Did Anyone’s Dog Ever Manage to Catch That Pesky Purina Chuck Wagon Back in the Day?

screenshot from a 1975 commercial for Purina Chuck Wagon dog food. It shows the famous little chuck wagon coming out of the TV in front of a dog, who is leaping up from a lying position on a carpet in front of the television to pursue the wagon.
© Ralston Purina/screenshot from youtube.com@BionicDisco
An exciting chase scene from a 1975 commercial for Purina's Chuck Wagon dog food

I don’t know exactly when Purina introduced its Chuck Wagon brand of dog food, or when the company stopped making it. And maybe Purina never did stop making Chuck Wagon, but I do not believe it is currently around.

That’s mainly because I think it’s been at least 30 years since I’ve seen a new commercial featuring that hilarious little horse-drawn wagon and driver, its covering adorned with Purina’s famous red-and-white checkerboard logo, racing around living rooms and kitchens to the consternation and frustration of family dogs who chase it but are always unsuccessful at capturing this elusive prey, which usually then vanishes into a kitchen cupboard and dissolves into a bag of Purina Chuck Wagon.

Chuck Wagon -

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If the Chuck Wagon brand is still around, Purina would have been unwise to give up this classic marketing concept that managed to present food that, frankly, looks pretty gross and which I wouldn’t have fed to my own dog, in a very positive and memorable light.

I also don’t think I would have gotten Chuck Wagon for my former dog because of a safety reason — not out of concern for her safety, but for that of the tiny driver cracking the whip and urging his horse on with a “Hee-YAH!” If that little cart had suddenly sprung from the bag and darted across the room, my highly prey-driven pooch may very well have been the first dog to catch it, and then violently shaken its horse and driver into unconsciousness.

(Those little Chuck Wagon drivers were playing with fire when it came to certain dogs, man. The dudes were as brave as the riders of the Pony Express.)

I did not have a dog when I grew up during the heyday of these Chuck Wagon ads, in the 1970s and ‘80s. But I had plenty of family and friends who did, and while I have no idea what most of them fed their pets, I have to assume none of them used Purina Chuck Wagon, since I never saw a tiny wagon suddenly scurrying across the floor like a rodent when I was at their houses.

I did enjoy the Chuck Wagon commercials at that time, nonetheless. As I got to remembering, I looked some of them up and found commercials using this “wagon across the floor” idea dating from the early 1970s and as late as the early ‘90s.

So, for roughly a good 25-year span, at least, who knows just how many dogs were teased into pursuing this tiny wagon that remained forever just out of reach, as if propelled along by an almost supernatural force?

Heck, even Family Guy‘s Brian the dog couldn’t catch the thing:

It was interesting to watch the ads’ concepts and execution change as the years went on. That includes improvements in their special effects; one ad actually had the Chuck Wagon disappearing beneath a rug, with its bulge moving along underneath the rug as a confused pup looked on.

Clearly this campaign remained eye-catching to viewers for many years, and was popular enough that it even inspired a promotional 1983 Atari 2600 video game called Chase the Chuck Wagon! Apparently you could only get this game by mailing in proofs of purchase from Purina dog food. There doesn’t seem too much to it, though the dog wagging its tail after completing a maze and getting its food is a cute touch:

A few of the more memorable Chuck Wagon commercials follow below, from different years and some featuring different concepts.

There is one that eschews the wagon for just a couple of dog owners talking, for some reason; others where we see the actors playing the little drivers, who have some lines; another that has a dog actually pursuing a full-size, real-life chuck wagon!; and yet another where there is no wagon at all, but is accompanied by a song set to the theme from Rawhide. There are also a couple of ads for spinoff brands like Puppy Chuck Wagon and something called Chuck Wagon Stampede.

Enjoy! And if you have any legendary stories about your dog(s) chasing — and, especially, catching — that Purina Chuck Wagon, we’d love to hear them. Particularly if that damn thing still exists to taunt today’s generation of doggos.