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    

In The Box Mighty Tonka Winnebago Indian Motor Home No. 3885 & 2 Figures & DogLps Littlest Pet Shop Dog Cat Lot Figures Husky Collie #1723 Great Dane KittyAntique Cast Iron Bull Dog Coin On Nose Mechanical Bank By J & E Stevens C. 1880Littlest Pet Shop Portable Pets Collie #58 Raised Paw With Dog Carrier 2004Littlest Pet Shop Dog LotOriginal Cast Iron Speaking Dog Mechanical Bank By J & E Stevens C. 1885Rare Antique Miniature Victorian Silver / Crystal Carnelian Dog Seal Fob / SealVictoria's Secret Pink Giant Dog, Pelotonia ***limited Edition***Littlest Pet Shop/"100 Pets"/huge Lot/collie/daschund/dog/cat/hasbro/retired/lpsSuperb Mid 19thc Staffordshire Male Farmhand Figure With Seated Dog C1860sAntique Seth C Jones English Setter Hunting Dog & Pheasant Watercolor PaintingSonnett Corgi Sculpture: Nap Earned, All Toy Sheep Successfully Herded To Bed!Antique Cast Iron Trick Dog Mechanical Bank By Hubley Cir. 1920,s W/ KeyRare Associate Exclusive Victoria's Secret Pink Metallic Mini Dog Pink NationSigned Lladro Spain Gentle Surprise 6210 Dog Butterfly Porcelain Figurine Nr Rdb2 Gray Pink Victoria Secret DogNewcomb College Pottery Dog Rose Bowl Ca 1925 Joseph MeyerAntique Figural Dog Pocket Watch Holder Stand Display Hutch Marble Base 1900,sAntique Figural Dog On Marble Base Mechanical Tap Hotel Service Call Bell 1900sAwesome Arts Crafts Metal Arts Group Sterling Silver Bear Dog Snake BraceletFine Diamond Scottie Dog Gold Charm Bracelet Fine Diamond Scottie Dog Gold Pendant And ChainSuperb Pair: Mid 19thc Staffordshire Large Spaniel Dogs With Spill Vases C1860sFine Diamond Scottie Dog Gold PendantSony Aibo Ers 210 A Interactive Robot Dog With Accssesories & Original Box WorksLittlest Pet Shop Dachshund #675 Dog LotVintage 9ct Figaro T Bar Necklace & Bracelet Dog Clips Set 45cm & 18.8cm & 5.7g James Avery 925 Sterling Silver Dog Animal Dangle Charm Pendant (2.3g) - 478180Littlest Pet Shop Collie Cream Brown Puppy Dog #2210Albert Pocket Watch Chain Antique Marked 1878 Omd Silver Nickel & Gold T Bar DogRadley Ry2293 Ladies Red Spottie Dog Print Strap Watch Rrp £85. Brand New In BoxSigned Lladro Spain New Friend 6211 Puppy Dog W Snail Porcelain Figurine Nr RdbSonnett Orig. Ceramic Corgi Sculpture: Nap Interrupted: Mmm, Do I Smell Bacon?!Signed Lladro Spain Cat Nap 5640 Girl W Dog Kitty 5.5" Porcelain Figurine Nr RdbFine Diamond Scottie Dog Gold Bracelet With Padlock ClaspLarge Royal Copenhagen Animal Figure Pointer Puppy Dog Terrier Erik Nielsen 259Rare Royal Doulton Bulldog Figurine Da222 Ltd Edition 9 Of 1000 Made In EnglandKarbra Vintage 925 Sterling Silver Bull Dog Face Cuff Links 9.3gRetired Lladro Spain New Friends 5456 Boy W Dog Puppies Porcelain Figurine RdbRetired Lladro Spain Girl W Goose & Puppy Dog 4866 Porcelain Figurine Nr RdbNew! Alex And Ani Monopoly Dog Bracelet - SilverVtg Keramos Vienna Austria Double Dachshund Dogs K9 Porcelain Figurine Nr RdbLittlest Pet Shop #58 Brown & Tan Collie Dog "sage" *rare*Vintage Royal Doulton Pottery Collie Dog FigurineRare C1890 Solid 9ct Rose / Pink Gold Dog Clasp Albert Or Any Chain Bracelet1940....2 Cute Scotty Dog Pins..plastic?Vintage Jewellery Lovely Labrador Retriever Dog BroochAntique Estate Fresh Chinese Enameled Fo Dog Pagoda Dangle EarringsVintage Bakelite Carved Pin Bakelite Triple Dachshund Dog Pin Brooch Tested Whippet / Greyhound : Original Oil Painting : Sighthound Dog Art David AndrewsRare Puppy Pause Girl Goebel Mint Hummel Figurine Dog Lovers First Issue Mark !Retired Lladro Spain My Best Friend 5401 Boy W Puppy Dog Porcelain Figurine RdbRadley Ry2168 Ladies Black Leather Strap Dog Charm Watch Rrp £99.95Fox Hound : Original Oil Painting : Hunting Wildlife Dog Art By David AndrewsJames Avery Happy Wolf Dog Track Charm 925 Sterling Silver Pendant #2Stunning Lladro Woman # 4761 - Retired 1993 Tall Lady With Dog Figurine StatueMax The Dog 3" Vinylmation The Little Mermaid Series Rough Collie Bronze Figurine By Rick LingenfelterVictoria's Secret Pink Nation Metallic Pink Mini Dog Associate ExclusiveLittlest Pet Shop Dog Lot Of Brown Puppy, Dalmation, A Cream Shitzu & Collie