10 Popular Presidential Dogs in U.S. History
The White House has been home to many presidential pets over the years, from parrots and pigs to roosters and raccoons. But the most “pawpular” animal? Dogs, of course! In fact, pups have consistently lived in the White House throughout the 1900s and well into the 21st century. Meet some of the most famous presidential dogs our nation has known:
1. George Washington (President from 1789 – 1797)
Sweet Lips, Scentwell, and Vulcan: American Foxhounds
Washington and his hounds. Source: Wikimedia Commons
Did you know our first president created an entirely new dog breed that still exists today?
That’s right! George Washington was an avid fox hunter and wanted a superior dog that was speedy, intelligent, and had a strong sense of smell, so he cross bred his Black and Tan Coonhounds with French Hounds to create the American Foxhound, according to the American Kennel Club.Washington had more than 20 dogs and was creative when naming these furry friends. Among them included Sweet Lips, Tipsy, Tipler, Cloe, Drunkard, and Vulcan—in fact, Sweet Lips was one of his favorites, deeming her “the perfect Foxhound,” according to Psychology Today. Washington cared for his dogs diligently, visiting the kennels morning and night to ensure he spent quality time with his pups.
2. Abraham Lincoln (President from 1861 – 1865)
Fido: Mixed Breed
President Abraham Lincoln’s dog, Fido. Source: Presidential Pet Museum
If you ever wondered why we commonly use the name “Fido” to refer to our dogs, it’s because President Abraham Lincoln’s dog, Fido, has a legacy almost as special as our 16th president!
Before life in the White House, Fido enjoyed long walks around town and accompanied Lincoln while running errands. But when Lincoln won the presidency, Fido had a tough time adjusting to the frequent visitors and constant travel.
The Lincolns made the difficult decision to send Fido to live with a friend—but under the following conditions, according to the Presidential Pet Museum:
- Never tie up Fido alone outdoors
- Never yell at him for having muddy paws in the house
- Always allow him to come inside when he scratches at the door
- Let him freely walk around the dinner table
To give Fido some comfort from home, Lincoln sent his pup off with a custom-made couch that fit the president’s famously tall stature. Talk about the perfect nap spot!
3. Theodore Roosevelt (President from 1901 – 1909)
Pete: “Bulldog” (historians now believe him to be a Bull Terrier)
Teddy Roosevelt had many dogs, but there are no known photographs of the notorious Pete. Source: WikiMedia Commons
Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt had many presidential pets—including a badger and kangaroo rats—but his most famous was his Bull Terrier, Pete. Although there are no known photos of Pete, his reputation stands the test of time!
Pete was best known for biting White House staff and visitors’ ankles (if only he had a Nylabone chew toy)! Roosevelt loved his furry friend—describing him as “ridiculously affectionate”—and often made excuses for Pete’s behavior, according to the Presidential Pet Museum.
Eventually, Teddy was out of excuses. A 1907 Washington Post article reported an incident where Pete chased a French Ambassador up a tree. Because of this “unfurgivable” incident, Pete was sent to live at a local doctor’s house, but ultimately wound up back with the Roosevelts at their family home.
4. Franklin D. Roosevelt (President from 1933 – 1945)
Fala: Scottish Terrier
The FDR Memorial in Washington, D.C. also immortalizes Fala. The Source: Washington.org
Teddy wasn’t the only Roosevelt with a soft spot for pups—Franklin D. Roosevelt had eight dogs while serving in the White House! His Scottish Terrier, Fala, was by far the most famous. He even grew so popular among Americans that he had his own secretary to sort his fan mail!
You can visit a statue of Fala and FDR at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, D.C. Fala is not only the first presidential dog to be immortalized in statue form, but he’s also the only presidential pet to ever receive the honor, according to NBC News.
Talk about a man’s best friend!
Fala was treated like royalty in the White House, where he was served a bone on the President’s breakfast tray and slept on an exclusive chair at the foot of Roosevelt’s bed. FDR loved showing off Fala’s tricks, including his most famous: curling his lip into a smile.
Fala was Roosevelt’s close companion until the end and even attended the president’s funeral, according to the FDR Library & Museum.
5. Calvin Coolidge (President from 1923 – 1929)
Rob Roy: White Collie
First Lady Grace Goodhue Coolidge with Rob Roy. Source: WhiteHouseHistory.org
The Coolidge family had 23 pets while in the White House, including multiple dogs, birds, cats, a donkey, a bobcat, and Mrs. Coolidge’s beloved raccoon. One of their favorite pets was a White Collie named Rob Roy.
Rob Roy, famously named after a popular cocktail during prohibition, was the first dog to be a part of an official First Family photo portrait and accompanied First Lady Grace Goodhue Coolidge in her official White House photo, according to WhiteHouseHistory.org.
Calvin Coolidge described Rob Roy as “a stately gentleman of great courage and fidelity,” according to the book Washington: A History of Our National City. He often accompanied the president to the oval office, walked with the Coolidges around Washington, D.C. while Mrs. Coolidge shopped, and slept in their bedroom.
6. John F. Kennedy (President from 1961 – 1963)
Pushinka: Mixed Breed
The Kennedy’s Pushinka. Source: BBC.com
This famous dog was a celebrity for three main reasons: her mother was the first dog to fly into space and return safely; she was accused of being a Russian puppy spy; and she helped save the world from nuclear destruction. You know, typical dog stuff.
According to BBC News, it all started when Jackie Kennedy took a liking to Soviet Leader Nikita Khrushchev’s famous astronaut dog during a state dinner and asked if there were any puppies. A few months later, one of those puppies arrived at the White House.
During the Cold War, President Kennedy and Khrushchev exchanged many letters and gifts–Pushinka being the cutest gift of them all, in our opinion. According to America Comes Alive!, Pushinka was examined before being welcomed into the Kennedy’s home to ensure there were no listening devices or anything on her that would indicate she was a spy. Despite her lineage, she gained clearance into the White House. JFK kept Pushinka even though he had a dog allergy, and believed having pets in the home was an important experience for the Kennedy children.
While tensions ran high during the Cold War and the Cuban Missile Crisis, many believe that JFK and Khrushchev’s communication—and their gifts such as cute Pushinka—helped end the Cold War.
We don’t know about you, but our dogs sure do have big paws to fill after this pup’s world-saving resumé!
7. Ronald Reagan (President from 1981 – 1989)
Lucky: Bouvier des Flandres
President Reagan aboard a helicopter with his dog, Lucky. Source: ReaganLibrary.gov
The Reagans received Lucky as a gift and affectionately named him after Mrs. Reagan’s mother, Edith Luckett Davis, according to thePresidential Pet Museum.
With the average Bouvier des Flandres weight ranging from 77 to 100 pounds, Lucky was a large dog that required plenty of exercise. The Reagans soon realized this and traded Lucky’s permanent home from the White House to their California Ranch where he had the space to run free.
Lucky was also the inspiration for the Presidential Pet Museum, which opened in 1999. According to the Washington Post, Reagan’s official dog groomer was once the curator of the now-famous museum.
8. George H.W. Bush (President from 1989 – 1993)
Millie: English Springer Spaniel
George H.W. Bush with Millie and Ranger. Source: Wikimedia Commons
Millie was the first presidential dog to “write” a New York Times Best Seller. Millie’s Book: As Dictated to Barbara Bush describes a day in the life of the president from a First Dog’s point of view and benefited nonprofit literacy organizations, according to The Houston Chronicle.
The Bush family loved Millie dearly, and so did the rest of the country—especially those in the Bush’s hometown of Houston, TX. Citizens petitioned for five years to open Millie Bush Bark Park, the town’s first dog park, within George Bush Park.
In 2004, the city’s dog-loving dreams came true! The park features fake fire hydrants, walkways, open areas to run leash-free, ponds to swim in, and doggy showers. The park was rated the best dog park in the nation in 2005 and is still a popular destination in the area. The park was rated the best dog park in the nation in 2005 and is still a popular destination in the area, according to The Houston Chronicle.
9. Bill Clinton (President from 1993 – 2001)
Buddy: Chocolate Labrador
President Bill Clinton with Buddy. Source: Wikimedia Commons
Buddy was named after an influential figure in President Bill Clinton’s life—his late great uncle Henry “Buddy” Grisham who raised and trained dogs for more than 50 years, according to Animal Planet. Shortly after Buddy arrived at the White House, many fan clubs and websites arose in his honor.
Buddy and Socks, the Clinton’s cat, fought like true siblings. In fact, their feud became a well-known part of White House living during the Clinton’s stay. The furry pair even became the subject of the book Dear Socks, Dear Buddy: Kids’ Letters to the First Pets, penned by First Lady Hillary Clinton. The book recounted the enormous amount of fan mail that the famous pets received from their loving fans around the country.
10. Barack Obama (President from 2009 – 2017)
Bo: Portuguese Water Dog
President Obama and Bo on Air Force One. Source: Wikimedia Commons
President Obama promised his daughters, Malia and Sasha, that they would get a dog if he won the presidency. In 2008, the first photo of Bo went viral on social media.
Bo eventually became so popular that he was the subject of four books, was made into a plush toy sold on the White House online gift shop, and had an official schedule, according to PBS.
Like FDR’s famous dog Fala, Bo travelled the world with the First Family on Air Force One and met many world leaders. He loved to join Michelle Obama at her children’s book readings and quickly stole the show, arguably becoming the more anticipated guest among the children.
Don’t be fooled; being First Dog isn’t all fun and games. Bo and his sister Sunny, who joined the family in 2013, were almost dognapped! Luckily the Secret Service arrested the suspect before his wicked plot could unfold.
Honorable Mention: Joe Biden (President from 2021 – Present)
Champ and Major: German Shepherds
First Lady Jill Biden accompanied by Champ in Washington, D.C. Source: Wikimedia Commons
There are two new presidential dogs on the block, and these furry kids sure are noteworthy!
President Biden’s newest pup, Major, makes major history as the first shelter dog to ever reside in the White House, according to CBS News. Since being adopted in 2018, Major has had quite the journey going from a rescue dog at the Delaware Humane Association to his new title of First Dog in Washington, D.C.!
While Major is new to the White House, his older brother, Champ, is a familiar furry face in the presidential halls. Champ accompanied Biden while he served as Vice President (2009 – 2017) and was even featured as a family member on the president’s plaque at the Naval Observatory! Champ is named after a phrase President Biden’s father often told him when facing adversity growing up: “Get up, Champ,” according to The New York Times.
Both Major and Champ caught the nation’s attention during the 2020 presidential campaign, gaining followers and fan accounts of their own across various social media platforms.
Just think, these presidential dogs were (and are!) part of some of the most influential conversations that affected our nation and the world. If only our pets could talk! You may not be coming home from work on Air Force One, but don’t worry, your First Dog is just as special!