Raised in Piedmont, California, he studied Communication Arts at the University Of The Pacific in Stockton, California.
His career as an actor started with a small part on the TV series The Streets of San Francisco. His first major role was opposite Stephanie Zimbalist in the 1978 TV movie Forever, based on Judy Blume’s novel of the same title.
Butler is best known for his portrayal of Almanzo Wilder opposite Melissa Gilbert's Laura Ingalls on the NBC family drama Little House on the Prairie, which was based on the classic Little House books written by Laura Ingalls Wilder. After Little House he played Jeff "Moondoggie" Griffin in the TV series The New Gidget and Buffy’s dad, Hank Summers, on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
During the 1980s and '90s Butler was a frequent guest-star on TV series including Murder, She Wrote, Who's the Boss?, The Love Boat and JAG. He co-starred with the late Gary Coleman in The Kid with the 200 I.Q.. On the big screen Butler starred in the critically acclaimed Desert Hearts and later in The Final Goal with Erik Estrada (CHiPs) and Michael John Lapointe, directed by Jon Cassar (24).
On the stage he has appeared in Broadway productions of West Side Story, Company and Into the Woods, among others.
Today Butler works largely behind the camera producing documentary content, DVD bonus content and increasing amounts of web content that has earned him multiple Telly and Aurora Awards. Dean is also a West Coast correspondent for Broadway World, the world’s premiere provider of web content about the performing arts.
He still is firmly connected to the world of Little House and Laura Ingalls Wilder, having produced nearly five hours of bonus features for Little House on the Prairie DVD collections as well as two documentaries, Little House on the Prairie: The Legacy Of Laura Ingalls Wilder and Almanzo Wilder: Life Before Laura. Future projects include a full-length documentary about the American artist and illustrator Harvey Dunn and a concert special for American Public Television titled Pa's Fiddle.
Dean Butler is married to the actress Katherine Cannon, who played Felice Martin on the television series Beverly Hills 90210. They met when Cannon successfully auditioned for a role in the series Father Murphy, created and produced by Michael Landon. They live in Los Angeles, California.