Hollywood Hounds: Which Dog Breeds Rule the Big Screen?

Dogs have always played a crucial role in film and TV history - from a classic Disney comedy with pups getting into mischief to a tearjerker when our favorite pooch is killed off. One can even say that the four-legged stars of the screen have often out-shone their human co-stars over the years. 

Many breeds have hit the big time, so the team at Protect My Paws analyzed data from IMDb to identify the dog breeds that appear in most films and TV shows of the past century. 

Methodology 

Protect My Paws used Dogtime.com to compile a comprehensive list of breeds. Each dog breed was then looked up on IMDB custom search engine in two variations: with and without "dog," e.g., "German Shepherd" and "German Shepherd dog," recording a total number of unique titles (films and tv series), as well as their year of release, and their Metascore, where available. Dog breeds with the highest number of unique titles they appeared in were deemed the most popular. Dog breeds with the highest average Metascore of the titles they appeared in were considered to be the highest rated.

Most popular dogs

Of all the pooches to ever grace the big screen, one breed stands out as the most prolific,  and that's the German Shepherd. 

From Rin-Tin-Tin, who starred in 27 films in the early days of Hollywood, to Koton, the co-star of K9 with James Belushi, to Will Smith's partner in post-apocalyptic I Am Legend, these dogs featured in a whopping 562 films and tv series over the years. That's near twice as many titles as the second most popular dog breed in the film - the bulldog with 284 titles to its name. 

Poodles are third most popular with 209 titles, including appearances in Edward Scissorhands, Look Who's Talking Now, and Breakfast at Tiffany's.

They're followed by Doberman Pinschers, who have 176. These dogs famously starred in the French thriller "Doberman" with Vincent Cassel and Monica Belucci, with other notable titles including Hugo, Up, and The Doberman Gang.

Next up are Chihuahuas and Rottweilers, who have 167 and 153 titles respectively. Chihuahuas are probably most famous for Beverly Hills Chihuahua, while rottweilers are featured in iconic titles such as Ferris Bueller's Day Off and The Omen. 

Great Dane is the 7th most popular breed, with the most famous example of this on-screen dog being, of course, Scooby-Doo with its multiple incarnations in both animated and live-action titles. 

It is arguably America's most beloved dog breed - the Golden Retriever - finds itself in 8th place, as it appeared in only 146 titles. Famous examples of these dogs include Buddy from the Air Bud franchise about a dog turned a basketball player, Brinkley from You've Got Mail, and Dug from Pixar's Up. 

Rounding off the top 10 most popular dog breeds on-screen are Dachshunds and Saint Bernards. 

Little German "sausage dogs," as they're sometimes called, appeared in 126 titles, most famous of which are films in the Toy Story franchise that feature a toy dog called "Slinky." 

Saint Bernards were featured in 108 titles, most famous of all being those in the Beethoven franchise.

Most filmed dogs

The infographics below show the most popular dog breeds by decade.

The most popular dog breeds by decade

Highest-rated dogs

When it comes to dog breeds whose film and tv appearances are associated with acclaim, the top 10 look quite different.

The breed with the highest average Metascore across the titles in which it appeared is Border Collie. The title with one of the highest scores where a dog of this breed appeared is Babe (1995), with a score of 83 and a "Must See" label on Metacritic. 

Greyhounds and Boxers come really close to challenging Border Collies, with their average at 63.9 and 63.8. Greyhounds' highest rated film on MetaCritic is An Education with Carey Mulligan (85), while for Boxers, it's Solaris by the acclaimed Soviet director Tarkovsky. 

Likely due to having their own franchise called 101 Dalmatians, Dalmatians are the fourth highest-rated dog breed with an average score of 61.1. Breathing in their necks are the French Bulldogs with titles like Sleep Tight and The Rental contributing to their relatively high average score. 

Only Dachshunds and Saint Bernards rank within the top 10 for both popularity and Metascore. 

Highest-rated dogs

Interesting Facts

German Shepherd
The most notable German Shepherd known for his acting work was Rin Tin Tin, who starred in 27 Hollywood films in the 1920-30s. He even has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. 

Bulldog
Bulldogs, particularly American, is seen as the classic family dog, but they peaked in the 90s. The 1993 Classic Homeward Bound follows 'Chance,' an American Bulldog, on his journey to reunite with his owners. 

Poodle
Poodles have always had an air of elegance and class about them, so it's no surprise that one features in the stylish 1960s film, Breakfast at Tiffany's

Doberman Pinscher
One of the earliest appearances of a Doberman was in It Shouldn't Happen to a Dog from 1946. This came out around the time GIs came home from WWII with their Doberman war dogs. 

Chihuahua
There weren't many chihuahuas on screen in the early years, but they grew in popularity in the 2000s. Films such as Beverly Hills Chihuahua and Legally Blonde put them on the map. 

Rottweiler
One of the more iconic films a Rottweiler has starred in is the 1986 classic Ferris Bueller's Day Off. After this, the breed took off, including cameos in The Dark Knight

Great Dane
The beloved Scooby-Doo is probably the most well-known Great Dane on our screens, yet he has never been played by a real dog. The earliest film animation is from 1987. 

Golden Retriever
Golden Retrievers are another breed that emulates the beloved family dog on screen. They have made great companions in 90s rom-coms such as You've Got Mail, where Brinkley is Tom Hanks' wingman. 

Dachshund
Dachshunds haven't been the most popular dog breed on film, but in the animated family classic Toy Story, there are two. The most recognizable is Slinky, Woody's best friend; the other is their real family pet, Buster. 

Saint Bernard
We've seen fewer and fewer Saint Bernards on the big screen over the years. One film that kept the breed in business was Beethoven. This popular film from 1992 launched a franchise that went on to release seven movies.

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