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We've long looked to Hollywood for fashions and trends, so it's no surprise that canine film stars fuel our fascination with certain dog breeds. From Disney's 101 Dalmatians to Oscar front-runner The Artist, we can't help but fall in love with pups on the silver screen. So in honor of Sunday's Academy Awards, we're taking a look back at some of the beloved dog breeds popularized by famous films.
In 1939, a girl named Dorothy made history with what is perhaps the most famous line ever spoken to a dog on the silver screen: "Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore." More than seven decades later, little girls dressed for Halloween in braids and blue checked dresses still tote wicker baskets with stuffed-animal Totos. The Cairn Terrier, a rugged, independent little dog bred in Scotland to hunt vermin, is still enjoying its fame from the film; earlier this year, a lawmaker proposed a measure to make the Cairn the official state dog of — you guessed it — Kansas.
American soldier Lee Duncan brought a newborn German Shepherd puppy home from France at the end of World War I; he taught Rin Tin Tin some tricks and decided that the canine could be a movie star. Through feature-length movies and short films, as well as a radio series, Rin Tin Tin touched off a decades-long international frenzy for the breed. During World War II, the Army declared the German Shepherd its official mascot. But mass-production puppy mills cashed in on the soaring popularity of this smart, protective breed and created a genetic nightmare. Still, thanks to Rin Tin Tin, the breed is one of the most recognizable household favorites in America. (For more on this star, read the Vetstreet article: Forget Uggie, Rin Tin Tin Was the Original Movie (and TV and Radio) Star Dog.
Speaking of recognizable breeds, these dogs’ famous spots made them the dangerous target of one of Disney's most famous villains, Cruella De Vil. Audiences everywhere fell in love with the 1961 Disney film and the spotted puppies who — fortunately — did not end up as a fur coat. But you wouldn’t want 101 of these dogs; bred to run alongside carriages and horseback riders, the athletic Dalmatian has an endless desire for exercise. So don’t expect him to sit around all day and watch Disney movies with you.
Released late last year, the animated Stephen Spielberg adventure film stars a loyal companion named Snowy. The dog and his owner, a heroic young reporter named Tintin, originally appeared in a 1929 comic created by Belgian artist Georges Remi. The Wire Fox Terrier is an active dog who loves to hunt and dig, so make sure you know how to channel his bottomless energy.
If you wander into Central Park in New York City, you’ll likely see children climbing onto the back of this bronzed hero. In the hazardous winter of 1925, a Siberian Husky sled dog named Balto led his team on the last leg of a serum delivery in a desperate bid to stop a deadly diphtheria epidemic in Nome, Alaska. The heroic run is commemorated by the annual Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and is the subject of the 1995 animated Disney film Balto. Animation aside, the Siberian Husky’s dense double coat keeps him warm in cold climates and his love of exercise makes him a great working dog. His intelligence also makes him an impressive escape artist, so ID tags and microchips are a must for this breed.
The Taco Bell spokesdog may rule the small screen, but Bruiser the Chihuahua delighted audiences on the big screen in 2001. Legally Blonde, starring Reese Witherspoon as a bubbly sorority girl who finds herself enrolled at Harvard Law School, sparked a sequel, a spin-off and even a Broadway show — all featuring the Chihuahua. The breed has been called a “purse puppy” because of its toy stature, but this is a saucy, high-strung canine who needs a lot of training. And despite his tiny frame, the territorial Chihuahua isn’t afraid to take on dogs that stand many times his height.
The gentle giant smashed into box offices in 1992 and started a series of sequels that continued for nearly a decade. The original Beethoven revolves around the antics of a Saint Bernard who sneaks into the home — and hearts — of the Newton family. If you’re thinking about bringing a Saint Bernard into your home, prepare for some serious drool. She makes up for her slobber, though, with her lovable disposition. Originally employed by monks to rescue lost travelers in the Swiss Alps, the Saint Bernard is a protective and patient dog, with a heart as big as her giant body.
From Homeward Bound to Full House, plenty of Golden Retrievers have graced the big and small screens — but no one plays the game like Air Bud’s Buddy. “Ain’t no rules says a dog can’t play basketball,” a referee declares after Buddy delights the crowd with his talents on the basketball court. You might not be able to train your own Golden to slam-dunk, but this breed still lives to please. He’s a sweet family dog who’s easy to train, and if you need a jogging or running partner, these dogs are a perfect match. They love to exercise, but make sure you take it easy during the puppy years, as their growth plates are still forming.
Soon after Eric Knight penned the novel Lassie Come-Home in 1940, MGM picked up the heartwarming story and produced seven films about the collie who finds her way home to the little boy who loves her. An Emmy-winning television show called Lassie premiered in 1954 and ran for 19 seasons. Lassie is one of only three film dogs honored with a place on the Hollywood Walk of Fame; the two others are Rin Tin Tin and Strongheart. Collies are touted as one of the best breeds for family dogs, as they don’t require much grooming, love to play with children and are easy to train. A Collie’s herding heritage may drive her to nip at people’s heels though, so be sure to discourage this unacceptable behavior.
Nowadays, no canine is causing as much media hoopla as Uggie. The beloved Jack Russell Terrier is the film world’s top dog this year, delivering a show-stopping performance at the Golden Globes and cleaning up at the Golden Collar Awards earlier this month. Sadly, Uggie’s career is wrapping up due to a mysterious neurological disorder that causes the 10-year-old to shake. If you fell in love with the breed after seeing The Artist, be aware that these active and energetic dogs can be a handful. If you don’t keep a Jack Russell Terrier busy, he’ll find his own activities, like re-landscaping your lawn and harassing the family cat. With proper guidance and firm training, the Jack Russell can be a fun and loving companion — as one pet parent learned with her shelter dog, Emily.
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