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The Real Life German Shepherd That Inspired Fallout 4's Dogmeat

Few Fallout characters captured hearts and minds like Dogmeat — a canine companion available in nearly every iteration of the franchise. Though each Fallout game happens in a different time and place, you can usually find and recruit some version of Dogmeat shortly after starting the game. Dogmeat will happily fight by your side and is even involved in quests.


But did you know that Dogmeat was actually based on a real-life German Shepherd? At least, the Fallout 4 version was.

Perhaps that's not too surprising; when the first game was written, no one would know how big the character would become. Developers have a long history of immortalizing their pets in video games, from the Buddy and Emily in Divinity: Original Sin 2 to Nippy, the star of Catlateral Damage.

So, let's take a look at the real-life inspiration for the good boy that follows you through your journey into the radioactive wastes.

A brief history of Fallout's Dogmeat

Dogmeat was initially recruitable in Fallout 1, where he could be tempted by a treat: Iguana-on-a-Stick. Unfortunately, companions in Fallout 1 didn't last very long; once dead, they stayed dead. In Fallout 2, Dogmeat could be recruited in the Cafe of Broken Dreams, by showing him your vault suit. Both of those iterations of Dogmeat were pretty simple; it wasn't until Fallout 3 and Fallout 4 that Dogmeat started showing his true personality. In Fallout 3, he could be used to fetch supplies. In Fallout 4, he could even take an active role in quests — and you could deck him out in gear.


Dogmeat still isn't in Fallout 76 — the series' infamous MMO — but there have been rumors that the very good boy might eventually be added. Players can already tame animals with high charisma in Fallout 76, but they've been waiting for additional pet-related features. Since it is an MMO that is receiving updates, it's possible that Dogmeat might eventually appear in every Fallout game.

Meet River the German Shepherd, Fallout's Dogmeat

So, who is Dogmeat?

Dogmeat was based on the lead level designer's German Shepherd, River. River even acted out the role, being asked to come in to perform activities, capture audio, and catch frisbees. It's probably a dream job for a dog.


This undoubtedly improved the realism of the dog, though perhaps too much — some players found it difficult to watch Dogmeat get hurt! (So much so that some fans actually modded out the sounds of the dog whimpering when damaged.) Luckily, at least Fallout 4's Dogmeat couldn't die.

There are some major advantages to having a "real" dog play a fictional one; primarily, animations can be mocapped for the game, rather than using generic ones. Only the game's level designer, Joel Burgess, likely knows exactly how much of River's personality came across — and fans will have to wait and see if the very same River shows up in future Fallout installments.