Is there an animal more closely linked with humankind than the dog? Our histories are so intertwined that dogs are often portrayed with human characteristics, hence the lasting power of the “man’s best friend” cliché. Legendary animals like the heroic movie-star Rin Tin Tin or Laika, the Russian pooch who became the first animal to orbit the earth, have cemented their iconic status in our minds.

Images of dogs appeared in artwork as long as 6,000 years ago, though archaeological evidence suggests the animals were part of human society long before. The Egyptian guardian of the deceased, Anubis, was often depicted on funerary monuments in the form of a black dog or jackal-headed human. In the Buddhist tradition, so-called Foo Dogs (actually miniature lions), were believed to guard the faith thanks to their supernatural protective powers. Other societies believed dogs were our distant ancestors, passing down to humans their best traits, like strength or bravery.

While many traditions recognized the role of dogs alongside hunters, other mythologies revered the animals for their nurturing abilities. For example, the allegory of Romulus and Remus begins with a wolf nursing the abandoned infants who would eventually found the city of Rome.

As the relationship between dogs and humans became increasingly domestic, more objects and household items featured imagery of dogs, from pottery and vases to fine jewelry and accessories. The animals were also aligned with newer religious traditions, most notably Christianity, which continued to heighten their faithful reputation.

As breeds diversified, specific types of dog became associated with particular moments in history. During the Renaissance, for example, lapdogs like Toy Spaniels or Shih Tzus became fashionable among the elite; today they remain symbols of affluence and luxury. The transition from hunting as a necessity to a leisure activity elevated the nobility of sporting breeds such as Greyhounds and Pointers to match that of their wealthy owners. And the St. Bernard still symbolizes protection and loyalty after a family of the animals gave lifesaving assistance to a group of monks in the Swiss Alps during the 1700s.

By the Victorian Era, dogs took center stage as subjects in artwork and design. Queen Victoria had many portraits commissioned of her favorite hunting dogs, and noble scenes of masters and their hounds were soon widespread on Staffordshire dinnerware.

Later breeds were celebrated for their famous owners, such as Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Fala or Richard Nixon’s Checkers. Spaniel-shaped cookie cutters or Scottie-topped ink blotters are just two examples from the flood of products that featured these breeds after they became celebrated as presidential companions...

The growth of mass marketing meant that dogs were also asked to lend their positive qualities to new products, whether confirming the indestructibility of Keds shoes or the reliability of John Hancock Life Insurance. Nipper, possibly the most well-known dog in advertising, first appeared in a painting titled “His Master’s Voice.” Used to sell audio equipment manufactured by the Gramophone Company in 1900, the image shows a young puppy with his head cocked listening to a phonograph. Nipper's images went on to promote HMV, Victor, and RCA.

In 1938, after witnessing the tragic sale of family dogs in depressed industrial areas, reporter Eric Knight wrote the original “Lassie Come Home” article for the "Saturday Evening Post" magazine. During the next 20 years, the story was expanded into a children's novel, a radio show, multiple films, and finally a television series. Accompanying the story’s success was a barrage of collectible memorabilia, from lunch boxes to lobby cards, perhaps the most bizarre being a series of campaign-style pinback buttons featuring the familiar canine face and reading “I voted for Lassie.”

While Lassie played into a longstanding cultural association between family dogs and the innocence of childhood, her popularity among children had secured a new audience for dog-centric stories. Throughout the 1950s, the animals continued to captivate kids in films like Disney’s “Lady and the Tramp” and “Old Yeller.” Meanwhile in the comic-strip universe, canine characters like Marmaduke and Snoopy became more popular than their human cohorts.

By this time, consumers wanted their dogs everywhere: on candy molds, bookends, and rugs; on teapots, table lamps, and jewelry. Figurines and paperweights were particularly fashionable, as these diminutive versions of the cuddly pets were simply irresistible to homemakers. British stalwart Royal Doulton produced a collection of regal hounds, and Fenton’s art glass paperweights ran the gamut from friendly lapdogs to brawny bulldogs.

Adorning your household with images of dogs conveyed a host of different meanings depending on the type of dog. One might choose decorative pieces featuring hounds to show perseverance and loyalty, while Scotties suggested warmth and compassion. Products featuring breeds like Collies and German Shepherds, widely loved after their portrayal on-screen, also proliferated.

Poodles were the trendiest breed, with a look that combined fun, femininity, and a touch of irreverence. The distinctive Poodle cut, originally created to provide better mobility in water when retrieving hunting spoils, made them a perfect fit for spaghetti art ware in the 1940s. These ceramic figurines are distinguished by their strands of spaghetti-like hair, created by pressing raw clay through a small screen or tea strainer, and were often cheaply made by Japanese potteries like Ucagco or Lefton. Another brief style was the poodle skirt, a calf-length felt skirt which came in bright colors with a contrasting dog appliqué.

Into the 1960s and '70s, the abundance of dog-themed productions aimed at children continued to spread, from television shows like "Huckleberry Hound," "Quick Draw McGraw," and "Scooby Doo" to feature films such as “101 Dalmations” and “Benji.” During the 1980s, in sharp contrast to the Disney dogs, Budweiser created the Spuds McKenzie character, a Bull Terrier that lived it up in a series of “Official Party Animal” ads.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

National Carousel Association

National Carousel Association

Since 1973, the National Carousel Association has been dedicated to preserving and restoring carousels and carousel… [read review or visit site]



Most watched eBay auctions    

Antique Austrian Bronze Russian Wolf Hound Borzoi Dog, Paper Clip Original PaintAntique Austrian Bronze Russian Wolf Hound Borzoi Dog Paper ClipAustrian Bronze Russian Wolf Hound Borzoi Dog Paperweight Antique Victorian Pierced Sterling Silver Retriever Dog Design Brooch/pinAntique Circa 1900 Folk Art Paper Mache Oil Painting Boston Terrier Dog CollarAntique Painted Figural Bulldog Dog W Glass Eyes, Syroco Wood NrAntique Victorian 9ct Gold Locket / Pendant - Enamel Portrait Miniature Of DogVintage German Dresden Lace Figurine Lady W/ Dog And UmbrellaAntique 19thc Original Otto Jarl, Austrian Bronze Sculpture Of 2 Collie Dogs, NrSonnett Ceramic Sculpture, Corgi The Birdwatcher, Medium Size Table Lamp, Ooak!O'kelly Armorial Heraldic Crown Dog Greyhound Racing Victorian Steel Seal & BoxVintage Art Deco Constance Depler Bar Hounds Dog Caricatures Orig Silkscreen YqzWind Up Clockwork Tin Toy The Dog Patch Band Unique Art Cir. 1940,s Piano ToyLarge Antique Majolica Plate With Dog & Dog HouseAntique German Paper Mache Dog & Wood Cart Wagon Penny Toy Putz? Stick LegSuperb 19thc Staffordshire White & Gilt Spaniel Dog With Large Spill Vase C1880sLot(46) Hagen Renaker/germany/japan Mini Porcelain Dog Figurines Variety + +19th C Antique Carved Bovine Horn Greyhound Head Malacca Walking Cane Glass EyesAntique 1800's French Bull Dog Pull ToyRoyal Worcester Fox Terrier Hound Dog Bone China Figurine Doris Lindner 2994 7"Vintage Art Deco Carved & Painted Celluloid Dog In A Hat BroochSuperb Pr 19thc Staffordshire Red & White Seated Hearth DogsVintage Handmade Sterling Silver Signed Techno Modernist Abstract Dog Brooch PinSuperb Pair: Mid 19thc Staffordshire Russet Red & White Spaniel Dogs C1850Highway 61 1968 Dodge Dart Mod Top Gts 1:18 Cars Highway 61/dcp Dog Dish HubsRetired Lladro My Little Pet #4994 Girl W K9 Puppy Dog Signed Figurine W Box Nr Kimmel Original Sculptures ~ "best Friends" Corgi With Easter Lamb *ooak*Rosenthal Porcelain Chin Dog FigurineRadley Ry2177 Ladies Cream Stunning Dog Face Leather Strap Watch. £85.brand NewRc4wd Trail Finder 2 Rtr W/ Mojave Body Set, Traxxas Blast Rtr, Big Dog TrailerAntique 19thc Wedgwood Pale Blue Jasperware Medallion Of A Warrior & DogSolid 15ct Gold Dog Clips, T Bar And FobsVery Unusual Pair Of Antique 19thc Staffordshire Poodle Dog Figure GroupsFenton Burmese Glass Labrador Dog, Hp Dragonfly And Flowers Limited ProductionAdorable Old Vintage Antique Metal Boston Terrier Puppy Dog Collectible FigurineOld Chinese Famille Rose Porcelain Nude Lady & Dog Figure Figurine Mk Not BuddhaVtg Lladro Spain Chit Chat Girl On Phone With Dog 5466 Porcelain Figurine Nr EbhAristo Craft Long Distance Tender With Dog DetailisAntique German Litho Wind Up Clown Walking He DogLovely Large Rosenthal Pottery American Boxer Dog FigureAuthentic Pandora I Love My Dog Charm 791263czJuliana Dog Tooth Setting Rootbeer Rhinestone 5 Link BraceletRare Kingston Working Spinning Roulette Gambling Dog Horse Race Pocket WatchRosenthal Vintage German Shorthair Pointer Figurine LargeStunning Pair: Mid 19thc Staffordshire Russet Red & White Spaniel Dogs C1850Pugnacious Pug Bikini Pug #16152 Westland GiftwareSusan Kimmel Originals ~ "corgi Easter Parade" Decorative Egg, Large *ooak*Rare Vtg Art Deco Czech 3-d Molded Amber Glass Bulldog W/metal Collar Charm DogDukes Of Hazzard Framed Poster By Sears 1981-entire Cast W/flash The Dog-nice!Beautiful Retired Royal Doulton Farm Sheepdog Working Collie Dog FigurineOriginal1840s Large English Staffordshire Porcelain White Dog FigureRadley London, Awesome Dog Design Ladies Cream Face,leather Strap Watch Rrp £65Border Collie Dog : Original Oil Painting : Farm Sheep Art By David AndrewsMarbles: 2 1/16" Antique German Nipper Dog SulphideAntique Bracelet-silver-bone?horn?dog Faces?asian?figural-6 Inch-nr!Capodimonte Figure "dog For Sale" (cane In Vendita) By Volta - Perfect! Herend Porcelain Puppy Dog Sitting Pink Raspberry Fishnet #15831Whippet / Greyhound : Original Oil Painting : Sighthound Dog Art David Andrews❤️littlest Pet Shop Rare Collie Dog Puppy #58 Tan Cream Brown Mocha~usa Seller❤️Vintage Tin Wind-up Space Dog Toy Robot Made In Japan Ko 1960s Working