Nearly every president in U.S. history shared the country’s most famous residence with pets. Meet the First Dogs throughout history in this walk down memory lane.
Although a few unlikely animals called The White House home over the years (Thomas Jefferson had two bear cubs, John Quincy Adams kept an alligator in one of the White House bathrooms, and Theodore Roosevelt had a slew of strange pets including a badger, kangaroo rats, and a flying squirrel!), dogs have remained the most popular “First Pet” with 68% of U.S. presidents sharing the Oval Office with a four-legged best friend.
Let’s meet America’s First Dogs throughout history in this walk down memory lane.
Up first, George Washington!
George Washington is widely known for his fondness of dogs, having owned as many as 50 throughout his life.
According to The Presidential Pet Museum,
Washington is widely known as the father of the American foxhound. He began to crossbreed big French hounds with his own black and tan hounds to create a new breed of hound. Today, the American Kennel Club recognizes our first president as the founder of the American foxhound.
While our first president loved many dogs throughout his life including Dalmations, Spaniels, a Newfoundland, Terriers, and Foxhounds, 17 lucky dogs shared their home with the president during his two terms.
Drunkard, Mopsey, Taster, Cloe, Tipsy, Tipler, Forester, Captain, Lady Rover, Vulcan, Sweetlips, and Searcher were all hounds of the avid hunter. Washington also shared the presidency with 5 French Hounds, along with several horses and a parrot belonging to his beloved wife, Martha.
Although The White House was under construction during his two terms, it was Washington who selected the site on which it was built. While they didn’t live in the White House, there’s no doubt the dog lover took his pups along to check on the construction!
So, who were the first dogs to live in The White House?
In the year 1800, with construction of the White House nearly complete, our second president, John Adams and First Lady Abigail moved in along with Abigail’s two mixed-breed pups, Juno and Satan.
As the first pups to christen the White House lawn, Juno and Satan were incredibly beloved by First Lady Abigail who wrote about Juno in a letter to her granddaughter,
“If you love me … you must love my dog.” and “You will be glad to learn that Juno yet lives, although like her mistress she is gray with age.”
She went on to explain that Juno “appears to enjoy life and be grateful for the attention paid her. She wags her tail and announces a visitor whenever one appears.”
Do you suppose Juno or Satan were by John Adams’ side as he helped to draft our Declaration of Independence?
Who were the next dogs to call the White House home?
After John Adams left the White House, several years went by without a canine companion within it’s walls. That is, until our 5th president, James Monroe moved in along with his wife, children, and his youngest daughter Maria’s pet Spaniel in 1817.
Following Monroe’s presidency, several unique pets called the White House home, but it wasn’t until 1841 when our 10th president, John Tyler brought man’s best friend back into the Oval Office.
The consul of Naples gifted the president with an Italian Greyhound named Le Beau “to grace the White House lawn.” And, Tyler imported two Wolfhounds from Ireland for his wife, Julia.
In 1850, President Millard Fillmore took office. Although his only White House pets were a pair of ponies named Mason and Dixon, Fillmore was a founding member and president of the Buffalo chapter of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
No dogs graced the White House lawn again until 1853 when a small army of pups moved in…
In 1853, President Franklin Pierce, often labeled as one of the worst presidents in U.S. history, did have one great trait – his love for dogs! The un-favored president moved 7 small dogs into the White House during his term.
Following Franklin Pierce, another unsuccessful president, James Buchanan, also enjoyed the company of dogs, specifically, a toy terrier named Punch and a Newfoundland named Lara.
When Buchanan left office, one of the most recognizable and memorable presidents in history, Abraham Lincoln, moved into the White House. Along with a slew of unusual pets including a turkey, a couple of ponies, some goats, a few cats, and a white rabbit, Lincoln took office with his dogs, Jip and Fido by his side.
Lincoln had rescued Fido, a yellow mutt he’d found wandering as a stray in his hometown of Springfield. When Lincoln moved into the White House, he left his beloved boy, Fido, back in Springfield, under the care of close family friends, due to concerns that the long trip to the White House would be too stressful for his faithful old companion.
But, he had a long list of rules for how Fido should be cared for.
Lincoln gave Fido’s caregivers his favorite horsehair sofa. They had to promise to never leave him tied up in the backyard. He was not to be scolded for wet or muddy paws. He was to be allowed inside whenever he scratched at the door. And he was to be given scraps from the dining room table.
Lincoln undoubtedly had a fondness and a respect for all animals. It’s been said that he even considered the life of an ant as one worth protecting. It is perhaps this thoughtful regard for all life that led him to fight for the abolition of slavery.
In 1869, another animal loving president moved into the White House with a very special dog and a message for White House staff: “If this dog dies, every employee in the White House will at once be discharged.” Who was this loyal dog owner?
It was 1869 when former Civil War General Ulysses S. Grant became our 18th president and once again brought man’s best friend to the White House.
Faithful was a Newfoundland owned by Grant’s son, Jesse. Because Jesse had already faced heartbreak after losing another canine companion, Ulysses intended for Faithful to be very well cared for in the White House, telling staff “If this dog dies, every employee in the White House will at once be discharged.”
Following Grant’s presidency was another avid animal lover, President Rutherford B. Hayes. Hayes moved into the White House in 1877 along with 8 dogs, 5 cats, a goat, a mockingbird, four canaries, several cows, and carriage horses.
Among his animal best friends were Hector, a Newfoundland, Duke the English Mastiff, Grim the Greyhoud, Otis the Miniature Schnauzer, Dot the Cocker Spaniel, hunting dogs Juno and Shep, and Jet the mutt.
Hayes famously wrote that sharing the White House with so many pets created “a Robinson Crusoe aspect to our mode of life.” But he especially loved to tell others of his wife, Lucy’s beautiful relationship with their Greyhound, Grim.
Lucy and Grim apparently enjoyed “singing” together. Nan Card, the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center’s manuscripts curator, says:
“One day, as Lucy sang the Star Spangled Banner, Grim lifted up his head and howled in a most pitiful manner. And ever after, when his mistress sang the national anthem, Grim began to howl.”
Newfoundlands were a clear favorite among early presidents. The next family to move into the White House included one, too!
Although his presidency ended in assassination after only 200 days in office, James A. Garfield spent his days in the White House alongside his Newfoundland, which he’d cleverly named Veto.
Veto was much more than just a pet, though. He was a hero! Once, when one of the White House stables caught fire, it was Veto that barked and alerted staff.
Several years later, and spanning two non-consecutive terms as president, animal lover Grover Cleveland called the White House home along with an enormous pack of assorted dogs, birds, ponies, fish, and chickens.
Grover Cleveland is said to have shared his presidential duties with a Cocker Spaniel, a Collie, a St. Bernard, a few Dachshunds, several Foxhounds, and Mrs. Frances Cleveland’s beloved French Poodle, Hector.
When Cleveland left office, his successor, President Benjamin Harrison took office with several dogs, including a favorite Collie named Dash, by his side.
In 1901, the 26th president and one of the most animal-loving of all time moved into the White House. Do you know which president shared his famous home with close to 40 pets?
During Theodore Roosevelt‘s presidency, the White House was home to close to 40 pets at any given time! Among those animals were dozens of horses, 6 dogs, snakes, cats, a badger, a rabbit, rats, guinea pigs, roosters, chickens, parrots, a raccoon, and several exotic animals.
Among Roosevelt’s canine best friends were Pete, a Bull terrier and a favorite of the family, Rollo the St. Bernard, Sailor Boy the Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Blackjack the Manchester terrier, Skip the mutt, and Manchu, Alice Roosevelt’s beloved Pekingese.
One favorite among the pack was Rollo, a St. Bernard. Rollo was a gift from a friend of the family. Although Roosevelt tried to decline the enormous new family member, he lost that battle and 200-pound Rollo moved into the White House.
An article in a Canadian newspaper described Rollo, explaining that “visitors to the White House were often … pursued by the bounding Rollo. The astonished guests expected the big dog to pounce on the children and devour them. But Rollo was a childrens’ dog; he truly loved them. He never uttered a growl of protest or bared his teeth when the children played rough games with him.”
Although Rollo loved kids, he was at his happiest when the president gave him attention.
Also among the pack was Blackjack, or Jack for short, a Manchester terrier who Roosevelt once described as “absolutely a member of the family.” In fact, Jack was the first of Roosevelt’s dogs to live indoors and sleep in the president’s bed, under the covers and curled up alongside his feet.
The next 3 presidents to call the White House home all brought dogs along for the move, but one in particular is hailed the most dog-loving president of all time… who was it?
When Theodore Roosevelt and his enormous family of pets moved out in 1909, William Taft moved in with his dog, Caruso. Following Taft, President Woodrow Wilson brought 7 animals to the big house, including three dogs: Davie the Airedale, Mountain Boy the Greyhound, and Bruce the Bull Terrier. Then, President Warren Harding took office alongside his Airedale, Laddie Boy and his English Bulldog, Old Boy.
But, in 1923, when 30th president, Calvin Coolidge took office, he brought with him: 13 dogs, 6 birds, 2 cats, 2 raccoons, a donkey, and a bobcat! As if the White House weren’t crowded enough, Coolidge was gifted by dignitaries with two lion cubs (named Tax Reduction and Budget Bureau), a wallaby, a pygmy hippo named Billy, and a black bear! (Yikes!)
Among Coolidge’s canine companions were Prudence Prim and Rob Roy, a pair of white Collies; Peter Pan, a terrier; Paul Pry the Airedale, Calamity Jane, a Shetland Sheepdog; Tiny Tim and Blackberry, both Chow Chows; Collies Ruby Rouch and Bessie, a Bulldog named Boston Beans, A German shepherd named King Kole, and a bird dog named Palo Alto.
One of Coolidge’s most beloved dogs was Tiny Tim, a red Chow Chow that shared his birthday – July 4th. It has been said that Tiny Tim earned a nickname during his time in the White House – Terrible Tim – for his antics around the president’s home. It was largely due to Tiny Tim and Blackberry, the Coolidge’s second Chow, that the breed became popular in the states.
Another of Coolidge’s White House dogs, Calamity Jane, was instrumental in a few changes being made to the White House. Specifically, a washtub was installed for the sole purpose of bathing presidential dogs as a result of Calamity Jane’s love of all things dirty!
Just behind Calvin Coolidge, another dog-loving president took office with 9 dogs by his side. Can you name our 31st president?
Though Calvin Coolidge’s record of White House pets is a tough act to follow, 31st President Herbert Hoover held his own, moving into the White House in 1929 with 9 dogs and 2 alligators.
Among Hoover’s dogs were King Tut the Belgian Shepherd, Pat the German Shepherd, Big Ben and Sonny the Fox Terriers, Glen the Scottish Collie, Yukon the Eskimo, Patrick the Wolfhoud, Eaglehurst Gillette the Setter, and Weejie the Elkhound.
Known for their intelligence and loyalty, Belgian Shepherds, like Hoover’s dog, King Tut, tend to have a protective nature. Naturally, King Tut patrolled the White House property at night and reportedly seemed worried about protecting the First Family.
The stress of protecting the president’s family was too much for King Tut and Hoover made the decision to move him away from the busy home in hopes that he’d be happier. His health, unfortunately, did not improve and he became known as the presidential dog that “worried himself to death.”
Several months after King Tut’s death, the Norwegian Elkhound Association of America gifted the president with Weejie, a 2-month old Elkhound puppy. At the time, there were only about 25 to 30 Elkhounds in the entire country.
When Hoover left office in 1933, another animal lover moved into the White House along with 7 dogs. Any guess who our next dog-loving president was?
In 1933, our 32nd president with a penchant for large dogs moved into the White House. Franklin Delano Roosevelt became president during the Great Depression. As anyone with dogs will confirm, there’s now doubt those dogs were a comfort in times of great stress.
Among FDR’s presidential pets were Majora the German Shepherd, Meggie the Scottish Terrier, Winks the Llewellyn Setter, Tiny the Old English Sheepdog, President the Great Dane, Fala the famous Scottish Terrier, and Blaze, Elliot Roosevelt’s Bullmastiff. In total, the Roosevelt family had 11 dogs during their 12 years at the White House.
The First Family adopted Winks, a Llewellyn Setter, during a trip to Warm Springs, Georgia, where the president, who had become paralyzed after contracting polio, often soaked in the therapeutic spring waters.
President, the Great Dane belonging to Roosevelt’s son, Franklin Jr., is the only Great Dane known to have ever resided in the White House.
And, of course, no account of presidential pets would be complete without the inclusion of Fala, FDR’s famous Scottish Terrier! Fala’s full name was actually Murray the Outlaw of Falahill, after a Scottish ancestor of the president. Fala was FDR’s faithful sidekick, traveling along with the president every chance he could. He slept curled up in a chair by the president’s bed. Little Fala was quite the entertainer, joining FDR as he traveled around the world, performing tricks and bringing smiles to his father’s famous friends.
A statue of Fala stands next to one of FDR at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington D.C.
Which former U.S. president created quite the stir when he did NOT want a dog in the White House?
Following FDR’s extended stay at the White House, President Harry S. Truman made waves for NOT wanting to share the famous home with a dog.
Very clearly not a dog lover, Truman is reported to have been gifted, and subsequently given away, at least two different dogs during his time in office.
About 3 years into his presidency, a supporter of the president from his home state of Missouri sent him a 5-week old Cocker Spaniel puppy, much to his dismay. Truman who preferred a “pet-free family” gave the dog away to his physician. Thousands of angry dog lovers all over the country wrote letters to the president.
“I didn’t ask for him, and I don’t need him,” Truman reportedly said.
After witnessing the backlash from dog-loving Americans, it’s no surprise that nearly every single U.S. president since Truman has owned at least one dog during their stay at the White House.
Our next presidential dog actually got herself banned from the White House? Who was it and what did the mischievous dog do?
When Dwight D. Eisenhower took office in 1953, he moved into the White House without a canine companion. But two years later, he welcomed Heidi, a Weimaraner puppy into the spacious home.
After multiple mishaps involving the young pup’s bladder, a WWII general, and a priceless rug, Heidi was sent to live at the Eisenhower’s farm in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
Although she no longer lived at the White House, Heidi remained well-loved and cherished by the First Family, who visited as often as they could. And, Eisenhower recalled with gratitude the wonderful memories he shared with Heidi at the White House.
Our next presidential animal lover was actually allergic to dogs! But, that didn’t stop this popular president from sharing the White House with 10 of the four-legged friends!
Although President John F. Kennedy was allergic to pet hair, he had an entire pack of pups during his time in office!
Although he entered the presidency alongside only one dog, Charlie, a Welsh terrier, was quickly joined by several other canine companions including Gaullie the Poodle, Pushinka the mutt, Shannon the Cocker Spaniel, Wolf the Irish Wolfhound mix, Clipper the German Shepherd, and eventually 4 puppies – Butterfly, White Tips, Blackie, and Streaker, Pushinka and Charlie’s litter.
Charlie was a gift from First Lady Jacqueline to her beloved husband during his candidacy. She referred to Charlie as “Jack’s dog” and enjoyed watching the two swim laps together in the White House pool.
Having Charlie around wasn’t all fun and games for the president, though. Charlie became utterly obsessed with playing fetch. So much so that JFK found it to be a bit annoying, as it was really all he ever wanted to do.
Pushinka, a mixed breed pup sent to the Kennedy’s as a gift from Russian premier Nikita Khrushchev mated with Charlie and the pair became parents to a litter of 4 puppies.
After the puppies were born, children from around the country mailed letters to the White House, begging to adopt one. The First Lady asked staffers to select 10 letters from the thousands they received. From those 10 letters, she personally selected two lucky children to receive two of the First Puppies.
Following JFK, our next presidential pet parent was dad to 6 dogs during his White House term. But, he very clearly had a favorite breed… Beagles!
Lyndon B. Johnson was a huge dog lover, but was especially fond of his favorite breed, the Beagle.
One of the first things he did as president was to expand the White House doghouse, essentially turning it into a pet palace. The expansion comes as no surprise, though, as it was home to 6 dogs. Among them were Him and Her, a pair of beloved Beagles; Edgar, another Beagle and a gift from head of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, and of course, Freckles (another Beagle!). Also romping on the White House lawn were Blanco, a white Collie, and Yuki, a mixed-breed pup.
While many people will remember LBJ’s Beagles, especially an incident during which dog-lovers were outraged as the president was photographed picking up “Him” by the ears, some might also remember his beloved rescue dog, Yuki.
In 1966, LBJ’s daughter Luci found the little white terrier mix at a Texas gas station. A year later, she officially gifted Yuki to her father and the pair became inseparable. They swam together in the White House pool. Yuki joined his doting dad in the Oval Office and in cabinet meetings regularly. At night, he slept in the president’s bed.
“He is the friendliest and the smartest and the most constant in his attentions of all the dogs that I’ve known,” Johnson said of his favorite little pup.
Don’t miss this truly PAWsome recording of LBJ himself talking about his beloved Yuki:
Our next presidential dog dad was involved in a scandal that cost him the presidency. Do you think this president told his deepest, darkest secrets to one of his 3 White House dogs?
Although his presidency was steeped in scandal, there was a lot of love in the White House alongside our 37th president, Richard Nixon.
Nixon shared the Oval Office with Vicky the Poodle, Pasha the Yorkshire Terrier, and King Timahoe, an Irish Setter. While Vicky and Pasha moved into the White House with the First Family, King Timahoe, or Tim, was a gift from White House staffers.
After Nixon’s resignation, Gerald Ford moved into the White House. Although he and First Lady, Betty, loved Golden Retrievers, their beloved pup had passed away before Ford’s presidency began.
They adopted Liberty, a Golden Retriever from a Minnesota breeder when the pup was just 8-months old. President Ford met Liberty for the very first time in the Oval Office where, it’s been reported, he got down on all fours to greet the gorgeous girl.
A short time later, the Fords decided to breed Liberty, matching her with a male champion from Oregon. Liberty gave birth to 9 puppies – 4 girls and 5 boys – right there in the White House.
According to The Presidential Pet Museum,
The Fords kept the one blonde pup, naming her Misty. A pup named Jerry went to the Leader Dog School for the Blind; four went as gifts to friends; and the remaining three were purchased for $300 each by other friends to help defray the cost of Liberty’s breeding.
Although our next presidential pet parent entered his two-term presidency without any canine companions, the White House was quickly teeming with 6 furry best friends! Who was it?
When the beloved film star, Ronald Reagan moved into the White House in 1981, despite he and Nancy’s love of animals, the couple were dog-less. But, 3 years into his presidency, a 6-year old girl changed the Reagans’ lives when she gifted the First Family with Lucky, a 9-week old Bouvier des Flandres.
Though she was placed into Reagan’s arms as a tiny ball of fluff, within just a few months, Lucky had grown enormous, to “the size of a pony,” according to First Lady, Nancy Reagan. Still, Lucky considered herself a lapdog, famously photographed atop her dad’s lap during a flight aboard Marine One.
When the Reagans determined that Lucky was a little too rambunctious for White House life, she was permanently moved to their spacious California ranch where she remained a favorite of the president’s pets.
Once again without a canine companion in the Oval Office, the Reagans received Rex, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel as a Christmas gift in 1985. Rex made headlines when a reporter noticed the dog standing and barking at the door of the Lincoln bedroom, which many have speculated is haunted. “He just stands outside and barks at something only he can see,” reported The Glasgow Herald in 1986.
Following Reagan’s presidency, George H.W. Bush moved into the White House with his wife, Barbara, and their beloved English Springer Spaniel, Millie. During her time in office, First Dog Millie became quite the celebrity, publishing a best-selling book, appearing on several tv shows, and even becoming animated for a cameo in The Simpsons.
But, it was one of Millie’s puppies, Ranger, who is best known as Bush Sr.’s favorite pup. Barbara Bush described Ranger as a “big, bouncy, puppy. He could leap straight up into the air and his handsome face made us laugh…. He loved to curl up by George’s side and was everything in a dog George wanted.”
Ranger’s brother, Spot, would eventually have his turn in the White House, too, as one of George W. Bush’s presidential pets.
Although our next First Dog didn’t move into the White House until his presidential dad’s second term, his arrival finally made the house a home. Who was this presidential dog?
The 42nd president, Bill Clinton grew up with canine companions, but served his first term in office without a dog by his side. Eventually, in 1987, the Clintons welcomed Buddy, a 3-month old Chocolate Lab into the White House.
Hillary Clinton wrote about life in the president’s mansion, “when we moved to Washington from Little Rock, we brought our family traditions, favorite pictures, and personal mementos to make the White House feel more comfortable.“But it wasn’t until Socks arrived with his toy mouse and Buddy walked in with his rawhide bone that this house became a home. Pets have a way of doing that.”
Our next presidential dog dad brought a familiar face back to the White House lawn. Not long after their arrival, the most famous First Dog of all time moved in… Who were these First Dogs?
When George W. Bush took office in 2001, he brought Spot, the brother of George Sr.’s beloved pup, Ranger, back to the White House where he had been born years before. Also along for the big move was Barney, a Scottish terrier.
In 2005, Miss Beazley, another Scottish terrier and a gift from George to his wife, Laura, moved in and the precocious pair of Scotties took the White House by storm in a series of videos and stories about life as the First Dogs.
When Barack Obama was running for the presidency, he promised daughters, Sasha and Malia, that if he won, he’d get a dog for the girls. As fate would have it, a pair of Portuguese Water Dog breeders in Texas had named one of their prized pups, born during Obama’s campaign, “New Hope” in honor of the candidate they supported. Senator Ted Kennedy, upon Obama’s election into office, gifted “New Hope” to the family. The Obamas changed his name to Bo.
Bo may have played a hand in Obama’s re-election 4 years later when he starred in one of the president’s campaign commercials. And, shortly after winning a second term, the Obamas added to their furry family with Sunny, another Portuguese Water Dog.
Check out the playful pair in this video introduction made by the White House shortly after Sunny’s arrival.
Despite speculation at various times during his term, 45th President, Donald J. Trump didn’t welcome a four-legged friend into the family during his presidency, ending the hundred-plus-year tradition.
But, with the election of Joseph R. Biden, Jr. as the 46th President, it looks like dogs will once again grace the halls of the White House. The Biden family’s two German Shepherds, 12-year old Champ and 2-year old Major will call the famous house home.
Champ is no stranger to a life of politics, having stood by his dad when he served as the nation’s Vice President between 2008 and 2016. A puppy during his early days in One Observatory Circle, Champ’s occasional “accidents” prompted an upgrade from off-white carpeting to hardwood flooring in the vice-presidential residence. But, a life in the spotlight will be new to young Major. And, although many former First Families have rescued dogs, Major will be the first that was adopted from a shelter.
Congratulations to President-elect Joe Biden! His German Shepherd, Major, is set to become the first shelter dog in the White House. The Bidens adopted the German shepherd from the Delaware Humane Association two years ago after initially fostering him. pic.twitter.com/qv37hAjVWO— Humane Rescue (@HumaneRescue) November 8, 2020