Dogs In The White House: What Makes A Dog Presidential?

People walk a dog during a snow storm in front of the White House in Washington, DC, March 3, 2014. Snow began falling in the nation's capital early Monday, and officials warned people to stay off treacherous, icy roads a scene that has become familiar to residents in the Midwest, East and even Deep South this year. Schools were canceled, bus service was halted in places and federal government workers in the DC area were told to stay home Monday.

(Picture Credit: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

Forget elephants and donkeys — the White House has often been the domain of canines.

Nearly every president since Warren Harding has brought a dog to Washington, and over half of all U.S. presidents had at least one dog during their terms. Makes you wonder how the White House lawn stays so green!

Donald Trump was the first president in 150 years who didn’t have a pet of any sort. President Joe Biden, however, has returned the fur to the First Family with his dogs, Champ and Major. The Bidens also have plans to bring a kitty into the White House to join the family.

Notably, Major is the first shelter dog to live at the White House, and he even had his own “indoguration” ceremony as a fundraiser for shelter pets. Check out our coverage of the Major Biden indoguration ceremony if you missed it!

In celebration of Presidents Day on February 15th in 2021, here are some facts about the canines who made the White House their home with their Presidential parents and what it takes to be First Dog.

A Few Notable Presidential Dogs

Presidents’ dogs have long been making headlines. Thanks to his famous speech, Richard Nixon’s Cocker Spaniel, Checkers may enjoy the highest name recognition.

But other First Dogs — and their humans — have their own claims to fame:

  • Most fertile dog: Gerald Ford’s Golden Retriever, Liberty, gave birth to nine puppies at the White House.
  • Most dogs had by a President: Calvin Coolidge had at least twelve.
  • Lived in White House during most administrations: Spot, a Springer Spaniel, born during George H. W. Bush’s administration to his dog Millie, later returned to the White House as George W. Bush’s pet.
  • Most embarrassing dogs: It’s a tie between the dogs of Teddy Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson. Roosevelt’s dog, Pete, managed to rip the pants off the French ambassador while Johnson’s relieved himself in front of the Shah of Iran.
  • Most inexplicable name: George Washington’s Sweet Lips — don’t ask because we don’t have the answers.
  • First rescue dog in the White House: Lyndon Johnson’s daughter rescued a dog named Yuki after his human abandoned him at a gas station. Yuki became President Johnson’s favorite pet.
  • First shelter dog in the White House: President Joe Biden adopted Major from the Delaware Humane Association in 2018.

For the full list of US Presidents’ dogs and their names, check out our complete guide!

Which Dogs Are White House Material?

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 23: In this picture released 31 January 2001 by the US White House, Barney(L), a Scottish terrier, and Spot(R), a English Springer Spaniel, play on the south lawn of the White House 23 January 2001. Barney was a gift from Christine Todd Whitman, former New Jersey Governor and current head of the Environmental Protection Agency(EPA), to US President George W. Bush and his family. Spot is the offspring of Millie, who was former US President George Bush's family dog.

(Picture Credit: PAUL MORSE/AFP/Getty Images)

So what type of dog is best suited for the White House? The DogTime team wanted to find out, so we plugged our criteria into the Dog Breed Match Up tool.

Here are the givens: Any President of the United States needs a dog who is confident, friendly, and calm with people and children of all ages, comfortable in a busy, near frenetic household, and able to adapt easily to change.

And here are the results: Any pup who embodies the qualities of the mellow Basset Hound or super-friendly Golden Retriever would make a superb First Dog. The best fit though, not surprisingly, is a pooch with a Labrador Retriever‘s sunny, anything goes disposition and laid-back attitude.

And getting a Lab, or Lab Mix, isn’t a bad political tactic either. For almost a whopping three decades, the Lab continues to be the country’s most popular dog, according to the American Kennel Club.

Of course, we at DogTime are big fans of rescue and shelter dogs like Major Biden, no matter the breed!

Whether purebred or mutt, dogs have been humanizing their presidential parents for ages. No matter who enters the White House next, having a dog will no doubt make them seem more like the rest of us.

Or as Harry S. Truman famously said, “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.”

Are you happy to see dogs in the White House? Which Presidential pooch is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!