Giant Guide to the Pound Puppies Toys from the ’80s
Pound Puppy, I’m so glad to find you! Put that lonely puppy pound behind you! Floppy ears. Droopy eyes. Spotted fur. An itty bitty heart (or even bone!) shaped emblem with a little pup peering out.
Pound Puppies, the lovable puppies that need a home, swept through the nation’s hearts and homes in the 80s with their doggone adorable looks and convenient crate shaped packaging. Whether you got the official Pound Puppy plush—complete with adoption certificate—or the spin-off Pound Pur-r-ries, Hardee’s children’s meal toy, coloring books, or mini figures, there’s one thing for certain: those simple stuffed animals have made a lasting impact on any kid who desperately wanted a dog, their soft fleecy exteriors a good stopgap for real doggy warmth.
If the sweet, sleepy eyes of Pound Puppies cheerfully haunt your memories of the 80s, this is the article for you.
The 80s were rife with big name toy brands, making it tough for new products to stay afloat, much become iconic, decade-defining, lasting parts of pop culture. The Pound Puppies’ secret to success didn’t solely lie in their cute little noses and prone bodies, but because of their dedication to packaging—almost as a foreshadowing of how the modern-day market utilizes kitschy branding and packing to sell the same makeup palettes and graphic tees over and over.
Every Pound Puppy came neatly packaged in a cardboard cage shaped like a doghouse, furnished with the pup’s adoption paper that paralleled the way Cabbage Patch Kids came with adoption certificates. Each pup also had an up-to-date shots list and loved ‘baths,’ or a quick tumble in the laundry machine.
There were also spin-off plushies based on actual puppies (Pound Puppy Newborns), keychain-sized mini plushies, and even a line for cat lovers: Pound Pur-r-ries.
No matter which pup you got, in whatever size or color, they were guaranteed to warm your heart.
The Toy History
The Pound Puppies were created by Mike Bowling, a factory worker who was inspired by his daughter’s attachment to a doll and his own work on an assembly line working with automated production. First acquired by the Canadian toy company Irwin after the video game crash at the beginning of the 80s, Tonka eventually bought and produced the Pound Puppies by 1985, becoming a quick hit in the United States.
Despite being sold for a whopping $30 a pop—which would be about $70 today—Tonka sold 2.5 million Pound Puppies within their first year of production, making them guaranteed to get what every other successful toy line did in the 80s: a TV show.
The TV Show
The Pound Puppies cartoon first aired in 1986 and was produced by Hanna-Barbera. The show’s basic premise involved a cast of Pound Puppies trying to get adopted while Katrina Stoneheart and Brattina try to tear down the pound. Holly, with her Puppy Power, works together with the pups to save their home… and their future adoptability!
Here’s a breakdown of the most iconic memories to jog your memory of these lovable mutts:
The Beagle/Bloodhound, Mix Leader of the Pound Puppies
This dog is a cool cat with a sharp sense of humor and an outgoing personality. His battle cry of “Pound Puppies, let’s start pounding!” rings through the heads of kids who not only wanted a dog to play with, but to have a grand adventure with.
A Boxer/Bloodhound with a sensibly sharp nose, she is the genteel lady of the group; at times flirtatious, at times boastful, she’s the mother of the group. She boasts a whopping 15 escapes from the pound, so don’t let her sweet demeanor fool you!
The inventor of the squad, Howler is a Pug/Dalmatian mix who is always ready to lend a paw to the group’s problems. He also has a tendency to howl at the end of sentences, with the occasional stutter. He’s never spotted without his classic red derby, which helps him do everything from inventing things to flip pages in a book.
A pure Labrador retriever, she’s the blonde cheer of the group. She does cheerleading, which makes sense as she’s always trying to cheer the Pound Puppies up with her slightly ditzy personality.
The youngest of the Pound Puppies, this Jack Russell Terrier wears a diaper and acts like Bright Eyes’ younger brother. He loves to act out alter egos with different outfits and acts as the comedic relief of the group.
Katrina’s kind goddaughter with the power of Puppy Power—the ability to talk to dogs. Although she’s worked like a Cinderella in her home, Holly helps the Pound Puppies with their mission to get adopted.
Cruella de Vil turned TV show actress, Katrina detests the Pound Puppies and any other cute things. Her main goals are to shut down the pound and capture, and even kill the Pound Puppies. A little dark, but in the end, her bumbling attitude keeps the puppies safe from her grasp.
Just as evil as her mother, she’s as whiny as the brat she was named after. Her catchphrase is “eww, icky-poo puppies!” and her main desire is to get a Suzy-Spitup doll—perhaps a callout to one of the Pound Puppies’ real-life competitors?
Finally, at the end of each episode was the Pound Puppies Pet Care Corner: a practical advice section giving kids tips on how to take care of their pets. One way that Pound Puppies used their fuzzy influence for the better good!
Pound Puppies and the Legend of Big Paw came out in 1988, but if you don’t remember it that’s fine—it was a flop.
The plot is based on the origin of Puppy Power, which Holly has in the original series. It’s sourced from the Arthurian legend, where Arthur’s dog Digalot pulled the Bone of Scone from a stone, granting him speech. But the rival, Sir McNasty, is none too pleased—and that antagonism follows the Bone of Scone until 1958, where the Pound Puppies and Purries have to fight to keep it from Sir McNasty’s grasp.
The movie received negative reviews from both critics and fans, especially in comparison to what Disney was cooking up at the time, the Disney Renaissance. The animation was rushed and its roots in commercialism were apparent: some reviewers saw it as an hour-long commercial for Pound Puppies. However, the songs were received well—who could forget the rockabilly sound of “Puppy Power’s Back”!
So, while it wasn’t received well, it still made history: Pound Puppies and the Legend of Big Paw was the last animated feature from the 80s to promote a big toy brand.
The beginning of the 2010s brought us a new Pound Puppies series, which aired on Canadian TV. And while our beloved puppy crew is still hanging around the shelter, they are no longer abandoned pups but a team of dogs on a mission to get dogs adopted. Together with a group of squirrels and new, whip-smart Dachshund, they put their motto “A pup for every person, and a person for every pup” by using the advanced technology available in their underground headquarters. There is also a sister organization called the Kennel Kitties, who do also try to find forever homes for kittens and cats around the world.
In this reboot, our beloved Pound Puppies have been revamped. Here’s a brief list to learn the new dogs’ names.
The strict, restrained leader of the group, he’s a Scottish Terrier–Jack Russell Terrier–Golden Retriever–German Shepherd mix. While he has been adopted, he still spends most of his time with the squad.
A smart, tough-as-nails Boxer, she’s Lucky’s second in command. Her full name is Sugar Cookie, and she was adopted by the same family as a puppy named Cupcake.
The bear of the group, Niblet is an Old English sheepdog with a big body and an even bigger heart. While he is never shown to be adopted in the show, he is the lovable klutz of our hearts.
Strudel: The genius Dachshund of the group, she’s assisted by the squirrels whenever she has schemes. A braggart with a big ego, she has a tragic past: she used to have an owner, a scientist but has since been abandoned.
Pound Puppies aren’t the first thing you think of when you think of the 80s, no. But for the short time they ran, they certainly made an impact. They made a profit of $300 million (which would be about $611 million today) and sold about 200 million Pound Puppies toys. The original Pound Puppies toys, to this day, remain a highly sought-after and collectible item—a first edition Pound Puppies toy recently sold for about $5000!
And, most importantly, they did their job. They provided a furry companion for lonely kids across the States, their floppy ears, droopy eyes, and soft stuffed bellies a perfect replacement for a real pound pup.