Hey guys, Robert here, If you are like me, you love Sci-Fi movies. Whether it is the re-birth of the Star Wars universe on Disney Plus, old-school TV shows like Battlestar Galactica, or films like I am Legend or Men in Black. All of them have one thing in common: a canine star, and guess what? They are all good dogs!
Dog Works Radio is hosted by Robert and Michele Forto and takes listeners into the scruffy, curious, and sometimes heroic world of dogs. Let’s dive into the delightful and surprising look at our relationship with our K9 Buddies.
On today’s episode of Dog Works Radio, we dive deep into the Top 30 Dogs in Sci-Fi. Tune in today to hear this episode packed with great information, regardless of whether you are a new puppy owner or a seasoned pro with your pup!
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Today we are talking about the Top 30 dogs in Sci-Fi with help from our friends over at Gizmodo and the Dog Writers Association of America. By the way, I am your host, Michele Forto, and I am also the lead trainer for Alaska Dog Works. Here we help you have a better relationship with your K9 Buddy.
Up first on our list is…
Boomer, Independence Day
Aliens invade. Cities fall. But Boomer, the good-natured yellow Lab with the Battlestar Galactica name, manages to outrun an explosion (complete with a slo-mo dive from the line of fire at the last possible second), lead rescuers to the badly injured First Lady and become possibly the very first civilian canine to visit Area 51.
K-10, South Park
South Park paid tribute to Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and Doctor Who, among others, in a two-episode season 10 arc. An impatient Cartman decides he’ll freeze himself to shorten the agonizing wait time for a Nintendo Wii, but accidentally stays in ice for 500 years and wakes up in a world filled with warring factions of atheists (including a society of intelligent otters). Anyway, his futuristic sidekick is an upright-walking robot dog named K-10, who proves helpful when Cartman needs to steal a toy phone designed for crank-calling the past. However, it eventually transforms into cat robot KIT-9 (and then bird robot KOK-A-3) after Cartman’s calls change the course of history.
Saturday morning cartoon giant Hanna-Barbera didn’t make too many forays into live-action features, but it did give us C.H.O.M.P.S., the tale of “the world’s greatest crime biter.” This 1979 slice of goofballery is about an inventor (Land of the Lost’s Wesley Eure) whose latest stroke of genius is a security system concealed in the guise of an adorably shaggy watchdog—the “Canine HOMe Protection System.” The furry robot’s useful talents include seeing through walls, smashing through windows, and repeatedly outsmarting the Home Alone-style bungling crooks who’re determined to dognap him for their idea-stealing boss.
Bark Lee, John Dies at the End
Bark Lee is one of the most delightfully weird elements in a movie (directed by Bubba Ho-Tep’s Don Coscarelli, and based on the book by David Wong) that’s chock full of ‘em. Though he’s on the fringes of the story for the most part, Bark Lee develops psychic powers, drives a car in a pivotal scene, and steps up big-time during the film’s climactic brawl with interdimensional monsters. Here’s a quote from the film that sums it all up well: “Damn, that dog just saved the universe.”
Scully’s adorable Pomeranian—who may have nibbled on the entrails of his dearly departed elderly former owner—wasn’t on the show very long, but quickly became a fan favorite because, well, adorable Pomeranian! He doesn’t do too much besides look cute (at one point, he gets a flea bath), but his presence helped bring some softness and silliness to Scully, beyond her usual all-business FBI mode. Though her fuzzy pal soon meets a tragic end in the jaws of an alligator, Scully does fill the Queequeg-shaped hole in her heart some years later, adopting Daggoo, another pup named in homage to Moby Dick, after its former owner, a man-lizard, begins a 10,000-year hibernation. Only on The X-Files.
Rick Deckard’s dog, Blade Runner 2049
We all knew Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard was going to return in the long-awaited Blade Runner sequel, but, once revealed, his way of life is pretty surprising: he’s off the grid in the abandoned but still tacky-as-hell Las Vegas, where a person can still power up a hologram of Elvis, and there’s plenty of leftover booze, but the only other creature in sight is a great big doggo. (The doggo drinks booze, too.) The movie leaves the fate of Deckard’s hairy companion unresolved, but there are some theories out there you might not want to know about.
On a show filled with deceptive people, out-there plot twists, and ever-shifting storylines, there was one constant: Vincent, the steadfast yellow Lab who was in the cargo hold in his carrier when the plane went down. Though Vincent’s tendency to run off from the group was often used as a plot device to get characters to move from point A to B, he went the distance, surviving the entire series (unlike many others); he’s even part of the iconic shot of Jack in “The End,” offering comfort to the main character as he clings to his last moments of life on the island.
This gorgeous video game—which draws inspiration from Japanese myths, folklore, and traditional woodcut art and is similar to The Legend of Zelda in its gameplay—has a special main character: Amaterasu, a white wolf that’s the Shinto sun goddess in animal form. Amaterasu—or Ammy to her friends—spends Okami traveling across ancient Japan, helping people and defeating evil as all good dogs should.
Pixar’s Up isn’t really a sci-fi movie, but those smart collars that allow its dog characters to actually speak? That’s futuristic technology we can get behind. While we impatiently wait for science to catch up with the movies, we can imagine what life will be like when dogs can talk thanks to Dug—a goofy, eager-to-please Golden Retriever who proves an important ally to Up’s mismatched explorers, even though he’s forced into the Cone of Shame for a time and is also very easily distracted. SQUIRREL!
Alien dog, The Thing
The husky glimpsed galloping across Antarctica’s snowy landscape in the opening moments of The Thing isn’t technically a good dog as far as the movie’s characters are concerned—though they don’t realize it until later, “man’s best friend” is actually a sinister shape-shifting creature in disguise. But for fans of one of the greatest sci-fi horror movies of all time, introducing that element into the lives of the men at U.S. Outpost 31 is what puts all the plot’s gruesomely great stuff in motion. So, in that context…give that alien dog all the bones!
Dog, Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior
If you’re going to be stuck roaming the savage landscape of the post-apocalypse, struggling for survival and even managing to eke out some heroism here and there, you’re going to need a lieutenant who doesn’t complain or slow you down. While this Very Badass Boy (appropriately, given the setting, he’s an Australian Cattle Dog) sadly doesn’t make it to the end of the film, the real-life pup, a shelter rescue, spent the rest of his days happily living it up under the care of people from Mad Max 2‘s stunt team.
Snuffles/Snowball, Rick, and Morty
In the second-ever Rick and Morty episode, “Lawnmower Dog,” Rick sort of accidentally sparks a dog uprising by inventing a helmet that imbues Snuffles, the Smith family dog, with superior intelligence. After a brief reign of terror, Snuffles (who briefly changes his name to “Snowball”) ends up departing peacefully to live in another dimension where dogs don’t have to oppress anyone to assume their rightful place as superior beings. But his impact lingers—his portrait hangs on the wall of the family home, and on a more personal note, anytime I see a fluffy white dog that looks remotely like him, I must immediately blurt out, “Where are my testicles, Summer?”
Maximillion, The Bionic Woman
The saying is “man’s best friend,” but women and dogs also share a special bond. (As a Crazy Dog Lady, I can assure you this is true.) German Shepherd Maximillion, aka Max, aka the Bionic Dog, joined the series in its third season after a dramatic, two-part episode that saw him working through some mental trauma (depression after being confined in the lab, and a serious fear of fire) before becoming Jaime Sommers’ best buddy. But he wasn’t just a pet, of course—considering he was super-smart, super-strong, and could run nearly 100 miles per hour, thanks to a million dollars’ worth of bionic enhancements (hence the name “Maximillion”), he assisted her on missions, too.
Dog, Good Omens
After briefly appearing as a snarling beast, Dog soon transforms into the cutest hellhound you ever did see at the behest of his powerful young owner. The scruffy pup shows up to watch over Adam, the Antichrist, on his 11th birthday and ends up being a slightly troublemaking but otherwise generally outstanding part of Adam’s life—before, during, and after that apocalypse that never quite happens.
Koromaru, Persona 3
Playable character Koromaru may be a dog, but he’s a very talented dog. He is highly intelligent, fiercely loyal, and to quote my colleague James Whitbrook: “How do you feel about dogs that can…summon demons?” When Koromaru—a Shiba Inu who joins the protagonist’s team of paranormal demon-hunting high school kids in Persona 3 after singlehandedly killing a monster they were chasing—summons his Persona, the literal manifestation of own inner will, he summons no less than Cerberus, guardian of the underworld. As James will tell you, “Koromaru is a THREAT.”
Fortinbras, A Wrinkle in Time
There are all sorts of fantastic creatures in Madeleine L’Engle’s classic children’s book, but the Murry family dog, Fortinbras, is the most comforting. He’s there for protection and reassurance on any given dark and stormy night—but especially when there are strange things blowing around the neighborhood, your dad’s been away from home for far too long and being a 13-year-old girl who’s not quite comfortable in her own skin starts feeling like an especially heavy load. The recent movie version has been faulted for a few things, but the fact that Fortinbras is barely in it is definitely right up there.
We are going to take a short break here, and when we come back, we will jump right into our list of the best dogs in Sci-Fi
Before the break we learned about Maxamillion, Snuffles, Dug, and Vincent, but there are plenty more dogs that make a list for the Top Dogs in Sci Fi. Up next is…
Atticus, Infinity Train
Infinity Train is a brand-new show, but we’re more than ready to pack up and move to Corginia…or at least the train car it occupies. Atticus, the king of Corginia, united the Cardigan Welsh and Pembroke Welsh varieties of corgis, and though he’s a dog (enjoys belly rubs, gets squirmy when he’s carried), he’s also a regal and brave leader. Shadow monsters—whatever form they really take—beware! As a bonus, Atticus is voiced by the always-delightful Ernie Hudson of Ghostbusters fame.
Ein, Cowboy Bebop
It’s a corgi rock block! With Netflix’s live-action Cowboy Bebop coming soon, fans of the anime are looking forward to seeing the hyper-intelligent pup (whose name is likely a reference to “Einstein”) in live-action. When the cast was announced earlier this spring, there was no mention of Ein, and rumors sparked concern the adorable low-rider might be re-cast as a different breed of dog—but blessedly, one of the show’s writer-producers took to Twitter with reassurance…
Lockjaw, Marvel Comics
He’s a giant, slobbery bulldog with teleportation powers and an intensely strong bite—what’s not to love? A faithful companion of (and mode of transportation for) the Inhumans’ royal family, Lockjaw debuted in a 1965 Fantastic Four comic. Since then, he’s popped up in multiple storylines with and without his human allies, as the leader of the Pet Avengers, and in plenty of multimedia, including video games, animation, and, most recently, the mercifully short-lived Inhumans TV show.
Kazak, The Sirens of Titan(and Archer)
The “hound of space” in Kurt Vonnegut’s 1959 comedic interplanetary tale, Kazak is the constant companion of one of the book’s human characters, Winston Niles Rumfoord, a wealthy man who’s figured out how to slip around through time and space. The Sirens of Titan has long been bandied about as a possible movie or TV adaptation—most recently by Rick and Morty’s Dan Harmon—but the novel’s iconic pooch has already been brought to life, sort of, by an episode of Archer featuring an especially drooly canine agent named Kazak, whose collar is used for smuggling top-secret microfilm.
Samantha, I Am Legend
Dammit, Sam! In I Am Legend, Will Smith’s character, virologist Robert Neville, thinks he may well be the last man alive—but he knows he’s not the last living thing alive because New York is crawling with zombie-vampire-cannibal things that attack after dark. There’s also the matter of Samantha, a German Shepherd who keeps him from completely losing it in his lonely, isolated state. They make a great team until Sam gets bitten by one of the creatures, and Robert’s unable to use his makeshift science to save her from succumbing to her infection. Even worse, he’s forced to kill his beloved pet the moment she transforms into a monster—easily the most emotionally crushing moment in the entire film.
Frank, Men in Black
Though he had just a brief role in Men in Black, Frank was such a fan favorite he was elevated to co-star in the sequel, even (briefly) getting his own little black suit to wear on the job as “Agent F.” Although he appears to be a wrinkly little pug, and he engages in dog-like behavior (biting people, barking along to “Who Let the Dogs Out”), he’s actually an alien, specifically a Remoolian, which explains why he can speak, among other things.
Astro, The Jetsons
Apologies to C.H.O.M.P.S., but Hanna-Barbera’s best known sci-fi canine creation has to be Astro, the Jetsons’ big, goofy dog. The fact that Astro sounds a bit like Scooby-Doo (“Ruh-roh!”) is no accident; legendary voice actor Don Messick did the voice for both, although Astro came first. Though George Jetson tries to convince everyone that Electronimo—a robot dog—will be better-suited to apartment living, the plan backfires when Astro heroically (but accidentally) foils a would-be burglar. In a later episode, it’s discovered that Astro is actually Tralfaz, the long-lost dog of the ludicrously rich J.P. Gottrockets—but fortunately for everyone, he gets to stay with his beloved Elroy in the end.
Muffit, Battlestar Galactica
Muffit, who’s technically a “daggit,” perishes in a Cylon attack in the very first Battlestar Galactica episode, but he soon makes a triumphant return as Muffit II. The robotic daggit doesn’t look physically identical, but it acts just the same, being a best friend to its young owner, Boxey, while also helping the boy narrowly escape danger on numerous occasions, often by using its well-honed sense of smell. While Muffit’s character was presented as being very dog-like, the suit performer was actually a chimpanzee named Evie, who was both highly trained and somewhat temperamental behind the scenes.
Blood, A Boy and His Dog
Harlan Ellison’s 1969 novella forms the basis for this deeply weird, darkly funny 1975 cult classic, which stars a young Don Johnson as Vic, a horny teen struggling for post-apocalyptic survival in a decimated Midwest. His sarcastic companion, Blood, is a telepathic dog who “talks” to Vic as he helps him sniff out women to sleep with; in return, Vic helps Blood find food, since Blood’s ESP cancels out his ability to sniff out sustenance. Eventually, Vic must make a choice between his libido and his furry frenemy and realizes what’s most important (see: the title of the movie).
Einstein, Back to the Future
Doc Brown’s affable best friend—other than Marty, of course—is a shaggy, scientifically-named sheepdog. He’s the beneficiary of some of Doc’s wackier inventions, including the elaborate automatic dog feeder glimpsed early in the film. Einstein also serves as the test subject for the (thankfully successful) maiden voyage of the time-traveling DeLorean. And he’s part of a legacy, as it turns out; when Marty tracks Doc down back in 1955, we see that Einstein is just the latest in the eccentric scientist’s long line of shaggy lab assistants.
Much like his owner, Krypto the Superdog has heightened senses (with a particular emphasis on the stuff that already sets dogs apart, like sense of smell and hearing), and he’s able to understand speech even if he can’t respond beyond growls and thought bubbles. He’ll be featured on Titans next season, which should elevate his pop-culture profile considerably while adding more layers to a character who first appeared back in 1955. Over the years, he’s had some truly bonkers comic book storylines, like the time Superman gave him a special hat that revealed his family tree (including “Nypto,” his grandfather, who was super-sized and barely avoided being eaten by some passing aliens), or the time he contracted the dreaded space-rabies.
Porthos, Star Trek: Enterprise
We were already beside ourselves with excitement over Star Trek: Picard, and then we saw the image of Picard with his dog. While we wait to see Number Onemelt hearts on the small screen, it’s the perfect time to remember Porthos, Captain Archer’s beagle. Porthos—a confirmed fan of ear skritches and cheese—inevitably became a fan favorite, but he almost had an even bigger role on the show: Enterprise ended up putting the kibosh on several Porthos-centric storylines (including one where he would have had to assume command of the ship) because he was already a scene-stealer, despite not really doing much beyond being an adorable but otherwise normal pupper in space.
The tragic tale of Seymour (full name: Seymour Asses) plays out in “Jurassic Bark,” a season five episode that saves its gut-punch for the end, when it’s revealed that Fry’s devoted buddy—who Fry assumes had a long, happy life, since he lived to be 15—waited for him for 12 long, lonely years outside a pizza parlor after Fry was accidentally cryogenically frozen. Sob.
K-9, Doctor Who
A robotic dog atop our list of very good sci-fi dogs? Affirmative! And it’s not just any robotic dog: it’s K-9, beloved by the Doctor Who faithful since his first appearance back in 1977. As far as the series is concerned, however, K-9 was created in the year 5000 by noted dog lover Professor Marius, who gave him to the Doctor at the end of The Invisible Enemy.
Over the years, the intelligent, talking robot—usually portrayed by a radio-controlled prop—has gone through a series of upgrades and redesigns, and along with appearing in books, video games, and on kid-focused spinoff series The Sarah Jane Adventures and his own short-lived Australian TV series, K-9 (who’s also a perpetually popular toy for Doctor Who collectors, for obvious reasons of cuteness) almost got his own standalone movie back in 2015.
Is your dog the next Brad Pitt-bull or Clint East-woof? Is your fur baby ready for prime time? While the answer is obviously “yes,” how does a talented four-legged actor break into showbiz? Surprisingly, aspiring canine actors must take many of the same steps as human actors to make a career in acting. With a bit of research and luck, fans could be asking for your dog’s paw-tograph.
You Dog Has to Have More Than Just Good Looks to Be an Actor
While a dog’s appearance will always be important, the ability to follow commands is even more important than a pretty muzzle. At a minimum, your dog must be trained to consistently sit, lay down, head up or down, stay, speak, circle and hit a “mark.” Hitting a mark is when a pet can be directed to a certain “mark” and perform (sit, lay down) as well as go from one mark to another.
Also, while filming a scene, the owner or trainer may be up to 10 feet away and unable to give voice commands, so dogs must respond to hand cues. Dogs should also have good concentration and not be easily distracted by people, loud noises, crew, equipment, lights or sudden movement. If your dog is able to follow these basic commands, then your dog may be on the way to the red carpet.
Additional skills may be required depending on the role, and dogs may have to learn new tricks. Dog actors should also be able to interact with other actors in natural and convincing ways. Of course, some roles will require a specific breed, size, or color, but many roles will be cast primarily on the dog’s ability to follow instructions and hit their marks. Most importantly, casting directors are looking for healthy happy dogs, so make sure that you dog is seen regularly by a veterinarian and properly groomed to be “camera ready” for a close-up.
How to Become a Dog Actor
Just like human acting, there is no one path to stardom. Many acting dogs are “discovered” at shelters by trainers, who often can contact casting directors directly and recommend animals for projects. Owners, however, can submit dogs to casting directors as well in hopes of getting a lucky break. There are also many talent agencies that represent animals and are always looking for new four-legged talent.
There are two ways to get in front of a casting director: casting calls and auditions.
Dog Casting Calls
Casting calls are held when a casting director is looking for new talent. Any pet can attend an open casting call and be seen for a role. There are many dedicated websites that list available pet casting calls in your area. Social media (mainly Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) is also a great way to find out more information about new film productions and where dog casting calls will be held.
The other way to get cast is through an audition, which is invitation only. Major tv and film roles, and commercials are usually cast this way. Auditions for animal roles are very similar to auditions for humans and are an opportunity to perform a scene in front of a casting director. These casting sessions can be in-person or on tape; and may consist of several rounds before the final decision is made. Consistency is very important with dog actors, and the audition process is good practice because if your dog is cast, they may be asked to perform the same task many times in a row. That’s why it is important to have a dog that can be focused and will not be easily distracted or frustrated.
While Hollywood may offer many opportunities for both canine and human actors, there are opportunities to work in film, tv and commercials across the country. Like humans, dog actors may start out acting in non-union student films, music videos or local commercials to gain experience and obtain film for an acting reel (highlights of acting jobs). Many roles are listed on Craigslist, trade publications and websites as well as casting platforms.
How to Submit Your Dog for an Acting Role
To submit your dog for a role, you will need to have good photos of your dog. While they don’t have to be professional headshots, they do need to accurately show what your dog looks like including close-ups as well as full body shots. Try to have a variety of photos that really show your dog’s personality. As your dog gains experience, make sure to have an updated resume that includes any special skills or talent your dog has. For more experienced canine actors, you should have a short video, or acting reel, that shows highlights of past work. Be sure to include at least one scene of your star barking so casting directors can hear your dog.
How much do dog actors get paid?
While the “Tom Cruise’s” of dog acting like Lassie and Toto can make a lot of money, most dogs starting out in the biz can make anywhere from $50 a day for a student film to several hundred a day for a non-union commercial. According to The Hollywood Reporter, an established animal actor working on a union tv series can make over $100,000 a year, which is twice as much as the average union actor makes. However, most animal actors earn far less, and can expect $4,000 to $10,000 a year.1 Also, agents and trainers will earn a commission, which is usually a flat rate per project.
For human actors, commercials can be very lucrative, particularly national commercials. However, since dog actors are not eligible to join the union, and technically, the owner or trainer is being paid, the pay for animal actors is usually far less than human actors in commercials. Most contracts will specify a flat rate for a “buy-out” which means the dog actor does not receive any residuals. While that may seem unfair, as a dog becomes more successful, and if a dog has a unique skill, the pay will go up because the dog will be difficult to replace and in higher demand. This is when a dog’s appearance may be important too as some established roles will require a look-alike dog when the original star retires. For example, over a dozen collies played Lassie in various films, tv shows and personal appearances.
How to Protect Your Dog on Film Sets
Getting your dog cast in a movie, tv show or commercial is certainly exciting. But ultimately, you must make sure that your dog enjoys “working” and is safe at all times. Fortunately, union projects have very strict rules whenever an animal is cast, and your pet’s safety is taken very seriously on set. SAG-AFTRA is the union that represents actors and provides strict guidelines for having animals on set. For example, according to SAG-AFTRA, all union productions that include animals must register with the American Humane Society and enroll in the “No Animals were Harmed” certification program to ensure proper safeguards are in place to protect animal actors.2 Producers obviously want all actors, human and canine, to be safe on set, and an additional incentive to keep performers safe is that an injury to the talent could result in significant costs associated with a delay in production. A serious injury on set will almost always shut down production and could mean the end of the project.
In addition to following strict guidelines for the use of animals on film established by the American Humane Society, union projects are required to have general liability insurance for loss of property and bodily injuries. However, any injury to a human actor will be insured through workman’s comp, which technically is not available to animals which are not considered to be “people” under the law. Animals are considered “property” under the law, and most likely any injury to an animal on set would be covered under the general liability insurance policy.
Non-union projects, however, are not required to provide the same protections as union projects and often will not have insurance coverage which means any injury on set to a canine actor may only be covered by an existing private insurance policy. Check with the insurance agency or agent to make sure it covers any accidents to animals. Despite the many safeguards in place to protect animal actors, accidents do happen, and the best protection is a pet insurance policy designed specifically for your pet like those offered by Pets Best. As with any legal issue, you should consult with an attorney before agreeing to any contract and ensure your rights are protected.
With a bit of hard work, and some luck, your dog could book a role and be on the way to stardom. Lights. Camera. Bark!
Ok…lets press pause for a sec…maybe ask yourself, why did this resonate with me? What aspect of my relationship with my K9 buddy could I apply this to? And what am I going to do differently this week to make my dog’s training a little easier? Take time to mull it over, talk it out with a family member or trusted friend, put some ideas down in your training journal and then check back next week for our next episode. And, as always, I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this episode. So, reach out and DM me over on Instagram at @firstpawmedia and let’s spark a conversation. Until then, keep going! You are doing great! It is time to create the relationship with your dog that you always dreamed of.
Thanks for listening to Dog Works Radio. Find the show notes for this episode and all others at Alaska Dog Works. Know someone in your life who need help with their dog’s training? Be a hero and share our podcast with them, and we will see you next time.
The Hollywood Reporter (2014). Hollywood salaries revealed, from movie stars to agents (and even their assistants). Retrieved from https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/hollywood-salaries-revealed-movie-stars-737321
American Humane Society (nd). No animals were harmed. Retrieved from https://www.sagaftra.org/files/american_humane_association_mailer_9_1_01_9.pdf