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It’s that time of year again – cheerful lights are twinkling, Christmas cookies are baking, and our favorite holiday movies are playing on repeat. At Ruffly Speaking, we wanted to dig a little deeper into classic holiday movies and get to know the dogs that steal every scene they’re in! 

This week, we’re getting to know Max, the “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” dog!

How the Grinch Stole Christmas, a Dog, and Our Hearts

Max, the “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” dog, is almost as popular as the story’s signature song, You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch. But where did he come from? How did the Grinch manage to care for a dog in his cave high above Whoville? And just how does that antler stay attached to Max?

These are all vital questions. But first, let’s meet Max.

Max, the “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” dog

In his pop culture debut, Max is an unwitting accomplice in Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas (published in 1957). He’s the dog and sidekick of the miserable, green anti-hero whose heart is “three sizes too small.”

In the book, Max is more Seussified than in later adaptions. He doesn’t look like any one particular breed of dog, with small floppy ears, exaggerated snout, and scruffy tail. And he acts a bit like a person from Whoville instead of having distinct canine traits.

Nonetheless, Max is a very good boy despite his master’s plan to steal Christmas. He tries his best to be a reindeer instead of a reindog and wins the hearts of children and adults everywhere.

The Many Versions of the “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” dog

As the Grinch grew in popularity with each passing Christmas, so did Max. When “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” became a television special in 1966, Max got a makeover. His Whovian characteristics were replaced by more realistic ears and snout, and we learned his fur is tan and wiry. 

Through the magic of television, Max communicated with the audience through his large eyes, his expressive face, and the occasional growl when reacting to the Grinch’s mischievous behavior. 

Then in 2000, Max became a real dog in the film adaptation of the Seuss classic. Despite his real-life appearance, we still don’t have much clarity on what type of breed the “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” dog actually is.

Played by six different mixed-breed rescue dogs in the film, Max embraces being a mutt, and his temperament changes slightly. With his real-life portrayal, we can sense his unconditional love for his green-hued master.

The live-action portrayal of Max, the “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” dog, gives us a deeper understanding of the Grinch, who reciprocates Max’s devotion (even if his antler-wielding tactics are suspicious).

How Max the Dog Saves Christmas

In every version of the story, Max helps the Grinch make a convincing Santa Claus suit and dons himself with a singular antler before setting off for the cheerful Whoville Christmas celebration. They intend to steal all the Christmas gifts and treats intended for the Whovians. But their evil plan gets off track quickly when they meet Cindy Lou Who.

In every iteration of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Max is instantly drawn to this little girl who believes in the magic of Christmas. We see his inner loyal dog shine through transforming those around him.


We won’t spoil the ending, in case you haven’t seen this Christmas favorite, but it didn’t surprise us one bit. The Grinch is a dog person, after all. There’s no way his heart could be too small.

You can find How the Grinch Stole Christmas at bookstores across the country, especially as the holidays approach. The original television special airs on major stations throughout the season (or find it on Prime Video), and you can stream Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch, featuring Jim Carrey as the Grinch, on Hulu.

So what are your opinions of Max, the “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” dog? You can share your thoughts and opinions in our online pet parent community, Ruffly Speaking. Doors are open for the holidays, and we always love seeing new faces (and learning about your dog!). Learn more about Ruffly Speaking here.


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Robin Bennett is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, author, speaker, and expert on dogs. She founded one of the largest dog training companies in Virginia and for the last 30 years has been using her expertise in "reading dogs" to teach families how to train their pets as well as helping others in the pet care industry keep dogs safe.

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