Lately we have been getting letters from new readers concerned about Guard Dog. If you have been following along for years, you probably know his backstory, but I thought I would take this opportunity to talk about one of my favorite characters.


Published October 18, 2014

When I first created MUTTS, I thought that Earl and Mooch might need an antagonist, a “villain” as a foil to their sweet natures. So, 25 years ago, I sat down with my sketch pad and created a big, mean-faced dog with a spiked collar. Almost unconsciously, I added the chain. Immediately I could see that Guard Dog was actually a tragic character. Instead of a villain, Guard Dog was born to shed light on how unfair and cruel it is to chain a dog.

From the beginning, several animal welfare groups implored me to keep Guard Dog in the strip as a symbol for all chained dogs, to remind people that no dog should have to live in such conditions. Since then, many states have made it illegal to tether dogs. Michigan State University has published a list of 23 states, plus D.C., which all have passed laws, some stronger than others, that restrict the use of tethering. California’s law is pretty comprehensive: SB 1578, otherwise known as the tethering law, makes it illegal to tether, fasten, chain, tie, or restrain a dog to a doghouse, tree, fence, or any other stationary object for more than three hours within a 24-hour period.

Though this is great news, this is less than half of the 50 states. It means more needs to be done.

Over the years, I have promised to eventually create a story in MUTTS to free Guard Dog from his chains. I know it’s been a long wait, so here’s a little secret. There are two projects under development where Guard Dog’s storyline gives him his freedom. My plan was to have Guard Dog released from his chain in the comic strip simultaneously with the release of the first of these two projects. Unfortunately, both projects are currently on hold.

Ten years ago, I made a promise to have Butchie and his Fatty Snax Deli go plant-based, along with giving Guard Dog his freedom. In 2020 I kept the promise with Butchie. Guard Dog will be next.

As always, thank you from the bottom of my heart for caring about all dogs, even those in the comics.

Comments (51)

My 91 year old mother and myself were so distressed about Guard Dog’s situation. We were almost in tears with worry for him! We were elated that all turned out beautifully! Thank you for the tender moments!

Linda H Morgan

Patrick McDonnell you are a wonderful human being! I no longer have to shed tears over Guard Dog. I hope he is featured in a prominent role in your strip for years to come and thank you for shedding light on the cruelty of humans who have no business owning a pet.

Lennie Butler

I am beyond elated that the chain has finally been broken for Guard Dog!!! I have been a Mutts fan for many years, and there was many a time that reading a Guard Dog strip brought tears to my eyes. It is wonderful that Guard Dog will be in a warm, caring, loving home for Christmas. It will truly be a happy new year for him. I hope that the Mutts cast of humans & creatures joins in a festive holiday strip to celebrate Guard Dog’s new found freedom. I hope there are many dogs that will will freed and join loving homes for Christmas, as well. Guard Dog has been an inspiration to all.

Grace Pecora

Patrick, if you can make a themed Doozy T-shirt, I’ll buy a few. Guard dog should be with her.

Kate Karp

By my experience, chaining up dogs constantly, can cause psychological problems in them. They need variety and and stimulation.

Craig M Daugherty

I believe that “guard dog” is an English Bulldog. After “owning” two dogs of that breed I can tell you that they are the most loving and sweet creatures. They have been known to help a slightless little boy who had wandered from his yard. One large “Bully” leaned against him til the boy made it home.
Please give guard dog a happy home with a name of his own.

Edie Jenckes

It was hard enough to see guard dog chained when his family was still there to bring him food and water. But now, it’s heart reaching to see this storyline continue. He’s chained, no food or drink. Please put an end this storyline!

Bonnie Ligouri

I have an adopted dog, a 4 lb Chihuahua who was somehow confined and forced to sit in her wastes for who knows how long. Her tail, which was normally white, was yellow-brown colored for weeks before it returned to its normal color. She now runs free and is no longer confined. I look forward to the day when Guard Dog is released so he too can enjoy being a dog. Hopefully, he will be adopted by somebody who will love him.

Ellen L Meade

Patrick – my wife and I love Guard Dog! We have had German Shepherds throughout our marriage and we agree – never, EVER, chain a dog! It will be great to see Guard Dog freed so he can interact with both Earl and Mooch in the way all animals should be free to interact! We look forward to it!

Don Kaminski

I find nothing helpful seeing a dog chained ~ and in fact , how he is characterized left me to stop reading Mutts. Long time ago ! Seeing the character again lit a fire of disappointment because , as others have said , it was promised some time ago, that he would be released. False information. Cruelty to the dog.

Jolene Smith