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What Breed of Dog Is Max from The Grinch? Famous Movie Dogs

Written by: Keri-Beth Clur

Last Updated on April 15, 2024 by Dogster Team

What Breed of Dog Is Max from The Grinch? Famous Movie Dogs

Few haven’t seen the 2000 movie “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” which is about a grumpy Grinch who lives with his dog, Max, on the outskirts of a town called Whoville. While the vibrant town centers around the celebration of Christmas, the isolated and bitter Grinch hates the festive time and plans to ruin it. However, his plans get complicated when he meets a little girl who tries to become his friend.

As wonderful, popular, and captivating as the holiday movie is, dog lovers around the world had their eyes glued on Max—and of course, wanted to know a little more about him and his breed. The truth is that although most people believe he is a Terrier mix, his breed is not entirely known because he’s a mixed breed who was adopted from a shelter and given a beautiful life full of love and the spotlight.

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Why Do People Think Max Was a Terrier Mix?

Although there is no official statement on whether Max is a Terrier mix, many people agree that he is. A Terrier mix is the result of mating a Terrier with another type of dog breed. Terrier mixes can be found in different sizes, weights, appearances, and coat lengths.

Sometimes it’s difficult to pinpoint what the other breed is by looking at the Terrier mix, and sometimes it’s quite obvious. However, the puppies will typically display characteristics from both breeds.

It’s likely that Max is part Airedale Terrier because he’s quite large compared to most Terriers and the Airedale Terrier is the largest type of terrier. They’re also known to be intelligent, which Max clearly is as he was trained to perform specific actions throughout the movie. And although the friendly breed is highly energetic, Max certainly was a good boy on set.

Terrier mixes are known for their deep loyalty, the type displayed between Max and the Grinch. Although it’s just a movie and the Grinch and Max were acting, the dog and Jim Carrey (who played the Grinch) had to develop a trusting bond for him to be able to take commands from Jim on set.

Airedale Terrier on grass
Image By: Lumia Studio, Shutterstock

The Benefits of a Wiry Coat

Most Terrier mixes have a wiry coat, as Max does. These types of coats aren’t soft and smooth like most other dog coats but instead evolved to be coarse and thick to protect the dogs from thorns and sharp branches while hunting, which is what they were initially used for. They’ve since become a household favorite, especially amongst those with allergies, as they don’t shed as much as dogs with soft coats.

However, even with their wiry coats, they’re not hypoallergenic—no breed truly is—because it’s the protein found in the dander, saliva, and urine of a dog that sets off an allergic reaction. But they are a great option to consider as they typically shed fewer allergens around the house and don’t drool.

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What Role Did Max Play in The Movie?

Played mostly by Kelly, the dog, Max was one of the lead roles in How the Grinch Stole Christmas. He lived with the Grinch, his owner, on the outskirts of Whoville, and although vastly different from the Grinch, he remained loyal and devoted to him throughout the movie.

Max is a sort of moral compass to the Grinch and often prompts him to make the best decision by throwing out a bark or blink. However, regardless of the grumpy Grinch’s decision or attitude, Max always looks out for his friend and shows him unconditional love.

Max’s character is a pure representation of dogs and their steadfast devotion to their owners, regardless of how they’re treated. Perhaps Max is an example of how we should be towards our pets and the people around us.

How the Grinch Stole Chistmas, Max the dog
Image By: Characters by  Dr Seuss, Penguin Random House LLC.  All rights reserved to the copyright owners.

How Many Dogs Played Max?

Apart from Kelly, Max was also played by five other dogs—all of whom came from a shelter. Their names are Chip, Topsy, Zelda, Bo, and Stella. Although most of Max’s scenes were played by either Kelly or Chip, each dog had a significant role in the movie. Funnily, although Max is a male dog in the movie, he’s mostly played by a female dog actor but it’s hard to differentiate between the dogs because they were all groomed to look the same.

Of course, every great actor needs a bit of training, and all six of the dogs were trained by Roger Schumacher, an animal trainer, who worked with these dogs for almost 4 months. He succeeded in getting each dog comfortable on the set and confident in their stunts. Each dog was given a role of Max that they were most comfortable with based on their personalities and training experience.

Topsy was best at scratching and took on the scenes that required her talents, Zelda took on scooting, Bo was an excellent sleigh puller, and Stella voiced herself proudly in the barking scenes.

How Was Max Treated on Set?

Although previously abandoned by their owners, the set of How the Grinch Stole Christmas took great care of the dogs. All six of the dogs were looked after by Humane Hollywood, which is an organization that protects animal actors from being treated poorly within the film and TV industry.

Humane Hollywood is active in their goal and has a presence in thousands of productions annually. The film industry was a place where the well-being of animal actors wasn’t prioritized, and they were instead treated like props. Humane Hollywood has changed the industry as they speak up for the voiceless and protect animals from dangerous stunts and on-screen injury, and violence.

The six dogs were brought in to watch as Jim Carrey turned into the Grinch through the long process of makeup and costume to desensitize them to his “scary” look so as not to frighten them. They also got used to their own accessories, such as the antlers, during training and had no problems with them during shooting.

During scenes that required a bit of risk, Max was secured in a harness to protect him from potentially falling. Other wild and exciting scenes were either sped up or computer generated to look dangerous when in reality, they were not. These are a few examples of how the dog actor’s safety was prioritized during filming.


Max from the Grinch is played by six different mixed-breed dogs that were rescued from the shelter by Humane Hollywood and trained to play the sweet and intelligent character. Many believe that Max is a Terrier mix due to his personality, playfulness, and intelligence—but most importantly, his wiry coat.

The dogs that played Max were both male and female but are hard to distinguish on the screen because they underwent grooming to look like the same dog. Regardless of Max’s breed, he was a loving character that won over many hearts.

Featured Image Credit: Characters by  Dr Seuss, Penguin Random House LLC.  All rights reserved to the copyright owners.

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