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12 First Dogs In American History

first dogs

How well do you know the First Dogs in our history? Having lived most of my life in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area, I’ve always been interested in keeping up with our President. The First Dogs especially had my attention! Each dog seemed to have a specific purpose in living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. To celebrate “Dogs in Politics Day” on September 23rd, let’s take a look at 12 special White House pups.

Bo and Sunny

President Barack Obama adopted a dog after promising his daughters they could adopt after the election regardless of the outcome. The family adopted Bo and Sunny, two Portuguese Water dogs who quickly became popular and famous. Bo was a gift from Senator Ted Kennedy. Bo was known for keeping Obama fit by playing and exercising with him quite often in the East Colonnade of the White House. The two often had a full schedule of photo shoots to attend and people to meet.

President George W. Bush carries Barney to the South Portico of the White House Monday, Sept. 3, 2001, after disembarking Marine One. Photo by Tina Hager, Courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Library

Beazley, Barney and Spot

Miss Beazley and Barney, two Scottish Terriers, and Spot, an English Springer Spaniel, were quite popular dogs during President George W. Bush’s term. Barney wore a camera around his neck and had a website featuring “Barney Cam” videos! Some videos are available for viewing on the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum website. Spot was an offspring of the elder President Bush’s famous dog Millie.


President Bill Clinton adopted one of America’s favorite dog breeds, a Chocolate Labrador Retriever who he named after his great-uncle Buddy.  The two became fast friends and were often seen together around the White House. Although Buddy is best-known for his feud with the family cat “Socks,” he accompanied the President to the Oval Office, around White House grounds, and to Camp David. Buddy and Socks inspired a children’s book, “Dear Socks, Dear Buddy: Kids’ Letters to the First Pets.”

Ronald Reagan With Lucky on the Marine One helicoptor. Photo from the Presidential Pet Musuem.


President Ronald Reagan was gifted a dog from the March of Dimes Poster Child at a ceremony in December 1984. The Reagans named the dog “Lucky” after Nancy Reagan’s mother, Edith Luckett (“Lucky”) Davis. Lucky was a Bouvier des Flandres who grew from a “ball of fluff” to “be the size of a pony,” according to First Lady Nancy Reagan.


President Jimmy Carter was given a dog by Amy Carter’s public school teacher. The dog was a handsome Border Collie mix, “Grits,” and born on the same day President Carter won the election. His name was in honor of the family’s Southern roots. Grits is often seen in photos in the White House but didn’t stay there long. The family stated that the school teacher’s dog, mother of Grits, passed away and Amy gave the dog back to help ease her pain.


Franklin Delano Roosevelt owned Fala, a Scottish Terrier who often accompanied the President on his travels by train, car, or boat! Fala was provided a bone every morning brought up on the President’s breakfast tray. He got a full dinner at night too. Fala spent the night in a special chair at the foot of the President’s bed and often entertained visitors with his tricks by curling his lip into a smile.

Photo from the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum

King Tut

I’ve often thought that a dog in politics would really help the country. This dog had his paws in politics, King Tut! He was a Belgian Shepherd who would patrol the White House nightly. It is said that he helped Herbert Hoover get elected by appearing in his campaign photo.


George Washington had plenty of hunting American Foxhounds in his day. The American Kennel Club credits him as being one who helped develop the breed. The most well-known dog is Vulcan. Vulcan, a family pet allowed in the home, made history and a name for himself one afternoon. He caught the smell of the fine ham Mrs. Washington had ordered for dinner and was cooking in the kitchen. He snuck into the kitchen, grabbed the ham and took off running. The kitchen servants took off after him to no avail. The evening’s dinner guests got a chuckle over the story while Mrs. Washington was not pleased. Vulcan? He licked his chops for some time after that awesome meal!

Featured image of FDR with his dog Fala

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