THE bond between man and dog is celebrated in the new Wes Anderson film, Isle of Dogs, which comes out this week. A stop-motion animation set in a futuristic Japan, it partly concerns the quest of a boy to find his dog, which – along with the rest of the canine population – has been exiled to the eponymous island.

Isle of Dogs is the latest in a long line of films which have heavily featured our four-legged friends. The theme of the human-canine bond is a theme that has run through movies since well before the advent of talkies. The silent era produced two German Shepherd stars – Strongheart was the first but Rin Tin Tin, who followed hot on his heels, is the better-remembered; a superstar whose progeny carried the Rin Tin Tin legend down through generations of film and TV viewers.

Those silent era movie mutts were celebrated for their heroics, but their successors in the 1930s tended to be cast for their comic capabilities. Think classic screwball comedy, and a talented terrier springs to mind: Skippy, a wire-haired fox terrier who hung out with the most chic movie couples in the most glamorous films.

This athletic pooch, who notched up 18 screen credits and earned $250 a week at the height of his celebrity, most famously played Asta in The Thin Man series of films (from 1934) and George in Bringing Up Baby (1938). As Mr Smith, Skippy was the subject of a custody battle between Irene Dunne and Cary Grant in The Awful Truth (1937). He was also undoubtedly the inspiration for the similarly talented Uggie in the wonderful 2011 homage to old Hollywood, The Artist.

At the scruffier end of the comedy canine market there was Laughing Gravy, the mongrel who had a Laurel & Hardy short named for him in 1930, and the wisecracking “talking dog,” described as “a cross between a Manchurian yak and an Australian dingo” who orders his own drinks in the 1936 WC Fields movie Poppy.

Towards the end of the 1930s, the more tender side of the human-canine relationship came to the fore. Toto, Dorothy’s canine companion in The Wizard of Oz, was the first of a number of movie mutts who were inseparable best pals with their young owners. Lassie Come Home (1943) made a star out of a majestic collie named Pal who, like Rin Tin Tin, spawned umpteen more films and TV series over the next few decades and whose offspring took over the Lassie role.

Being able to put over the pooch point of view has always, of course, been the preserve of animation – and Disney has done dogs like no other, with the likes of the maternal Nana in Peter Pan (1953) and 101 Dalmations (1961), which, among other things, demonstrated (40 years before Best in Show did) how dogs and owners start to resemble each other. Lady and the Tramp (1955) is still one of the best four-legged films, largely because it does a beautiful job of showing life and humans from the animal perspective.

Not only have dogs been essential companions to kids in live action movies ranging from Old Yeller (1957) to My Dog Skip (2000), but they have also proved to be the ideal sidekick to a whole range of detectives, from Nick Charles (William Powell) in those stylish Thin Man films to such 1980s favourites as Turner & Hooch and K-9 (both 1989). Indeed, the 1980s and 1990s produced a number of memorable movie mutts, from Beethoven to Bingo, via Balto.

The 2000s, however, offered new possibilities to aspiring movie stars of the canine variety as CGI allowed animals to talk much more convincingly than ever before – though this hasn’t always been a good thing, as the prime example, Cats & Dogs (2001), proves...

Rin Tin Tin – the Ultimate Canine Movie Star

Rin Tin Tin, whose centenary year this is, was the world’s first canine movie legend – and the one credited with saving Warner Bros studio from folding before it had a chance to produce its run of great movies of the 1930s.

During the 1920s, the German Shepherd dog was such a money-spinner at the box office that each time Warners found itself in financial trouble, it would make another film with its beloved four-legged star – and the wolf would be kept from the door. At the height of his success, Rin Tin Tin (who inspired the 1976 spoof film Won Ton Ton: The Dog Who Saved Hollywood) was receiving 50,000 fan letters a month.

Rinty, as he was affectionately known, was “discovered” as a pup, one of a litter

of puppies found in a bombed-out dog kennel in Lorraine, France by US Air Corporal Lee Duncan.

When the First World War ended, Duncan managed to bring Rin Tin Tin back to Los Angeles where he trained him to do all sorts of tricks and managed to attract the attention of the Warners executives.

In total, Rinty starred in 28 films, including the aptly titled Billion Dollar Collar, before being sacked by Warners when sound arrived – “because dogs don’t talk”. His death, in 1932, was international news and he was buried in the famous pet cemetery at Asnieres-sur-Seine outside Paris.