Stars in their eyes

We shine a spotlight on some of the top dogs to grace the little and big screens

Even though they say to never work with children or animals in entertainment, those that dare to throw the rulebook out the window can come up trumps and produce movie magic (or a mammoth mess). This is certainly the case with dogs – who hold the ability to both entertain and profoundly change us. It’s not hard for these pooches to walk onto set and straight into our hearts (awwww).

So let’s take a wee trip through the TV and cinema ages to learn a bit more about these famous canines. From the hilarious to the heartfelt and all the warm fuzzy moments in-between.

Red Dog

This writers’ eyes are welling up just thinking of the sentimental cinematic masterpiece that is Red Dog, which makes you both laugh out loud and fully appreciate the majestic nature of dogs. The film’s plot is based on the Louis de Bernières book Red Dog and on the true story of a Red Cloud Kelpie, who had a penchant for travelling around the Pilbara region of Western Australia in the 70’s.

But the true star of the movie is the delightful ‘Koko’, who filled the rather large boots of portraying ‘Red Dog’ on the big screen. Koko was actually owned by one of the film producers, Nelson Woss. Not surprisingly, the talented Koko won the Golden Collar Award for Best Dog in a Foreign Film in Los Angeles for his powerful portrayal. Paws off to that, Koko.



From an Aussie red to an Aussie blue, we have the insanely delightful and comedically bountiful kids (and I think we can safely say adults) program Bluey, which stars the insatiable, curious and imaginative six-year-old blue heeler Bluey with her little sister Bingo and her parents Chilli and Bandit Heeler. This program is a heart-warming and hilarious slice of quintessential Aussie life.  Bluey’s character guides us on how to learn and grow through imaginative play. This universally acclaimed show has been highly praised for its ability to teach parents on how to actively play with their children. We love Bluey and the whole Heeler family.


The littlest Hobo

Here we have a Canadian throwback from you in ‘The Littlest Hobo’ which first aired in the mid sixties (in black and white) and then enjoyed a second run in the eighties. With parallels to Red Dog, it follows the journeys of ‘an ownerless dog’. The primary star of the program was a highly intelligent German Shepherd dog named ‘London’, however he also had relatives that played the role of the Hobo.  London was trained by Charles (Chuck) P. Eisenmann who used his own developed methods to train the dog – educating them to understand very precise directions and even to understand English, German and French!


Dog from Footrot Flats: The Dog's Tale Tail

Although Dog was originally the star of a newspaper cartoon series created by Murray Ball, we are going on his stella appearance in the 1986 animated feature film Footrot Flats: The Dog's Tale Tail. Dog is probably New Zealand’s most famous canine and no list is complete without with this simple but highly lovable pooch. Dog’s appeals lies in his ability to encapsulate both the humour of daily farming life and foibles of the characters around him – making him instantly relatable to New Zealanders.


Eddie from Frasier

Eddie Crane from Frasier was played by the wire-hair Jack Russell Terrier ‘Moose’ who lived for a respectable 15 years. Little Moose was actually born on Christmas Eve in 1990 in Florida but was deemed too ‘difficult to handle’ by his original owners due to his exceptional chewing, digging and barking skills. A career in show biz was calling and at 2 ½ years old he made his way to Hollywood where he landed the role he was born to play on the set of Frasier. It was here Moose perfected the art of giving Kelsey Grammar (Frasier) a long hard stare.


All the dogs from A Dog's Show

This show could only be made (and lovingly watched) in New Zealand. So, we thought it would be fitting to send a shout out to all the working dogs that featured on A Dog's Show’s solid 15-year run.  With a simple concept at its core – combine farmers, dogs and sheep and overlay with some intelligent commentary from the distinguished John Gordon, it created exhilarating sheepdog trials entertainment. Most of us remember (pre-internet days) tuning in to TV One on Sunday night at 6pm, just before the evening news, to get our farm dog fix.


The cultural phenomenon that is Lassie

It’s not really a complete list without mentioning this world-famous pooch. It always seemed to be the first dog that rolled off AA staff members lips when asked. Lassie began as a TV series in 1954 and the fur tales kept rolling until 1973 – making it the 6th longest running US primetime television series. Originally, the character of Lassie had appeared in 7 Metro-Goldwyn Mayer films from the mid-1940’s to the early 1950’s, and was played by ‘Pal’, a male Rough Collie. It’s Pal we want to recognise today, as he stared in the two pilots filmed in 1954 for the actual television series. Finally, the fictional character of Lassie is one of only 3 live-action pooches to have their own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.


Honourable mentions

Brandy from After Life – if you are a fan of this show, you will understand why she is on the list.

Marley and Me – As the film covers a period of 14 years, there were 22 yellow Labradors used for filming!

Brian from Family Guy – a quick witted, highly intelligent canine cartoon character.

Toto from The Wizard of Oz – Toto’s actual name was ‘Terry’, who was a highly regarded female Cairn Terrier performer.

Old Yeller – A shout out to the shelter puppy Spike, who was the lop-eared yellow Mastador who played Old Yeller. 

Spot the Dog (Telecom Ads) – We remember this Australian Jack Russell terrier who starred in over 43 Telecom Ads.

Pluto – one of the biggest stars in the Disney Universe!