Early Presidential Dogs: George Washington to William McKinley

There have been dogs in the White House since George Washington took office in 1789 and the early presidential dogs are important to note as part of the whole pack of First Dogs. However, the press didn’t take interest in the First Dog until the 1920s with Warren Harding’s Airedale Terrier, Laddie Boy. Never-the-less, in the first 110 years of America’s democracy, over 40 dogs roamed the halls and soiled the lawns of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and only 14 of the 25 presidents in office during this time had dogs.

Only twelve presidents in all, out of the total 45, did not have a canine companion. That’s a whopping seventy-three percent of presidents who were dog-lovers! Eleven of those twelve presidents without a dog presided before 1901. Let’s take a look at some of the most interesting facts about the early presidential dogs.

  • George Washington wins the award for most dogs during this time with 12 dogs. He kept hounds; American Foxhounds, Black and Tan Coonhounds and a Greyhound. One of his Black and Tan Coonhounds was named Drunkard and another Tipsy.
Black and Tan Coonhounds like George Washington's early presidential dogs Drunkard and Tipsy
  • John Adams had a dog named Satan.
  • The most presidential dog was perhaps James Garfield’s dog named “Veto”. The breed of this dog is not known.
  • The most exotic dogs during this time were Franklin Pierce’s two teacup Japanese Chins.
A Japanese Chin like Franklin Pierce’s early presidential dog
  • Ulysses S. Grant’s Newfoundland was his most “Faithful” companion, as would be suggested by his name.
  • The most popular breed among the presidents was a Newfoundland. Three different presidents, Buchanan, Grant and Hayes, each had this breed.
  • There were also three dachshunds in the White House, but all three were Grover Cleveland’s.

During this time period, some the presidents who did not keep dogs had some interesting animal companion choices as well…

  • Three presidents kept a parrot including James Madison, Andrew Jackson, and William McKinley.
  • Martin Van Buren briefly kept two tiger cubs that were a gift from a Sultan. Congress forced him to donate them to a zoo.
  • John Quincy Adams kept silkworms and the First Lady, Louisa, spun their silk. It is also possible he kept an alligator.

There was quite a variety in presidential pets and some very interesting details regarding the early presidential dogs. Teacup to extra-large, companion and working dogs all graced the halls of the White House during the birth of our Nation and beyond. With twelve dogs, George Washington may have found a dog door helpful to allow the dogs access to the outside without involving him. Whether you have one dog or twelve, give yours the freedom of outside access with a quality dog door from PlexiDor Dog Doors. Give us a call at 888-PET-DOOR or drop us a line today!