Presidential Dogs in History

Julia Kemp

With the new president in office, there have been many milestones crossed. Kamala Harris became the first woman, African-American, and Asian-American vice president, and Joe Biden became the oldest president to be elected. Perhaps one of the cutest milestones passed is that Joe Biden’s dogs, Champ and Major Biden, have become the first rescue dogs to move into the White House. The rags-to-riches story of Champ and Major led me to look into some of the other presidential dogs in history. I have found some of my favorite and most interesting “first dogs” that I think are worth sharing!

Fun Facts:

  • 30 out of 45 presidents have had at least one dog.
  • Before Donald Trump’s presidency, there have been dogs in the white house for 100+ years.
  • Harry Truman gave his dog away because he “wasn’t a dog person”.
  • The only presidents to have no pets while in office are Donald Trump, James K. Polk, and Andrew Johnson.

Champ and Major can be seen with first lady Jill Biden as they proudly wave their Biden-Harris campaign flags.

Fun Fact: The shelter where Champ and Major briefly stayed (the Delaware Humane Association) will be holding an “indoguration” for the new first-dogs!

George Washington owned over 50 dogs in his lifetime but his favorite dog was Sweetlips Washington. 

Fun Fact: George Washington named every single one of his dogs throughout his lifetime and most were named after music titles or musicians.

Jimmy Carter’s dog, Grits Carter the border collie, was a gift from Veronica Meeder, Amy Carter’s teacher. Grit was given his name because of the Carters’ southern background. Grits Carter was born on the day of Jimmy Carter’s inauguration!

Fun Fact: Grits was said to have behavior issues. He often peed on the White House carpets!

Franklin D Roosevelt’s dog, Fala Roosevelt the black Scottie, was Roosevelt’s constant companion. He accompanied the president to top secret meetings and war conferences!

Fun Fact: Fala was featured in two MGM films. His appearance became so recognizable that the sight of the dog in public became a security threat to the president!

Honorable Mentions:

Thomas Jefferson briefly owned two bear cubs! He received the cubs as a gift from the explorer Zebulon Pike in 1807.

Bill Clinton’s cat, Socks Clinton, was quite popular. He was often paparazzied and visited schools and hospitals to see children. Socks was not too kind to Clinton’s Labrador Retriever, Buddy, and they became enemies. Socks was given his name because of the little white spots on his paws that looked like little socks.