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The best Christmas movies with dogs

The buddies in 'Santa Buddies'
The buddies in 'Santa Buddies' (Image credit: Disney)

Christmas love stories are a quintessential part of the holiday season, but some of us find pooches to be more reliable, less drama-filled providers of the warm and fuzzy feelings of companionship. So, for us, what better way to get us into the Christmas spirit than by watching dogs in Christmas movies. Dogs are the best. So, let the holiday magic begin!

The 12 Dogs of Christmas

It’s the 1930s and a young girl named Emma is sent away to live with her extended relatives in a town with a “no-dogs” rule. Everyone is sad and poor, but Emma realizes that dogs are the quickest way to spread Christmas cheer, even to a community living through one of the greatest economic depressions in history. Over 101 dogs are featured in this film and there’s a Christmas pageant at the end starring, you guessed it — dogs! 

An All Dogs Christmas Carol

Did you know All Dogs Go to Heaven is part of a trilogy ending with a Christmas movie? Angel puppies ask Annabelle to tell them the story about how Carface saved Christmas, with help from his pals Charlie and Itchy. Using Carface as a stand-in for Ebenezer Scrooge, this retelling of A Christmas Carol is filled with references to other films — including a great homage to The Mask as the ghost of Christmas Future. It’s a cute interpretation of a classic, with a zesty charm only Don Bluth animated dogs can provide. 

Beethoven’s Christmas Adventure

For a film franchise with eight installments, it was only a matter of time before a Christmas special popped up. In the seventh film, everyone’s favorite slobbering St. Bernard is being babysat by a kid named Mason (Turbo Kid’s Munro Chambers) when the duo sees Santa’s sleigh crash land in a field — with Henry the Elf (Disney Channel’s Kyle Massey) inside. 

Now, in Beethoven’s Christmas Adventure, the three must join forces to, you guessed it, save Christmas. Dog-related hijinks aplenty and Tom Arnold delivers a great performance as the voice of Beethoven. 

A Charlie Brown Christmas

Perhaps the most beloved Christmas special in history, thanks to Snoopy the Peanuts’ A Charlie Brown Christmas fits the bill. Everyone’s favorite cartoon beagle appears all over this special, but mainly focuses on decorating and redecorating his doghouse for the neighborhood lights display competition. Snoopy is a certifiable pop culture icon and it's a nice reminder to see where he made his television debut all those years ago.

A Christmas Tail

Presented by Norman Rockwell (no, seriously), A Christmas Tail is about a single mom named Maggie who adopts a Labrador Retriever for her son, only to discover the dog only ended up at the pound after getting lost chasing a cat. Maggie meets the single dad and his daughter who originally owned the dog and a custody battle over this dog ensues. Every Christmas movie ever has prepared you for exactly how this story ends, but it's still a charming little film with a super cute dog.

A Dog Named Christmas

Based on the book of the same name, A Dog Named Christmas is considered to be in the Hallmark Christmas movies “Hall of Fame”. A young neurodivergent man (Noel Fisher of Shameless fame) begs his family to foster a dog named “Christmas,” much to his father’s chagrin. The dog inevitably turns out to be the best thing to ever happen to the family and merriment follows. 

The Dog Who Saved Christmas

The Dog Who Saved Christmas is about a retired police dog named Zeus (Mario Lopez) who saves his new home and adopted family from burglars (Dean Cain and Joey Diaz) by setting booby traps around the house. If you’re thinking to yourself, “Wait, isn’t that just the plot of Home Alone but with a dog?” Yes. Yes it is. And the dog destroys Dean Cain, which is exactly the kind of Christmas movie worth watching.

Project: Puppies for Christmas

Two young girls desperately want Santa to bring them puppies for Christmas, so they set out to perform as many good deeds as possible. They meet their match when their old crotchety neighbor (John Ratzenberger) refuses to accept their Christmas cheer, but the girls refuse to give up. This movie doesn’t have as many dogs as some of the others on this list but the puppies we do get to see are so cute it should be a crime.

Santa Buddies

The Air Bud franchise spawned a spin-off series focusing on a gaggle of adorable Labrador puppies and struck gold with their Christmas fare. Tom Bosley (Happy Days, Murder, She Wrote) stars as Santa Paws in his last ever film performance. Unlike the first of the Air Bud films, now the puppies can talk! And it's adorable! Of the four winter pup options, Santa Buddies is the cutest and filled with the most good-time Christmas feels.

The Search for Santa Paws

The last one was so cute, they had to give it a prequel. Santa Claus (perfectly played by Richard Riehle) is hit by a cab in New York City, loses his memory and someone steals the crystal that keeps him eternal. It’s up to his puppy Paws to save him — and Christmas as we know it. There's also a subplot including an orphan played by Kaitlyn Maher — the little girl who stole everyone's heart on America's Got Talent season three. There's happiness for orphans, saving Christmas and puppies. What more could you want?!

Eight Below (2006)

Paul Walker and his dogs in a still from Eight Below movie

(Image credit: Allstar Picture Library Ltd. / Alamy Stock Photo)

On the subject of Christmas movies, as with many things, the world is divided into two camps. 

People who think Christmas movies must include the word "Christmas" in the title and feature every single holiday trope. Then there are those who believe that as long as a film evokes the holidays and gives you that festive feeling, it's a Christmas movie contender. Think, It's A Wonderful Life (1946), Easter Parade (1948) and, of course, Die Hard (1988).

Of course, since it's the season of goodwill to all, we've got our feet firmly in both camps. This is why, although we've featured plenty of wonderful Christmassy doggie films, we're adding one outlier to the list. Paul Walker's 2006 movie, Eight Below, makes for perfect Christmas viewing. Snowy landscapes, check. Fluffy dogs, check. Scenes of canine courage and devotion, check. Watch it over the holidays, in your pajamas, with plenty of snacks and feel your heart burst with joy.

More Christmassy movies

BJ Colangelo is an award winning filmmaker and film analyst specializing in dismissed cinema and television. She writes about horror, wrestling, musicals, adult animation, sex and gender, kicking pancreatic cancer’s ass, and being a fat queer in places like Fangoria, Vulture, The Daily Dot, Autostraddle, Playboy.com, and a handful of books college students get assigned to read. She’s also the co-host of the teen girl movie podcast, This Ends at Prom, with her wife, Harmony.