Dogs are often called “man’s best friend,” and for many of us, our furry companions become members of our families. As such, it’s no surprise that many U.S. presidents have had dogs as pets.
First Dogs since the 1800’s
In fact, dogs have been a constant presence in the White House since the early 1800s. In this article, we’ll take a look at the U.S. President’s First Dogs, exploring the impact these beloved pets had on their owners and the country.
First Dogs – Early Presidents
George Washington, known as the father of our country, was also the father of many dogs. Washington was known for his love of hunting, and his favorite breed was the American Foxhound. He is said to have owned more than 30 of these dogs during his lifetime. His favorite hound, Sweetlips, was a present from the Marquis de Lafayette, a French nobleman who fought alongside Washington in the Revolutionary War.
John Adams, the second president of the United States, had a dog named Juno. Juno was a mixed breed and was known for being fiercely loyal to her owner. When Adams was away in Europe on diplomatic missions, Juno would reportedly refuse to eat until he returned home.
Thomas Jefferson, the third president, was also a dog lover. He owned several dogs during his presidency, but his favorite was a Briard named Buzzy. Buzzy was given to Jefferson as a gift from the Marquis de Lafayette, and Jefferson was so taken with the dog that he wrote to Lafayette, saying that he was “the most affectionate of his race.”
James Monroe, the fifth president, had a dog named Spaniel. Unfortunately, not much is known about this dog, as there are no known portraits or descriptions of him.
Andrew Jackson, the seventh president, owned a pug named Boar. Boar was reportedly a gift from a political supporter, and Jackson was known to dote on the dog. Boar was even allowed to attend Jackson’s presidential cabinet meetings.
Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president, had a yellow mongrel dog named Fido. Fido was well-known in Washington D.C. and was often seen accompanying Lincoln on walks around the city. Unfortunately, Fido was not able to join the Lincolns in the White House, as the family had to leave him behind in Springfield, Illinois, due to concerns that he might not be able to adjust to life in the city.
Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president, was one of the most dog-loving presidents in U.S. history. He owned a number of dogs, including a small mixed-breed dog named Jack. Jack was a constant presence at the White House, and Roosevelt would often play with him and let him sleep in his bed. In fact, Jack was such a beloved member of the Roosevelt family that when he died, the president had a small headstone made for him at their home in Sagamore Hill, New York.
Franklin D. Roosevelt, the 32nd president, had a Scottish Terrier named Fala. Fala was a constant companion to Roosevelt, and the two were famously inseparable. Fala even accompanied Roosevelt on official trips and was known to have his own White House-appointed attendant.
Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th president, had a Weimaraner named Heidi. Heidi was known for her hunting skills and often accompanied Eisenhower on hunting trips. She was also a fixture at the White House, and would often greet guests with her tail wagging.
John F. Kennedy, the 35th president, had a number of dogs during his presidency. His most famous pet was a Welsh Terrier named Charlie, who was often seen playing with the Kennedy children on the White House lawn. Unfortunately, Charlie died.
Ronald Reagan, the 40th president of the United States, had a beloved Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Rex. Rex was a gift from friends, and quickly became a fixture in the Reagan household. He was known for his friendly and affectionate nature, and was often seen playing with the Reagan children and accompanying the president on walks around the White House grounds. Rex was so beloved by the Reagan family that when he passed away in 1985, his ashes were buried at the Reagan ranch in California.
George H.W. Bush, the 41st president of the United States, had a beloved Springer Spaniel named Millie. Millie became something of a celebrity in her own right, and even wrote a bestselling book called “Millie’s Book: As Dictated to Barbara Bush,” which chronicled her life in the White House. Millie was a constant presence at Bush’s side, and was even known to ride in the presidential limousine with him. She was beloved by both the Bush family and the American people, and when she passed away in 1997, she was mourned by many.
First Dogs – Modern Presidents
George W. Bush, the 43rd president of the United States, had a beloved Scottish Terrier named Barney. Barney was a gift from Bush’s wife, Laura, and quickly became a fixture in the Bush family and the White House. Barney was known for his lively and energetic nature, and often delighted visitors by performing tricks, such as playing fetch with reporters on the South Lawn. Barney was also the star of several holiday videos produced by the Bush White House, in which he explored the White House dressed in festive costumes. Barney remained a beloved member of the Bush family throughout his life, and when he passed away in 2013, he was mourned by the family and the American people.
Barack Obama, the 44th president of the United States, had a Portuguese Water Dog named Bo. Bo was a gift from Senator Edward Kennedy and his family, and quickly became a favorite of the Obamas and the American people. Bo was known for his friendly and outgoing nature, and was often seen playing with the Obama children and accompanying the president on walks around the White House lawn. Bo was so beloved that when the Obamas adopted a second Portuguese Water Dog, Sunny, in 2013, Bo helped her adjust to life in the White House. Bo and Sunny were a beloved presence in the Obama White House, and their popularity helped to raise awareness of the breed and the importance of adopting rescue dogs.
Joe Biden, the 46th president of the United States, has two German Shepherds named Champ and Major. Champ was acquired by the Biden family in 2008, and was named by Biden’s granddaughters. He was a constant presence in Biden’s vice presidential residence and later in the White House. Major was adopted by the Bidens in 2018 from a Delaware animal shelter, and became the first shelter dog to live in the White House. Major’s adoption helped to raise awareness of the importance of adopting shelter pets, and he quickly became a beloved member of the Biden family and the White House staff. Both Champ and Major were frequently seen accompanying the president and First Lady on official duties, and were also the subject of their own social media accounts. Champ and Major’s presence in the White House
Presidents who said no to First Dogs
Most United States presidents have kept pets while in office, or pets have been part of their families. Only James K. Polk, Andrew Johnson, and Donald Trump did not have any presidential pets while in office.