Top 10 Presidential Pups

By Animal Planet

Former President Calvin Coolidge once said, “Any man who does not like dogs and want them about does not deserve to be in the White House,” and nearly every fellow commander in chief before and after him has taken such advice to heart. In fact, more dogs have taken up residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue than presidents, first ladies and presidential children combined, with rough estimates reaching 250 pooches — or nearly 1,000, including family pets outside of elected terms as well. Take a look at the top 10 most famous first Fidos!

10. Skip Roosevelt

President Theodore Roosevelt had several dogs during his lifetime, including a bull terrier named Pete who notoriously chased the French ambassador through the White House and tore out the bottom of his trousers. However, it was Roosevelt’s mongrel Skip that not only earned a special place in his heart, but on the 26th president’s horse as well. Roosevelt would scoop up Skip and place the short-of-stature pooch on his saddle during hunting trips. Eventually, the pup learned how to jump up onto horses on his own, and was even spotted riding alone on the back of Roosevelt’s son’s pony!

9. Charlie Kennedy

The Kennedys were animal lovers through and through. Not only did they build a special play area on the White House lawn where the children could bond with family pets, but JFK was also the only president to formally request that his dogs greet him when he arrived home via helicopter. Though they would go on to own many pets, the Kennedys moved into the White House in 1961 with only Charlie by their side, a Welsh Terrier who loved to swim with the president. Charlie was also top priority in terms of safety, perhaps as Kennedy’s way of saying thanks to man’s best friend for providing great comfort and relief from the intense stress during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

8. Heidi Eisenhower

The “I Like Ike” slogan helped secure Dwight D. Eisenhower’s place as the 34th president of the United States, and while his dog Heidi was also definitely among his supporters, Heidi felt quite the opposite about Ike’s wife Mamie. The feisty Weimaraner would jump on Mrs. Eisenhower anytime she approached the president, and went on to demonstrate her disregard by “decorating” a diplomatic reception room rug worth $20,000. Mamie and the housekeeping staff spent the entire night trying to get the stain out to no avail, so both the rug and the dog were banished – one permanently, and the other until she learned how to mind her manners.

7. Liberty Ford

Responding to the president’s special signal with a wag of the tail, Gerald Ford’s trusty Golden Retriever was known for her help in keeping Oval Office meetings short. Liberty’s other claim to fame involved an incident that nearly became a Secret Service crisis. One evening when Liberty’s regular caretaker was unavailable, the president offered to handle dog duty, which involved a late-night “business” trip to the South Lawn. When Ford took the dog out, he neglected to notify security, inadvertently locking the duo out of the White House until Ford was able to alert guards to let them back in.

6. Buddy Clinton

The Clintons’ chocolate-colored Labrador Retriever joined the first couple turned empty nesters shortly after daughter Chelsea left for Stanford in 1997. Though family cat Socks hated the pup (to the point that the pets had to be kept in separate quarters), President Clinton and Buddy bonded quickly. The dog was named after Clinton’s favorite uncle, Oren “Buddy” Grisham, who raised and trained dogs for over 50 years. The pup loved to take naps behind the president’s oak desk, and Buddy’s loyalty was also noted during Clinton’s infamous impeachment hearings by Newsweek magazine, which declared, “At last, a friend who can’t testify against him.”

5. Him and Her Johnson

Though LBJ had many dogs before, during and after his White House tenure, Him and Her were the most famous of the bunch. This pair of beagles joined Johnson on the campaign trail in 1964. Though Johnson once drew criticism for his handling of the pups when he lifted Him by his ears while attempting to get the beagles to do a trick in front of a group on the White House lawn, the former president insisted he meant no harm. Him and Her were frequently photographed walking and playing with LBJ, and even made the cover of LIFE magazine.

4. Checkers Nixon

Checkers was a household name before the former president even stepped foot in the White House, thanks in large part to Nixon’s reference to his pooch during a 1952 speech in response to allegations of accepting illegal campaign contributions as the running mate of Dwight D. Eisenhower. The tactic worked, securing Nixon’s career (temporarily at least) as well as Checker’s notable place in history.

3. Millie and Barney Bush

Both George H.W. (No. 41) and George W. (No. 43) had dogs during their tenure that often stole the spotlight. No. 41′s most famous pup was an English Springer Spaniel named Millie, whose book (penned by first lady Barbara) outsold her own master’s autobiography! Not only did the dog’s tale became a national best-seller, but it also raised nearly $1 million for literacy programs.

No. 43′s most notable pup, Barney, was the first presidential pet to have his own Web site, featuring the “Barney Cam.” For this Scottish Terrier, his bite was actually worse than his bark, with notable nips including Reuters news reporter Jon Decker and Boston Celtics PR rep Heather Walker. As a result, during West Wing White House tours, the Rose Garden became off-limits if Barney was out and about.

2. Fala Roosevelt

FDR’s beloved Scottish Terrier was first named “Big Boy” but renamed “Murray the Outlaw of Falahill” (or “Fala” for short) after one of the former president’s Scottish ancestors. Fala traveled with his master constantly, both stateside and overseas, whether by train, car, or boat. One of the most famous trips, in 1944, to the Aleutian Islands created a flurry of rumors that Fala was accidentally left behind, prompting Republicans to accuse FDR of spending millions of taxpayers’ dollars in sending a destroyer back for the dog. The president defended his Scottie vehemently during what would become his famous “Fala speech” delivered to the Teamsters Union. The popular pup received thousands of fan letters and even needed a secretary to answer his mail. Most notably, Fala was the only presidential pet to be included in a national monument; a statue of the dog stands by his master’s side at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, D.C.

1. Bo Obama

Bo, a Portugese water dog, came to the Obama family in 2009 as a gift from late Senator Ted Kennedy and his wife, Victoria. President Barack Obama famously promised his daughters, Malia and Sasha, a dog if he won the election in November 2008. His proclamation sparked the public and media’s attention, leading to months of coverage and speculation as to what breed the family would choose. Malia’s allergies played a role in the selection of the hypoallergenic breed. From morning talk shows and gossip columns to political blogs and the nightly news, this pup is the talk of the town – inside and outside the Beltway!

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Sandra C.
Past Member 5 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

Sandi C.
Sandi C5 years ago

Thanks for the post.

paul m.
paul m5 years ago


Deborah F.
Deborah F5 years ago

We all need someone who will love us unconditionally no matter what bone-head move we've made that day.

Veronique L.
Veronique L5 years ago


Ceejay Robb
CJ Robb5 years ago

Michele V - Probably a security risk to have the girls walking Bo. (I would have loved to have seen Bo joining the family on the stage tonight! Guess that would have been waaay to much excitement for him and the audience!)

Ceejay Robb
CJ Robb5 years ago

I was familiar with most of these Presidential dog stories. The Liberty Ford story was new to me. The thought of the POTUS being locked out of the WH (with his dog) was really hard to imagine but funny!

Talya Honor
Talya H5 years ago

Thanks for the share!

Michele V.
Michele Vernet5 years ago

Why don't we hear anything about Bo anymore or where he lives, and whether the girls walk him or is he just being forgotten?

Sheila L.
Sheila Swan L5 years ago

Dogs add humanity to people!