The 1980s produced some of the most iconic and beloved canine characters in cartoon history. And, while not all of our Dandy Dozen actually originated in those years, these dog cartoons from the 80s made kids happy all decade long.
The mystery-solving Great Dane Scooby-Doo first appeared in 1969 but remained hugely popular through reruns and new series in the 1980s. Scooby, Shaggy, Velma, Daphne and Fred traveled around in their van solving supernatural mysteries, which invariably turned out to be criminals in disguises. Scooby’s catchphrases “Scooby-Dooby-Doo!” and his tendency to cower in fear but be brave when Snacks were involved endeared him to audiences.
The Peanuts comic strip by Charles M. Schulz featured the beagle Snoopy, who became an iconic dog character of the 1980s. While ostensibly Charlie Brown’s pet, Snoopy had a rich fantasy life filled with adventures as a World War I flying ace, college student “Joe Cool” and sports star “Snoopy Bowl.” He would type out novels on top of his dog house and was prone to imagining himself in vivid daydreams. Snoopy’s independence and playful personality made him one of the most beloved dogs in cartoons.
K9 from Doctor Who
This robotic dog companion to the time-traveling alien Doctor first appeared in 1977 on the British sci-fi show Doctor Who. K9 was highly intelligent, spoke in a robot-like monotone voice and could interface with computers, analyze materials and shoot laser blasts from his snout. The adorable robot dog provided loyal companionship in the Doctor’s adventures through time and space. K9’s popularity led to him getting his own short-lived spinoff series in the UK in the late 1980s.
Dynomutt from Blue Falcon
Dynomutt was the bumbling robotic dog sidekick to superhero Blue Falcon in this 1976 Hanna-Barbera cartoon. Dynomutt had a clunky, rusted cyborg body full of mechanical malfunctions, but he faithfully assisted the superhero Blue Falcon in fighting crime. His array of built-in gadgetry and weapons made him a powerful partner, even if bungling his activations. The mismatched pair were like a robotic Inspector Gadget and dog solving crime with slapstick humor.
Santa’s Little Helper from The Simpsons
The Simpsons adopted greyhound Santa’s Little Helper in the first Christmas episode in 1989. A failed racing dog, Santa’s Little Helper became a permanent member of the Simpsons family despite destroying furniture and making mischief. As a dog, he grounded the absurd, dysfunctional human Simpson family and provided wholesome animal friendship to each member of the family in his own way.
Spike from Tom & Jerry
Spike was the bulldog who appeared frequently in the iconic cat and mouse cartoon Tom & Jerry, starting in 1942. He was extremely protective of Jerry the mouse, and would punish Tom the cat severely if he was caught bothering Jerry. The stocky bulldog was known for beating up Tom, often sending the cat flying through the air. Spike’s strength and tendency to mangle Tom created a power dynamic that helped Jerry get the best of his feline adversary.
Odie from Garfield
The lasagna-loving, lazy cat Garfield was often vexed by happy-go-lucky Odie, a beagle who was also the pet of Garfield’s owner Jon. Odie first appeared in the Garfield comic strip in 1978 and remained a character in cartoons and movies. Odie’s goofy, slobbering canine antics, like licking Garfield or stealing his food, provided comic relief against Garfield’s cynical, vain personality in the classic cat vs. dog dynamic.
Astro from The Jetsons
The futuristic Jetson family from the 1962 Hanna-Barbera cartoon had a Great Dane named Astro as part of their space-age suburban life. Known for his loud, goofy personality and energetic running, Astro was George Jetson’s loyal dog who lived alongside the family in their Skypad Apartment. With his doggy door that retracted into floors and his comical mishaps, Astro embodied the fun-loving, space-age cartoon world of the early 60s.
Dogbert from Dilbert
The Dilbert comic strip premiered in 1989, featuring the pointedly cynical dog Dogbert. As Dilbert’s pet, Dogbert acted superior to the humans and even ran scams and cons on them. His plans to take over the world and get rich quick continually ran into problems. Dogbert acted as an advisor to the hapless Dilbert while thumbing his nose at the foolishness of humanity. His scheming personality provided a humorous contrast to the office workers surrounding him.
Bandit from Jonny Quest
The action-adventure cartoon Jonny Quest, which debuted in 1964, featured Jonny and his dog Bandit. The athletic, white bull terrier accompanied Jonny on quests around the world, providing loyal protection. Bandit saved Jonny from danger on multiple occasions. And his playful personality brought comic relief and endearing friendship to the adventuresome plots. The scrappy, distinctive-looking Bandit was a fixture of this classic cartoon well into the 1980s.
Brain from Inspector Gadget
Inspector Gadget, which debuted in 1983, followed the slapstick adventures of a bumbling cyborg police inspector. But the true brains of the operation was his loyal, intelligent dog named Brain. Though Inspector Gadget took all the credit, it was really Brain who would solve each case, saving the day while also keeping the clueless Inspector out of trouble. Brain would communicate in whispers to viewers, and use his collar full of tools and gadgets to take action while Gadget blundered through. Brain’s loyalty and smarts made him the true hero and an iconic 1980s cartoon dog.
Spike from Heathcliff
The Heathcliff comic strip and cartoon featured a bulldog named Spike, who was owned by Heathcliff’s rival Iggy Nutmeg. Spike was extremely tough and prone to brutally beating up cats like Heathcliff, giving him underdog appeal against the cocky Heathcliff. Their rivalry added to the cat vs. dog slapstick comedy of the series. With his muscular build, spiked collar and scrappy attitude, Spike became one of the most memorable dogs in Heathcliff.