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What Is Dog Fiction?

Britt Archer
Britt Archer

Literature is filled with all types of dog fiction that encompasses a variety of genres, from children’s stories where the dog is the hero, to young adult stories where dogs are anthropomorphic, to adult novels where the dog is an integral part of the story and plot. Dog fiction includes such classics as Call of the Wild, written early in the 20th century by Jack London, to the heartrending children’s novel Beautiful Joe, written in the late 19th century by Marshall Saunders. Ms. Saunders' story is supposedly a true account of a dog’s life, told from Beautiful Joe’s perspective. In the 21st century, authors have expanded the category to include many genres, from romance novels to cozy mysteries.

Publishers interested in attracting readers to this market are savvy in creating series and sequels that concentrate on a winning formula. Sometimes dog fiction, as it pertains to mysteries, has a clue-hunting dog among its characters whose antics are closely entwined with he hero’s or heroine’s, and other times a novel’s main character is bound up in the care of her dog and the people who also love the pet, such as the novel Must Love Dogs. Sometimes authors incorporate their own occupations into their prose, such as a dog walker or veterinarian who writes about engaging animal sidekicks or main characters. An example of this type of dog fiction is written by Carol Lea Benjamin, who trains dogs and whose work includes non-fiction and fiction.


Dog fiction can use dogs as a plot device to ferret out clues, and it can also make use of dogs to provide a unique point of view if the narrative is told from a first-person viewpoint, such a Beautiful Joe or King, written by John Berger. Although written from a dog’s viewpoint, King creatively shows what happens to people who are “strays” and homeless. Emmy winner Merrill Markoe writes with humor and high drama in her novel Walking in Circles Before Lying Down, with the heroine’s canine companion speaking to her.

Dog fiction.
Dog fiction.

Imaginative dog fiction for children is abundant on the shelves of libraries and bookstores, and parents and caretakers should be able to find something that will appeal to any child, from the shy and reserved to the gregarious and outgoing adventurer. Many young readers have enjoyed Ann M. Martin’s novel A Dog’s Life, while even younger children who are just beginning to learn how to read would enjoy Molly Coxe’s Hot Dog, or the classic Poky Little Puppy. Dog fiction for children and young adults, if entertaining but not preachy, can help readers learn about others lands and other ways of life. Dog fiction also many times can incorporate healing as readers learn about characters who have dealt with death, divorce and other life events.

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Discussion Comments


Usually I wouldn't suggest this, but a good way to figure out classic dog stories is to see which ones have been made into films. Old Yeller was a book first and so was Where The Red Fern Grows and The Incredible Journey.

I believe Shiloh was made into a movie as well, and of course 101 Dalmatians is a classic.

These are all novels I would expect my kids to read, whether they were into dog stories or not, because they are simply good books.


@MrsPramm - I just loved animal fiction in general. I read all of the classics, like White Fang and The Call of the Wild and 101 Dalmatians. But I also loved books like the Dr. Doolittle series, which had all kinds of animals in it. And there was another series that I loved, which was about a vet who went around treating a bunch of farm animals, but I can't remember the name of it.

I feel like a lot of kids go through a phase when they try to find everything they can with animals on the cover.


I was so obsessed with dog fiction when I was a kid. I read all kinds, even the ones that I think were meant for adults. Some of my favorites were biographies about a dog that worked as a seeing-eye dog and went through the process that happens for a dog to be trained to do that.

It might have been because we were never allowed to have a dog. But I think I probably would have loved them anyway.

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