The 11 Greatest Animated Movie Dogs

With the release of Wes Anderson's Isle of Dogsthere is an important question that has been stuck in the center of my mind: who are the best animated dogs in movie history?

There is no shortage of options. From Disney's personal collection of pups, to those created by other studios, who are the best of the best when it comes to animated canines? Let's take a look at some of those fantastic four-legged friends. Some you will know instantly, while others deserve so much more respect than they've been given over the years. So sit back, grab a bone, and let us explore the greatest animated dogs!

Balto from Balto

Whenever I think of the most heroic and stand-out dogs, Balto always comes to mind. Not only was he voiced by Kevin Bacon (which made him certified '90s cool), but with the help of the underrated Amblimation Studios, this pup had a unique and lovable design that was hard not to fall in love with. In fact, as a youngster, whenever my family would ask what kind of dog I'd want, I'd simply say "Balto. I want Balto", and though I would end up with a dog who looks much more like a later entry on this list, I still dream of one day owning a pet that's as cool as this guy.

But why so much celebration over this specific dog? Well, he actually existed in real life! In fact, the real Balto did indeed save the day by leading the last team with the serum to the town of Nome, Alaska, and he does have a statue in his honor in Central Park. Yeah, he might have not been half wolf, nor did he have intense doggie-on-doggie drama with the evil stead, but his story (even with dramatic embellishments) makes for quite the epic tale. And with a James Horner score to back of some of his best moments, we'll never forget this four-legged hero of both animation and real life.

Copper from Fox and the Hound

Okay, go grab your tissues – you know what's coming! For indeed Fox and the Hound might be one of the saddest movies that Disney has ever made, and the relationship between Copper and Tod is at the center of those emotional tugs on our heart strings. But what makes Copper himself a fantastic dog all on his own, even without his fox friend by his side? It's all about loyalty.

At the beginning of the movie, Copper is like any puppy. He's curious and his Bloodhound genes allow him an incredible sense of smell, even better than other hunting dogs (including the much older Chief.) This comes into play with how he eventually meets his friend Tod, and later when they break their ties because of their natural roles in society. Copper is the hunter, while Tod is the prey. But even with the separating their relationship, Copper still watches out for Tod as time passes. Sure, the two don't have the kind of relationship they did as kids, but Copper never lets their bond truly become broken and that makes him a stand-up pup for life.

Dodger from Oliver and Company

Much like Balto, Dodger from Oliver and Company will always be the gold standard of cool animated dogs in my nostalgic eye. He sings one of the catchiest songs in any Disney movie to date (seriously, try not getting "Why Should I Worry" stuck in your head), is voiced by the musical god Billy Joel, and wears sunglasses with a bandana like a true pro. Clearly, he checks all the boxes of awesomeness.

But what makes Dodger a clear choice for this list is his journey from stand-off, too cool for school street dog, to the caring hero that saves Oliver and the gang with true heart and soul on his puppy sleeve. In fact, even more so than a lot of other dogs on this list, Dodger has quite an arc, and that makes any viewer of this Oliver Twist retelling a bit mushy, especially when looking at the more non-dialog driven scenes of Oliver cuddling up to Dodger. You see his "cover" of tough guy melt away, and he continues to grow even through the climatic battle on the Brooklyn Bridge. And finally, during his reprise of his signature tune, he lets the other dogs from his crew join in the melody – making him more than just "one bad puppy".

Dug from Up

If there is any Pixar character who represents pure and total happiness, it is Dug from Up. He loves everyone unconditionally, and says it with great pride thanks to his technologically advanced collar, that allows him to speak via his thoughts. And when he meets the heroes of our story, he embraces them without a care in the world – even when those new friends are the grumpy Carl and the somewhat too-passionate Russell.

Many people take on pets because they are missing something representing unconditional affection in their lives. They want a cuddly creature that'll latch onto them and be loyal to a fault, and Dug is that pet in so many heartwarming (and sometimes slightly annoying) ways. And because of that, he's left his paw prints all over pop culture – including theme shows, mascot characters, merchandise, and even his own Pixar shorts.

Bruno from Cinderella

Alright, it is time to give a big old shoutout to one of the OGs of the animated doggie world – Bruno. Yeah, that's right, this paw rocking friend of Cinderella's never gets enough respect on lists like these. Sure, he might sleep all day and sometimes dream too much of catching the evil cat Lucifer, but none of those facts should bump Bruno from getting the love and admiration such an under-appreciated pup deserves!

Everyone has had that pet or friend (or both) that wants to do the best for you, even if you know it might not be the stereotypical "right" thing to do by social standards – and Bruno is the cheerleader of those individuals in your life. All he wants is for the lead protagonist to get her happily ever after, and he'll do anything possible (including getting rid of Lucifer) so that Cinderella can have her dream come true. Heck, he'll even willingly get turned into a human footman for Cinderella's carriage so she can attend the ball. And can we talk about that heroic chase so that the mice can get Cinderella the key? Seriously, Bruno needs more love.

Heen from Howl's Moving Castle

Most of the dogs on this list are good by nature, but Heen from Studio Ghibli's Howl's Moving Castle might not be the stereotypical "good guy" that most animated pups are known to be. In fact, Heen has always been one of those characters that seems just too two-faced for me to ever find any affection towards. But then why include him on this list? Well the reason is quite simple – he's smart, resourceful, and does provide some of the biggest laughs and important moments in the entirety of Howl's running time.

Heen is first introduced in the film when Sophie (the leading lady of the film, now cursed to appear as an older woman) thinks that the dog is Howl (her new wizard friend and crush) in disguise. But it turns out (after an amazing sequence of Sophie, Heen and the evil Witch of the Waste trying to make it up a hilariously large staircase) that this fluffy white and brown dog actually works for Madame Suliman, the King's Royal Sorcerer, and she's definitely up to no good. Of course, Heen ends up becoming a much more good-natured individual by the end of the movie, and helps Sophie on her spell breaking quest. He stands as an example of a bad dog turned really good, even if his original master (or madame) ain't a fan.

Patrasche from The Dog of Flanders 

If Heen wasn't enough anime for you, let me introduce you all to Patrasche – the four-legged hero of The Dog of Flanders from 1997. Directed by Yoshio Kuroda, and based on both the novel by Ouida and the 1992 anime series that aired on Nippon Television, this specific retelling of the classic (along with countless other anime adaptations) has been beloved by children (and adults) in Japan ever since its release, and continues to make tons of anniversary merchandise to this day. But in the United States, it doesn't seem to get the recognition it deserves, and it was only thanks to VHS tapes from Pioneer Entertainment that I even know about its existence.

A Dog of Flanders tells the story of a little orphaned boy (Nello) who grows to have a huge interest (and talent) in art. Sadly, Nello's life is full of struggles, from his poverty, to his aging grandfather, and the harshness of society. Nothing comes easy for the boy. Thankfully, he has his trusty dog Patrasche at his side, and they help each other, even in their darkest hours. And that is simply the reason why Patrasche had to make the list, because of his love and loyalty, even in Nello's saddest moments. And if you know the tale of The Dog of Flanders, you truly know how downright heartbreaking it can be.

Sparky from Frankenweenie

To give some stop-motion representation, there's no better animated dog out there than Sparky – a Tim Burton creation that started out as a live action short but turned into an animated feature in 2012. And though the film might not be Burton's best creation, it definitely is one of his most fun and most"Burton-y" productions listed on his filmography.

Frankenweenie tells the story of a little boy (Victor) and his dog, who sadly passes away, leaving a huge open hole in the little boy's heart. Inspired by the electricity in his town, Victor decides that he can bring Sparky back from the dead – and he succeeds! Unfortunately he has to keep his newly alive pet a secret from everyone around him, which is a struggle as his friends learn the secret and want to bring their pets back too. But even amidst the insanity of this Burton creation, it is the relationship between Victor and Sparky that keeps the film "alive" with emotion and all the mushy feelings in-between. We all want our pets around forever, and Sparky is the embodiment of that, and makes it onto this list as both a symbolism of Burton at his best, but also as a reminder of our childhood love for pets.

Lady and Tramp from Lady and the Tramp

You truly can't make a list about animated dogs without including one of the greatest couples in all of cinema: Lady and Tramp. Not only has their love story remained iconic for 60-plus years, but they still stand as (arguably) the best romantic pair in Walt Disney Animation history. Why? Because their development is more real  than a majority of love stories any of the Disney Princesses have experienced.

Lady is a purebred Cocker Spaniel, who has been the center of attention in her family since the moment she was brought home. But when her human family is about to bring human a baby, Lady fears that she'll lose the love of her owners. Enter Tramp, who doesn't exactly make her feel any better, but instead shows her "what a dogs life can really be" in all his bachelor ways. These two initially can't stand one another, but through many "dates" (a rarity for a Disney movie), the two gain a relationship built on incredible lessons from start to finish, and a pasta driven kiss to sweeten the deal. But it is the struggles these two go through that make them a must for this list, as they represent the ups and downs of love, and the wanting of comfort in your life.

Charlie from All Dogs Go to Heaven

I'll admit that for the longest time, I never got the hype that my friends had for All Dogs Go to Heaven. The imagery was too much, the villains were too scary, and the dream sequence about "rejecting entry into heaven" was a sensory overload of emotional heartbreak and demonic elements for this young viewer. But as time has gone on, I've come to appreciate the artistic risk it was to make a movie like this in 1989, and maybe without it, movies like Isle of Dogs might not exist – especially with a protagonist as troubling and bizarre as Charlie.

But with such a description, why would Charlie even end up on this list? You see, Charlie laid the groundwork for animated "cute" characters in American Animation to do some pretty disturbing acts of tomfoolery. Sure, Bimbo from the Betty Boop cartoons and any of the Looney Tunes dog characters had done it all and then some, but when it came to "Disney-influenced" animated heroes (which director Don Bluth clearly was, since he had worked under Walt in his teen years) none of those kinds of characters had ever gambled, got incredibly drunk off their paws, or made deals with the devil. But Charlie did. And somehow he ended up being a good guy, that sort of did the right unselfish thing – though it took him a meeting with an over-the-top alligator and the devil to get there.