For over two decades, FOX’s hit animated series Family Guy has brought us laughs (and even a few tears) as it tells the story of the Griffin family. From patriarch Peter Griffin, matriarch Lois Griffin, daughter Meg Griffin, and sons Stewie and Chris Griffin, creator Seth MacFarlane has been serving up success as the show’s creator and writer since 1999.
But the Griffin family dog, Brian Griffin, has regularly stolen the show during several episodes of the hit series. Brian serves as the show’s straight man and moral compass. He is truly Man’s Best Friend.
Which leads us to the question, “What kind of dog is Brian Griffin from Family Guy?”
We did some digging to discover the answer.
What Breed of Dog Is Brian Griffin?
Brian Griffin is a white Labrador. In an early-season episode, we learn Peter found Brian when the dog was trying to clean Peter’s windshield for money. Peter invites him home for dinner with his family.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Back to Brian’s breed, though. Labrador Retrievers are known as friendly dogs that are great family pets. Like Brian, Labradors require a high level of mental stimulation and are exceptionally loyal animals.
As America’s favorite dog breed, the Labrador is a large breed that can weigh up to 80 pounds and stand as tall as 24.5 inches. Brian enjoys wagging his tail during pleasurable or happy moments in the show. This behavior is well-known in Labradors, who have a constantly moving tail during happy times or moments where they are being mentally stimulated.
Labradors also have a rich history. Bred in Newfoundland, the Labrador has a natural need to please their owner as retrievers. The breed played an integral role in fishing expeditions, helping fishers fetch fish if they managed to break off the hooks or lines.
Considering Brian lives in Rhode Island, a state known for its fishing reputation, it’s not a surprise that he lives there. The Ocean State has many sandy beaches and Colonial ports used for fishing.
It’s easy to see why the Griffin family is such a fan of the breed – its sense of loyalty, compassion, and friendly disposition all contribute to its lovable personality. (We’ll ignore the part where Brian has a drinking problem).
Brian Griffin: A History
Now that we’ve answered what kind of dog Brian Griffin is, let’s learn a bit more about the character.
While Family Guy started in 1999 on FOX, the show’s original concepts go back to 1995 when creator Seth MacFarlane created an animated short called “The Life of Larry.” The short film was MacFarlane’s thesis project as a student at the Rhode Island School of Design.
“The Life of Larry” mainly featured two characters both voiced by MacFarlane: Larry, a middle-aged balding man with white hair, and Steve, a wise-cracking brown-colored dog that resembles a mix of Scooby-Doo and Odie from Garfield.
The first short was enough to get MacFarlane noticed by the animators at Hanna-Barbera, who commissioned a sequel to “The Life of Larry” called “Larry and Steve.” In it, Larry adopts Steve from the pound. The pair go on to have a series of comedic adventures.
Both shorts have a through-line straight to Family Guy. Larry has a similar voice and demeanor to what turned into Peter Griffin. Steve is essentially an earlier version of Brian Griffin. While Family Guy did not get off the ground until three years later, it’s easy to see how these two shorts directly inspired MacFarlane’s hit.
The Life of Brian (Griffin)
Back to Brian, though. Brian Griffin’s life began as one of five Labrador Retriever puppies to Biscuit and Coco. Brian was taken as a puppy from his Austin, TX ranch and grew up as the only talking dog in his family.
Brian’s intellect allowed him to attend Brown University, making him the only Ivy Leaguer in the Griffin family. He didn’t graduate.
The character’s intelligence is often a plot point of the series, especially when we learn Brian uses his smarts to gain an advantage over others, especially women. However, his intelligence is often questioned as other characters routinely correct him when he’s wrong.
Brian is an 8-year-old dog with a bit of a drinking problem – a problem shown several times throughout the series. One of his most famous lines in the show is a direct reference to his drinking and drink of choice: “Whose leg do you have to hump to get a dry martini around here?”
But Brian’s relationship with the family often becomes the subject of episodes of the series – particularly his relationships with Peter, Lois, and Stewie.
Brian’s relationship with Peter is ironclad despite Brian serving as the straight man to whatever shenanigans Peter has going on in an episode. The pair have fought in several episodes. However, they tend to make up without quarrel and return to the status quo of their friendship.
Brian also shares a complex and complicated tie with Lois. It is clear in several episodes of the series that he is in love with Lois. One episode, in particular, shows Brian discussing his feelings for Lois during a therapy session. That episode ends with Brian indirectly sharing those feelings with Lois, but the two agree to remain friends.
Several seasons later, however, they end up getting married after Peter is lost at sea. Peter returns, and Lois and Brian’s relationship ends. He is a dog, so a romantic relationship with a human – despite his affinity for them – is odd.
And then there is Stewie. Brian and Stewie share the love-hate relationship archetype of American sitcoms. There are episodes where they are at odds with each other, while others highlight their friendship.
Several “Road to…” episodes highlight the pair’s friendship and how they lean on each other for support.
Two episodes in particular drove this relationship home – both of which caused considerable controversy among the fans. Let’s dig in.
The Death and Return of Brian Griffin
Family Guy writers tested Brian and Stewie’s relationship in an episode called “Life of Brian.” In that episode, a car strikes Brian while he plays street hockey with Stewie. The family rushes Brian to a nearby veterinary clinic, where they learn his injuries are terminal.
The family shares a tearful goodbye with Brian before he passes away. The Griffins are devastated at Brian’s death, leaving a giant hole in the series. How would Family Guy creators fill that void?
The emotionally draining episode angered fans, leading to hateful messages for series creator Seth MacFarlane and petitions created to bring the character back. The uproar moved MacFarlane to directly address the campaign to revive Brian, saying he was “overcome with gratitude” about it.
Only two episodes later, in “Christmas Guy,” Stewie finds a way to travel back into the past and prevents Brian’s death.
Remember, folks, all you need to do to undo a mistake is travel back in time — at least in the sitcom world.
It would be easy to answer Labrador to the question, “What kind of dog is Brian Griffin from Family Guy?” You would be correct, after all. But Brian is much more than a Labrador.
He is a friend, a confidant, and a loyal companion – all traits shared by the best kinds of dogs on the planet.
It is easy to see why Brian is a fan favorite, too. His dry sense of humor, intellect, and compassion are traits anyone would desire. What would the world be without a character like Brian?
Well, as the lyrics to the theme song say, “Lucky there’s a Family Guy.”