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Official Article

10 Pop Culture Dogs of the 80s

Growing up I always wanted a pet dog. It just seemed to be a part of the classic childhood experience I was missing. Sadly I never had a furry friend to call my own and was constantly reminded of that fact by the awesome canine celebrities on sitcoms, commercials, cartoons and toy store aisles. Allow me share with you 10 of the most prominent pop culture dogs of the 80s that happily wagged their tails in front of me.

10. Pound Puppies, Tonka

Though my parents never took me to the pet store to pick out a puppy, they decided a less messy option would be to take me to the pound. Yes, squeezable plush Pound Puppies were the animal version of Cabbage Patch Kids, just waiting to be adopted and given a home next to that Pogo Ball gathering dust in the corner of your bedroom.

Speaking of which, my parents didn't just bring a chocolate brown Pound Puppy into my life, but a bedroom makeover. From 1986-1987 I had a Pound Puppy bedspread and curtains on my windows which is what I woke up to on Saturday Mornings before taking in all the fun of dogs wearing jackets on the cartoon series.

9. Ms. Lion, Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends

Spidey's animated adventures were a revelation to me as a kid and while everyone remembers Iceman and Firestar, they may sometimes forget the 4th Spider-Friend, Ms. Lion! She was a feisty furball who belonged to Peter Parker's Aunt May, but brought laughs and licks to the team, usually during the opening and closing of each episode. She was eventually introduced into the modern Marvel comics universe having joined the Pet Avengers, but as a male dog. I wasn't expecting that!

8. Ubu, UBU Productions/Family Ties Closing Credits

If you were a TV obsessed kid in the 80s like me, you were for sure tuning in to syndicated reruns of Family Ties to see what comedic clash of generations Alex and the Keaton clan were up to. The unforgettable "Shalalalala" of the theme song sticks in most people's minds, but if you stayed until the end credits you would also hear, "Sit, UBU, sit. Good dog." over this static picture of a dog with a frisbee in it's mouth. Apparently this was the beloved pet of series writer-producer, Gary David Goldberg.

7. Funny Freddy, Fisher-Price

Returning to toy aisles, Funny Freddy may not strike you as a dog at first given his wild color scheme and mutant facial features, but he is referred to as a "Crazy Canine" on the back of the box, so I'll take Fisher-Price's word for it. Freddy's gimmick was that his face was constructed of poseable wires that allowed kids to create wacky expressions. Plus his television commercial, which featured a cover of "Wooly Bully" with the name Funny Freddy substituted is an earworm I haven't been able to escape for 30 years.

6. Mighty Dog, Dog Food Commercials

In between my primetime viewing, I would often catch sight of this heroic dog saving his fellow canine cohorts from hunger. Yes, it's Mighty Dog! I didn't much care for ads promoting Alka-Seltzer or Pro Grain cereal, but when Mighty Dog hit the screen I was glued to the tube. I especially loved this commercial where he actually transforms from his secret identity with glasses into a cape-wearing hero, flying out to save the day. Major production values here!

5. Duke, Captain N: The Game Master

Nintendo's late 80s foray into Saturday Morning Cartoons gave us Captain N: The Game Master where a kid named Kevin gets sucked into Videoland while playing his NES and joins up with a bunch of video game characters. But also along for the ride was Kevin's dog Duke. Truth be told, Duke didn't have many discernible character traits other than reacting to Kevin's dialogue, but he looked pretty awesome in that bandana.

4. Officer Bowser & Blitz, Cops N Crooks

While Real American Hero fans might site Law & Order from G.I. Joe as the premiere action figure duo of dog and man, there was always another team of do-gooders who caught my eye. From the C.O.P.S. cartoon and toy line I give you Officer Bowser and his robotic partner Blitz. Just look at the design of this dog, he's so shiny and even has a police light built into him. Thanks to for the great loose figure photo.

3. Brandon, Punky Brewster

It is well known among my family that I had a major crush on Punky Brewster when I was 4 years old, so of course her dog, Brandon The Wonder Dog is going to have a special place in my heart. This lovable mutt played by an animal actor named, Sandy was always game for Punky's adventures, but also grew along with her throughout the course of the series from 1984-1988. He even made it over to the Punky Brewster cartoon series, though Glomer the Leprechaun was always stealing the attention away with his magic.

2. The Junkyard Dog, WWF

OK, this guy may be a dog in name only, but The Junkyard Dog was one of the most famous wrestling icons of the decade. Coming to the ring with a dog collar and chain while barking was a great intimidation technique that made him marketable. He got 3 different WWF toys through LJN and even earned a spot on the Hulk Hogan's Rock N' Wrestling cartoon show. When I think 80s and dogs, his name immediately springs to mind.

1. Spuds MacKenzie

Arguably the most iconic dog of the decade, this "party animal" debuted in 1987 promoting Bud Light beer and got a major advertising push. As a 5-7 year old I shouldn't have known who Spuds MacKenzie was, but I how could I not be drawn to this Bull Terrier who wore sunglasses? It was a major controversy from parents groups at the time along with cartoon mascot, Joe Camel promoting cigarettes.

Spuds was in commercials, on posters and t-shirts that I saw all over the place. Surprisingly this party puppy was not connected to the Bob and Doug McKenzie of SCTV and Strange Brew fame, though I always assumed that was the case. The spelling of the names is your main clue. Oh and fun fact, Spuds was actually a female dog named Honey Tree Evil Eye. So much to unravel here.

So there you have it, 10 of the most influential pop culture dogs of the 80s according to yours truly. Who were some of your favorites?
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OldSchool80s Posted on Sep 22, 2018 at 12:21 PM

Some good choices! Love JYD making the list. Ubu was another good pull. Agree that McGruff should probably be there. Some of my favorite 80s dogs came from re-runs of shows from before the 80s. In addition to obvious like Scooby, I would add Dyno-Mutt and Hong Kong Phooey for sure. Still good list!

Superman Posted on Sep 18, 2018 at 05:17 PM

Being a kid of the '90s, I missed out on a lot of the most popular dogs of the '80s, but the fictional dog from pop culture who most appealed to me during childhood was probably Scooby-Doo.

Hoju Koolander Posted on Sep 06, 2018 at 02:08 PM

@pikachulover It's well documented that you and I had very similar experiences growing up, I guess it should be no surprise we had identical bedding. If it were socially acceptable I probably would have worn that Punky Brewster shirt as well.

@Benjanime Makes sense, a Pound Puppy is a pet for life!

pikachulover Posted on Sep 06, 2018 at 08:26 AM

I had the Pound Puppy bed sheets. I really liked the picture of the dog chewing the shoe.

In the early 2000s I got a Punky Brewster shirt at the Hot Topic it had a picture of her and Brandon on it. It said "Punky and Brandon" on it.

I liked Spuds MacKenzie. I'd see him in a bunch of commercials during sports. I did enjoy the Bud Light commercial where Spuds came back as a ghost.

Benjanime Posted on Sep 05, 2018 at 08:25 PM

my sister is in her 40s and she STILL has her pound puppy toy.

Vaporman87 Posted on Sep 05, 2018 at 03:15 PM

@Hoju: Meowwy responded to your comment by pointing out that anyone named Hoju Koolander has no room to speak.

Hoju Koolander Posted on Sep 05, 2018 at 02:16 PM

@NLogan Brain and McGruff were definitely oversights on my part, but that just speaks to the power of their characterizations. Brain was a silent hero and McGruff was just a good cop to me.

@Vaporman87 Meowwy Wowwy sounds like an illegal substance that Nancy Reagan would not be in favor of.

NLogan Posted on Sep 05, 2018 at 02:03 AM

Dogs that left an impression on me in the 80s were the sled dogs in the movie the Thing, reruns of Underdog, Scooby Doo, Barf from Spaceballs, McGruff the Crime Dog, Brain from Inspector Gadget, and of course the giant flying dog ... er luck dragon Falkor!

Vaporman87 Posted on Sep 05, 2018 at 12:04 AM

I always wondered what the deal was with Ubu. Yes, it stuck in my head just as much as the intro songs for Family Ties and Night Court.

Spuds is clearly the "top dog" of the '80s. He was everywhere for a short period of time, and left a lasting impression.

I too owned a Pound Puppy, and was pleased with it for a time. But he could never eclipse Meowwy Wowwy.

NLogan Posted on Sep 04, 2018 at 11:45 PM

I'll never forget being up way too late on a sleepover or early depending on your view, when anything and everything was funny even if it wasn't. Movies, pizza, and video games somehow led to jokes and out of nowhere someone said, "Sh-t Ubu sh-t, good G-d!" Pardon my French, the dog was named after a character in a French play and is catching frisbees in Paris. Anyways we laughed for like a half hour straight before my dad's disembodied shouted voice told us to get to bed. Lights went out, laugher and guffaw died, low snickers finally subsided, and my dad's angry physical manifestation never matterialized.

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