Popular music is rife with songs inspired by romantic partnerships, but one of mankind’s greatest muses is our four-legged friends. We’ve highlighted the best songs about dogs to mark the occasion. Dogs in hit songs have been bad and funky, they’ve been fine and noble, they’ve even gotten yelled at for acting up. This list stretches across eras and genres, showing the many different dogs who’ve been saluted in song.
45: Norah Jones: Man of the Hour
Times have sure changed since Big Mama Thornton put a guy down by calling him a hound dog. In this Norah Jones’ song, the dog is preferable to the guy in every way: He’s neither a vegan nor a pothead; he never lies or cheats, and he doesn’t want to take a shower with her. She’s too clever to come out and say the song’s about a dog, but drops enough hints, including the bark at the end.
44: Carrie Underwood: The More Boys I Meet
Continuing the same line of thought, this tune outlines the many reasons why Carrie Underwood finds the guys she meets to be inferior to her beloved pet, and less messy as well. It’s funny enough that the more enlightened guys were probably laughing along.
43: Billy Currington: Like My Dog
Another battle-of-the-sexes country song, this one for the guys: country star Billy Currington lists all the dog-like things he wants his gal to do, including letting him call her sister a b_ch. This is not a strategy that will get you very far with your partner, but the dog probably loved it.
42: Jane Siberry: Everything Reminds Me of My Dog
One of Jane Siberry’s favorite topics is the overwhelming nature of love, and that doesn’t change when she writes about this particular kind. In this case, the Canadian songwriter loves her dog so much that she sees him in everyone she meets. It’s as close as she gets to a novelty song, but the humor is typically quirky: One guy on the subway reminds her of the dog, so she keeps feeding him cookies.
41: Procol Harum: Every Dog Will Have His Day
Procol Harum makes this list twice for two very different dog songs: “Salty Dog” is about a human kind of sea-dog, but the more recent “Every Dog Will Have His Day” is truly about canines, and it’s Procol at their raunchiest and funniest. Only a confirmed dog lover (with a sharp sense of humor) could come up with this: “Every puppy chews his balls Lord, every puppy loves to scratch/ When a puppy chews his balls Lord, you know you’ve met your match.”
40: Blake Shelton: Ol’ Red
Country music is no stranger to dog songs, but this has one of the oddest storylines ever: the singer is doing time for killing his wife’s boyfriend, so he gets himself a job taking care of the guard’s enforcer dog. He then finds a female dog for Red to fall in love with and makes his escape while they’re having a rendezvous. A shaggy dog story if there ever was one.
39: Neil Young: Old King
1992’s Harvest Moon was an intentionally homespun and warm-hearted album, a friendlier sequel to the Harvest album from two decades earlier. And it was the perfect place for a dog song, especially one as infectious as this, with Neil Young strumming banjo and Nicolette Larson on harmonies. As he once explained in concert the “King” name was an in-joke; the real dog’s name was Elvis.
38: Pirates of the Mississippi: Feed Jake
On the surface, this 1991 hit was the kind of glossy ballad that defined commercial country in that era, string synthesizer and all. But there’s a social conscience here that country music didn’t always get credit for, as its verses deal with the unhoused and with discrimination against queer people. No heavy message, just that we all need someone to feed our dogs if we go.
37: Harry Nilsson: The Puppy Song
Harry Nilsson did many things well, including wicked rockers and intense love songs. But he could also be utterly charming, as he was on this bittersweet toe-tapper about someone who desires both a canine friend and a human one. Like most of Nilsson’s catchiest songs, it gets a little melancholy between the lines. Paul McCartney also produced a wonderful version for Mary Hopkin.
36: Pink Floyd: Seamus
This may be the single most derided song in the Pink Floyd catalog, but some people have no sense of humor. Credit for this one goes to David Gilmour, who figured out that Steve Marriott’s dog could howl on cue, and improvised a jokey blues around it. For good measure, they even cut an oft-bootlegged alternate version (known as “Mademoiselle Nobs”) with a different dog.
35: John Hiatt: My Dog and Me
Considering it opens with the priceless line “How many times can one dog pee,” this turns out to be one of the more touching dog songs; with John Hiatt celebrating the man/dog bond as the special kind of friendship that it is. You expect it to have a teary ending but nope; it ends with the two of them curling up beside the fire.
34: Dolly Parton: Cracker Jack
If you thought Dolly Parton couldn’t possibly get any more lovable, you need to hear this 1973 song – which reveals that her beloved Jack was an ailing stray that she nursed back to health. Originally an outtake from the golden era of “Jolene” and “I Will Always Love You,” this song resurfaced in recent years thanks to its appearance in her Netflix show, Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings.
33: The Byrds: Old Blue
Around the time of “Eight Miles High,” the Byrds faced censorship for alleged drug songs. But it turns out that dog songs were more their style. They cut no fewer than three with the later Clarence White lineup, including a pair of weepier ones (“Fido” and “Bugler”). But “Old Blue” is the pick of the litter, a bluegrass ode to a canine friend that Roger McGuinn sings with backwoods charm.
32: Lobo: Me and You and a Dog Named Boo
A song that practically smacks of the early 70s, both for its sound – which harks back to the mellower sound of CSN and America – and its storyline, all about travelin’ the highways, livin’ off the land, and generally being good hippies. And of course, they had a pooch in tow.
31: Henry Gross: Shannon
File this with the Elton John and Elvis Presley numbers above as one of the teariest dog songs ever to hit the charts, wailing falsetto and all. The Beach Boys resemblance is no coincidence, since the dog in question had belonged to Carl Wilson. It was the one moment of chart glory for Henry Gross, who in a previous life was a founder of Sha Na Na.
30: Napoleon XTV: They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Ha!
It still boggles the mind that a single this bizarre was released in 1966, much less that it hit the Top Five. It’s a joke in less-than-perfect taste, about a guy who’s losing his mind after the one he loves runs off and leaves him. The punchline is that they’ll find his beloved sooner or later: “And when they do, they’ll put you in the ASPCA, you mangy mutt!”
29: Jethro Tull: Rover
There’s a whole menagerie on Jethro Tull’s Heavy Horses album, with songs from the perspective of cats, mice, moths, and of course horses. The family dog gets his day on “Rover,” which proclaims his devotion and nobility. It should surprise no one that Ian Anderson is a confirmed animal lover.
28: The Monkees: Gonna Buy Me a Dog
Even The Monkees couldn’t keep a straight face on this tune about a hapless guy who loses his girlfriend and decides to replace her with a pet. Legend has it that Micky Dolenz attempted to sing a straight version, then Davy Jones invaded the session and added his one-liners to the version we all know and love.
27: Johnny Cash, “Dirty Old Egg-Sucking Dog
This is one of many reasons we love Johnny Cash: During the 60s, when he was hanging around with Bob Dylan and recording some landmark topical numbers, he also found time to record this comedic tune. It’s not exactly a kids’ song (the audience at Folsom Prison audibly loved it) but it’s hilarious, and especially tough to sing without breaking into profanity.
26: Tom Waits: Rain Dogs
This song is quintessential Waits, a singalong about how he identifies the worn-out, homeless dogs that roam his town after a storm. It was the title track to the 1985 album that redefined his career and opened up new musical territory. And since the song is so catchy, it was the perfect entry point.
25: Elvis Presley. “Old Shep” and “A Dog’s Life
Elvis took his most famous dog song from Big Mama Thornton, but saluted them a few other times in his career. From his second album, “Old Shep” might well be the weepiest song in his catalog, a mournful tale of a boy losing his best four-legged friend. For an antidote, we’d suggest “A Dog’s Life,” a wonderfully goofy number from the soundtrack era.
24: Eels: Dog’s Life
In another songwriter’s hands, this might have been a nice little tune about wishing you could spend your life laying in the sun and chasing trains, but with Mark Oliver Everett at the helm, the song gets a sadder spin, with a tender violin and the chorus “I’ll take a dog’s life, ‘cause I don’t care for this one.”
23: Etta James: Watch Dog
Etta James was one singer who knew how to put men in their place. In this tough number, she chews her guy out for watching over her, sending his little brother to spy on her, and generally cramping her style. The background vocals – “You ain’t nothing but a watch dog” – are a clear nod to the Big Mama Thornton classic.
22: Patti Page: (How Much is That) Doggie in the Window?
Perhaps the most famous song on this list, this 1953 record was an instant novelty sensation – much to the mixed feelings of Patti Page, who preferred to record torch ballads and country songs. It’s a standard to this day, even if Page recorded an alternate version toward the end of her life, for fear that her original might encourage puppy mills.
21: Hank Williams/George Thorogood: Move It On Over
You’ve heard of landing in the doghouse. That’s literally what this tune is about; the singer comes home after a night of carousing and winds up sleeping with the mutt. The song was a big hit twice: Hank Williams did the country-swing original in 1947, while Thorogood rocked it up three decades later.
20: Sublime: I Love My Dog
As far as songs about dogs go, this one might have the best groove. This Sublime nugget sails on a slinky reggae beat. And they really did love their dog: Lou Dog was Bradley Nowell’s pet Dalmatian, who was saluted in a number of their songs. He wrote this one after Lou went missing for a week.
19: Luke Bryan: Little Boys Grow Up and Dogs Get Old
Though it was released just three years ago, it’s an instant classic country tearjerker about a boy, his black Lab, and their inevitable goodbye. The dog doesn’t die in the song, but any dog lover will start tearing up when Luke Bryan sings about leaving town and telling his 14-year-old pet to be a good boy.
18: Nick Drake: Black Eyed Dog
Not all songs about dogs are cheerful: in this stark tune, the black-eyed dog is a metaphor for depression, a subject with which Nick Drake was sadly all too familiar. Jesse Winchester used the same metaphor in a similarly dark tune, “Black Dog.”
17: Dr. John: How Come My Dog Don’t Bark When You Come Around?
A longtime highlight of the Doctor’s live shows, this is one depraved song about infidelity and violent revenge – and it’s pretty funny. The singer’s dog is so mean that he bit the mailman and “took a chunk outta my mother,” but he wants to jump up and play whenever the backdoor guy shows up.
16: Led Zeppelin: Bron-Y-Aur Stomp
From the acoustic side of Led Zeppelin III, this was Zep at their lightest and most good-natured. Robert Plant doesn’t reveal until the last verse that the loving companion he’s singing about is four-legged; he also gets in a jokey reference to Elvis Presley’s “Old Shep.”
15: Procol Harum: Salty Dog
The “salty dog” in question is actually the captain of a majestic sailing ship. Procol Harum’s seafaring epic still rates as one of prog-rock’s grandest moments, thanks to a dramatic turn by singer Gary Brooker. It’s now a recognized classic, even though it flopped as a single in 1969.
14: Aerosmith: The Reason A Dog
Ask any Aerosmith fan and they’ll tell you that Done With Mirrors (the first album after they cleaned up but before all the comeback hits) is one of the lost gems in their catalog. This track is one of the reasons, a raunchy groove courtesy of bassist Tom Hamilton. The title offers a bit of advice: “The reason a dog has so many friends, ‘cause he wags his tail instead of his tongue!”
13: The Stooges: I Wanna Be Your Dog
Without a doubt, it’s punk rock’s greatest canine classic. This one became Iggy Pop’s calling card for decades. Listen closely and he’s really singing about sexual devotion – so between the obsessive lyric and John Cale’s classic one-note piano, there was always more here than meets the eye.
12: Rufus Thomas: The Dog
One of Stax’s greatest shouters, Rufus Thomas could make a killer dance record out of anything. “The Dog” was a less inhibited version of the dance craze “The Twist,” and he provides all the instructions you need: “Do the hound dog, do the bull dog, any kind of dog!” His next four hits were all songs about dogs, including the famous “Walking the Dog.”
11: Nazareth: Hair of the Dog
This attitude-heavy song really should have gone down as one of the all-time hard-rock classics, but it didn’t break in the US, where Nazareth was known mainly for their Everly Brothers cover “Love Hurts.” But it also delivered one of the best hard-rock shout-along choruses: “Now you’re messin’ with a son of a b_tch!”
10: Bobby “Blue” Bland: I Wouldn’t Treat a Dog (The Way You Treated Me)
The title tells the story; this is Bobby Bland at his most lowdown. Recorded in 1974, the track hailed from his Dreamer album, where he worked with top jazz players and aimed for the crossover success of his then-labelmate B.B. King. It paid off, with “I Wouldn’t Treat A Dog” becoming a hit.
9: Yusuf/Cat Stevens: I Love My Dog
The greatest song about a dog was written by a Cat. This was the master songwriter’s debut single and first U.K. hit. The singer loves his dog as much as his partner, and the lyric makes it sound like the dog will stick around longer. The music was interpolated from jazzman Yusef Lateef, who later got a co-writing credit.
8: The B-52’s: Quiche Lorraine
Leave it to the B-52’s to dream up a surreal, affectionate send-up of all those lost-dog songs. Fred Schneider gives the perfect dramatic reading to this tale of a runaway pet. It does beg the question: How in the world did anyone manage to lose a French poodle with dyed green hair and designer jeans?
7: The Royal Guardsmen: Snoopy Vs. the Red Baron
A cartoon dog who brings down the German flying ace in World War I? It was 1966 and you had to be there. The Florida garage band didn’t have anyone’s permission to record a single based on the Peanuts comic strip, but creator Charles Schulz ultimately said okay. This was the first in a string of Snoopy hits by the band, including one for Christmas.
6: Baha Men: Who Let the Dogs Out
This Trinidadian soca classic became a worldwide sensation at the turn of the millennium, and to this day no football game or frat party would be complete without it. But it started as an underground hit – the English DJ John Peel was among the first to play it – and was intended as a feminist-friendly send-up of boisterous guys.
5: Snoop Dogg: Doggy Dogg World
It’s hard to imagine a list like this without Snoop Dogg, AKA The Doggfather. This was a landmark fusion of 90s hip-hop with 70s soul, thanks to Dr. Dre’s savvy production and the Dramatics’ guest vocal – not to mention the video cameo by Pam Grier, years before her Tarantino comeback.
4: Elton John: Gulliver/It’s Hay Chewed
A real heartbreaker in waltz time, this poetic song addressed the memory of having a beloved dog put down. One of many overlooked tracks on Elton’s debut Empty Sky, this one showed the promise of the John-Taupin team. Elton’s wordless cries at the end are a real grabber and lead into the album’s offbeat finale.
3: The Beatles: Martha My Dear
Of course, Paul McCartney wrote one of the most charming songs about dogs. Only real fans knew that Martha was the name of his sheepdog, so the song worked on many fronts: As a love song to a pet, a pep talk to a loved one, or just a jaunty pop song with a great hook.
2: Big Mama Thornton: Hound Dog
Great as Elvis Presley’s version was, it didn’t match the venom of Big Mama’s original, which ranks as one of R&B’s great empowerment anthems. The guy’s just a hound dog because he disrespects her, is too lazy to catch any rabbits, and just wants to crash at her place. (Our local hound dogs would like us to point out that they’re hardworking hunting dogs).
1: George Clinton: Atomic Dog
There are countless songs about dogs, but they’ve never been this funky. Thanks to this tune, the 80s would be full of barking on the dancefloor. This was the runaway hit off George Clinton’s first official solo album Computer Games, and the first of many dog songs he’d unleash over the years.