5 Must-Watch Dog Movies That Will Break Your Heart

Written by Emmanuel Kingsley
Updated: November 27, 2022
© Jagodka/Shutterstock.com
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Dogs share a special bond with humans, unlike other animals. They do not speak normal human languages, but dog owners would argue that these animals communicate effectively in multiple ways. These loyal animals come in over 350 breeds with different hair colors, such as red, brown, and yellow, among others. The breeds differ from one another in terms of size, strength, hair thickness, etc.  

Movie and animal lovers know that a movie based around “man’s best friend” can get quite emotional and heartfelt. Most movies with dogs as the lead or central to the plot depict the strong bond between humans and canines. Unlike many pet animals, dogs can be cute, playful, protective, obedient, and, most of all, empathic. Without giving many spoilers, below are five must-watch dog movies that will certainly break your heart.

1. Old Yeller (1957)

Old Yeller
Old Yeller is an old western movie about a mongrel that comes to stay with a boy, his mother, and his younger sibling.

©Distributed by Buena Vista Distribution Co., Inc. © Walt Disney Productions / public domain – License

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Old Yeller is a popular western movie from 1957. The movie is an evergreen delight despite being set in the 1860s in Texas. When teenage boy Travis Coates is left to tend to his family ranch alone with his mother and younger brother, a yellow mongrel comes uninvited to stay. Reluctantly, the boy adopts the dog.

At first, their relationship is strained, as the newest family member is believed to be of little to no help. However, the mongrel proves his bravery to the family as it has scrapes with threatening animals such as a snake, bear, wolf, and more. These and other actions endear the dog to the family.  

Meet the Dog Breed(s)

Mastador - Labrador Retriever and Mastiff Mix - Rescue Dog on a Hike
The dog that played Old Yeller was a 170-pound Mastador.

©Corrie Mick/Shutterstock.com

In Old Yeller, the dog breed is described in dialogue as a mongrel, but the dog role was played by a 170-pound mastador. This unique dog is a crossbreed of a Labrador Retriever, and an English Mastiff, one of the tallest dogs worldwide. Mastadors are large dogs that can reach 30 inches tall, but tend to be playful and affectionate. They can be black, yellow, brown, or brindle. Pet owners keep mastadors as family dogs or guard dogs.   

However, in the children’s book by Fred Gipson, from which the movie was adapted, Old Yeller was a black-mouthed cur. This dog looks similar to the mastador used in the movie but is a less bulky breed.

2. Marley & Me (2008)

This is a poster for the film Marley & Me".
Marley & Me is a drama about an undisciplined dog and a newly wedded couple.

©The poster art copyright is believed to belong to the distributor of the item promoted, 20th Century Fox, the publisher of the item promoted or the graphic artist. / Fair use – License

Marley & Me is an entertaining and emotional movie starring popular actors Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston, who play a newly wedded couple. After their wedding, they head to Florida, buy their first home, and get jobs in competing newspapers. They adopt a yellow Labrador pup called Marley to start a family.

However, the couple soon finds out their new pup is a handful. Marley is mischievous, playful, and energetic. He destroys furniture and also fails the Obedience school. Even after growing larger, Marley tests everyone’s patience. Surprisingly, the mischievous dog brings out the best in the couple and their children. Marley is a splendid watch for pet owners, lovers, and families.    

Meet the Dog Breed(s)

Labrador retriever
There were 22 Labradors used to portray Marley in the movie.

©Jagodka/Shutterstock.com

It took 22 dogs of various sizes and temperaments to film the movie. These dogs are Labradors, one of the most popular dog breeds in the world and America’s most popular. They can grow to 24 inches in height and weigh up to 80 pounds. Labradors have three different hair colors: brown, black, and yellow.

This dog breed is goofy, protective, and intelligent enough to be trained to do many tricks. One of the most incredible facts about Labradors is that they have webbed feet, which make them excellent swimmers compared to other breeds. They also make terrible guard dogs as they are less likely to attack people.  

3. Hachi: A Dog’s Tale (2009)

hachi: a dog’s tale
A Dog’s Tale is about an Akita puppy.

©The poster art copyright is believed to belong to the distributor of the film, Stage 6 Films, the publisher of the film or the graphic artist / Fair use – License

Hachi: A Dog’s Tale is one of the most emotional dog movies ever. The 2009 American movie was an adaptation of the 1987 Japanese movie “Hachikō Monogatari,” which was based on a true story. The movie follows the life of an Akita pup after he is lost and taken home by a music professor. The professor’s wife doesn’t want to keep the dog initially, but he wins everyone over quickly.

The professor forms a strong bond with the dog, Hachi, but that relationship is cut short when the dog’s owner dies of a cardiac crisis. The Akita does not accept his master’s death and continues to go to the station to wait for his master, who would never come.

Meet the Dog Breed(s)

Akita - Dog, Dog, Adulation, Adult, Animal
Akita dogs are work dogs with muscular frames.

©iStock.com/DevidDO

Akita is one of the dogs with the highest bite forces ever. These wolf-like dogs originated from Japan but have an American cousin. These dogs are working dogs that can weigh up to 130 pounds and grow up to 28 inches in height. Their color ranges are black, grey, white, and black.

The Akita breed is known to be fearless, intelligent, and affectionate. Their muscular frames make them perfect to hunt, herd, and guard. They are also used as police dogs in Japan. Akita dogs are great pets, but they are wary of strangers and get bored easily.

4. A Dog’s Purpose (2017)

A Dog's Purpose
A Dog’s Purpose is a movie that follows the life of a dog who gets reincarnated as a different dog breed with different owners.

©The poster art copyright is believed to belong to the distributor of the film, Universal Pictures, the publisher of the film or the graphic artist / Fair use – License

A Dog’s Purpose is a movie adaptation of the bestselling novel of the same name. The story follows a dog reincarnated as a different breed, belonging to different owners throughout its lifetimes.

The movie addresses the different perspectives of dog treatments in different homes and the various purposes they serve. The reincarnated dog even lived as a rescue dog at one time in the movie. What is particularly unique about the movie is that the dog’s thoughts can be heard.  

Meet the Dog Breed(s)

Beaglier lying on a lawn
Several dog breeds appeared in A Dog’s Purpose including Beagliers, Biewer terriers, and German Shepherds.

©Darkydoors/Shutterstock.com

Given the story’s plot, several dog breeds were used in the movie. According to news reports, some are Beagliers (crossbreeds of the Beagle and the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel), African Boerboels, and Biewer terriers. Commoner dog breeds like German Shepherds, Pembroke Welsh Corgis, and Golden Retrievers, which are one of the happiest dogs worldwide, were also used in the movie.  

5. My Dog Skip (2000)

My dog Skip (movie poster)
My Dog Skip is the story of a shy boy who befriends a dog.

©The poster art copyright is believed to belong to the distributor of the item promoted, Warner Bros, the publisher of the item promoted or the graphic artist. / Fair use – License

My Dog Skip is another book adaptation on our must-watch list. The movie is about Willie, a shy boy who finds it hard to make friends in Yazoo City, MS, in 1942 until he gets a pup for his birthday. Skip, his dog, becomes widely loved by the community and influences Willie’s life as he grows into adulthood.

The movie is heartwarming and quite realistic. It depicts the impacts that these amazing pets have on human lives. They are loyal and often helpful to not just their owners but, sometimes, other people as well. 

Meet the Dog Breed(s)

jack russell terrier on hay stack
Originally bred in England, Jack Russells are amazing diggers.

©iStock.com/alexei_tm

Six Jack Russell Terriers were used to portray Skip in the movie. These dogs are athletic, fearless, and intelligent. Commonly called Jack Russell, this dog breed is small, reaching a maximum weight of about 15 pounds and height of 12 inches. According to the American Kennel Club, these canines have white fur marked with various streaks of black, brown, tan, and other colors. Some even have multiple markings.  

Jack Russell terriers were initially bred to hunt foxes, but nowadays, they are primarily family dogs. Despite their affectionate nature, these dogs can be quite destructive if not trained and exercised properly. Thus, they need experienced owners.

Up Next:

Top 9 Prettiest and Cutest Dog Breeds

The Top 8 Oldest Dogs Ever

The Strangest and Weirdest Dog Breeds in the World

The Top 10 Happiest Dogs in the World

Meet the Dog Bred To Run on a Hamster Wheel and Cook Meat All Day

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The Caucasian Mountain dog is quite large.
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Sources
  1. The Seattle Times, Available here: https://www.seattletimes.com/life/lifestyle/trainer-wrangles-22-bad-dogs-for-marley-movie/
  2. American Kennel Club, Available here: https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/russell-terrier/
  3. USA Today, Available here: https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/movies/2019/05/17/dogs-journey-boasts-oscar-worthy-animal-performances/1166313001/