, Frank’s brother, Rudd, worked with the original Lassie.

8. Higgins

Character Name: Benji
Film or TV Show: “Benji”(1974)
Breed: Mixed Breed

Benji was all the rage in the 1970s! He was played by Higgins, a mixed-breed dog trained by the famous animal trainer Frank Inn. Higgins initially starred in “Petticoat Junction” in the ‘60s and then retired. But he came out of retirement at 14 to star in “Benji.”

The popularity of the movie saw Higgin’s offspring continuing in the Benji role, but Higgens will always be the original.

9. Beasley

Character Name: Hooch
Film or TV Show: “Turner & Hooch” (1989)
Breed: Dogue de Bordeaux

Beasley was a Dogue de Bordeaux that starred in the movie, “Turner & Hooch,” which turned out to be the only film he appeared in. The movie was a perfect blend of comedy, action, Tom Hanks, and dog drool!

Despite the fact that Dogues usually have a lifespan of 5 to 8 years, Beasley lived to be 14, which is quite impressive.

10. Kris

Character Name: Beethoven
Film or TV Show: “Beethoven” (1992)
Breed: St. Bernard

Kris (sometimes spelled Chris) was the main dog in “Beethoven,” but another 12 St. Bernards waited in the wings as doubles. Interestingly, all the dogs used in the film were owned by Eleanor Keaton, the widow of the famous actor Buster Keaton. In fact, a few of the St. Bernards were the descendants of one of Buster’s dogs.

11. Rattler

Character Name: Chance
Film or TV Show: “Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey” (1993)
Breed: American Bulldog

The movie, “Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey,” is about two dogs and a cat that embark on a journey across America to find their owners. The character of Chance was played by Rattler, an American Bulldog, and voiced by the much-loved actor Michael J. Fox.

12. Moose

Character Name: Eddie
Film or TV Show: “Frasier” (1993–2004)
Breed: Jack Russell Terrier

Moose gained widespread recognition for his portrayal of Eddie in the popular and award-winning TV series, “Frasier.” He was a wire-haired Jack Russell Terrier that also played the lead role in the movie, “My Dog Skip.” Moose was known for his unique quirk, sticking out his tongue, which added to his charm and character.

13. Max

Character Name: Milo the Dog
Film or TV Show: “The Mask” (1994)
Breed: Jack Russell Terrier

The movie, “The Mask,” was a massive success, partly due to the performance of Max. Despite sharing the screen with Jim Carrey, the dog managed to steal the show with unforgettable moments.

Max was selected for the role because he was the most lively and enthusiastic compared to the other dogs that auditioned.

14. Soccer

Character Name: Wishbone
Film or TV Show: “Wishbone” (1995–1998)
Breed: Jack Russell Terrier

Soccer portrayed the lovable Wishbone for the titular PBS show, which told stories based on classic literature. The program was educational and entertaining, and Soccer was chosen for the role primarily because of his expressive face.

15. Buddy

Character Name: Buddy
Film or TV Show: “Air Bud” (1997)
Breed: Golden Retriever

There is a bit of misinformation circulating about Buddy. It is commonly believed that he played Comet on the sitcom, “Full House,” in addition to his role in the movie, “Air Bud.” However, he only played Comet for one episode.

Buddy was originally found as a stray dog that was eventually trained to play sports, ultimately leading to his basketball talent. He also made three appearances on David Letterman’s show.

16. Peanut

Character Name: Baxter
Film or TV Show: “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” (2004)
Breed: Border Terrier

Peanut was a stray dog-turned-famous dog. He was found in the Los Angeles Animal Services East Valley Shelter well before his hilarious appearance in “Anchorman.” The sequel to “Anchorman” featured a different dog by the name of Quince, who was also a stray, found wandering in a grocery store parking lot.

17. Clyde

Character Name: Marley
Film or TV Show: “Marley & Me” (2008)
Breed: Labrador Retriever

This movie is practically guaranteed to make you cry, and it’s all thanks to Clyde.

There are plenty of humorous moments too, including a scene where Marley urinates on the coffee table. This was actually not scripted, but the director decided to keep it because it was so funny!

18. Stewart

Character Name: Cheddar
Film or TV Show: “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” (2013–2021)
Breed: Pembroke Welsh Corgi

Scene-stealing Stewart was the perfect addition to the cast of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.” He was known to repeat mistakes during filming just because he’d get laughs.

Unfortunately, Stewart passed away toward the end of the third season, so he was replaced by his sister, Stella, which explains why Cheddar looked a bit different for the remainder of the show’s run.

19. Andy

Character Name: Daisy
Film or TV Show: “John Wick” (2014)
Breed: Beagle

The “John Wick” movies may be known for their action and violence, but at the core, they are all about dogs. In fact, the entire plot of the first movie is driven by the death of John Wick’s Beagle puppy, Daisy, played by Andy.

Despite the tragedy, the film ends on a heartwarming note: Wick saves a Pit Bull from being euthanized, and the dog becomes his faithful companion throughout the rest of the franchise.

20. Coco

Character Name: Sarii
Film or TV Show: “Prey” (2022)
Breed: Carolina Dog

Coco played the role of Sarii, which means “dog” in Comanche, in the 2022 “Prey” movie that is part of the “Predator” franchise. Despite having no prior training or experience in the movie industry, Coco was specifically adopted from a shelter for the role.

Although she was challenging to work with, Coco’s enthusiasm and character impressed the director, who ended up giving her a more prominent role than originally planned.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How Much Do Dog Actors Make?

Rin Tin Tin earned an impressive $2,000 per week, which was more than what most humans earned at the time. In fact, considering this was in the 1920s, he was making more than what many people make today in the 2020s!

Terry, who portrayed Toto in “The Wizard of Oz,” earned $125 a week (compared to Judy Garland’s $500 a week). Also, that salary was more than the Munchkin actors’ $50 weekly pay. Moose, who played Eddie in “Frasier,” reportedly made $10,000 per episode.

On average, a dog in Hollywood can earn between $5,000 and $10,000 per year. But this depends on the animal and the level of their involvement in the production, so the numbers can be much higher or lower.

Who Played Cujo in the 1983 Film?

Cujo is one of the most famous dogs in fiction, but the character in 1983’s “Cujo” was played by five St. Bernards, a mechanical head, and a man in a dog costume, so it’s difficult to give credit to one dog!

What About Cartoon Dogs?

There are many famous animated dogs, such as Scooby-Doo, Snoopy, and Dug from “Up.” But unfortunately, they don’t count as having dog actors, since they aren’t real dogs, and most are voiced by humans or stock sounds, anyway.

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There’s nothing quite like the experience of watching a dog film that makes you laugh and ugly cry. Canines are equally capable of tickling our funny bones and tugging at our heartstrings, making them the perfect actors to add something special to a movie.

Featured Image Credit: KarsalyPepe, Shutterstock

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