We’ve delved back through the archives to find the best dog books that you might have forgotten about or maybe even never read before. And we’ve included a few modern classics too. If you are looking for a guide on more modern publications, check out our review of Print & Digital Dog Magazines here.
When you’ve finished reading your favorites, why not pass them on to your family? Reading is an excellent way of expanding your children’s vocabulary and encouraging them to use their imagination. Even the most reluctant readers will quickly become hooked on tales about man’s best friend.
So, get comfortable with your canine companion at your feet (or next to you on the sofa) and pick up a page-turner from our list.
Top 15 Dog Books
Many of the books we’ve featured here are considered classics that were written way back when, while others are more up-to-date and just waiting to be discovered. Nonetheless, all these novels old and new are well worth reading again and again.
All these books can be purchased online through Amazon.com.
Where The Red Fern Grows, (Wilson Rawls) 1961
Where the Red Fern Grows is a much-loved children’s classic that tells the tale of the unbreakable bond between a boy and his dogs.
Young Billy has always had a dream that one day he might own not one, but two, dogs. Eventually, Billy saves up enough money to buy two pups of his own – Old Dan and Little Ann. The young lad is thrilled with his new furry friends! Even though times are hard for Billy, he doesn’t care. Now he and his new best pals will roam the hills of the Ozarks together.
Soon, Billy and his two hounds are the finest hunting team in his home valley. In no time, tales of the trio’s achievements have spread far and wide, and the combination of Little Ann’s brains, Old Dan’s brawn, and Billy’s unshakeable determination seem unbeatable. But tragedy strikes the devoted team, and Billy learns that out of despair, hope can grow, and a bright future can emerge from the tears of the past.
“An exciting tale of love and adventure you’ll never forget.” (New York Times.)
Old Yeller, (Fred Gipson) 1956
When 14-year-old Travis’ father sets out on a summer cattle drive, the young boy is left to care for his family and their farm. There are many challenges and dangers to face and overcome in the wilderness of early frontier Texas. But Travis won’t meet them alone. The boy finds comfort and helps in the unwavering love and courage of the stray dog that becomes his most loyal and very best friend: the big, yellow dog that Travis calls, “Old Yeller.”
Old Yeller is a simple, heartwarming tale of a boy and his dog that’s recommended for adults and teens.
The Incredible Journey (Sheila Burnford) 1960
A friendly bull terrier, an inquisitive Labrador retriever, and a courageous Siamese cat set out on an incredible adventure through the Canadian wilderness in search of their owner. The unlikely companions’ instinct tells them that home lies to the west, and the trio of house pets battle the elements, hunger, and encounters with wild forest animals as they make their way home to the family they love so much.
The Incredible Journey is a classic tale of determination and unwavering loyalty that captured the hearts of generations of readers and was later made into a favorite family movie, Homeward Bound.
“From the youngest child…to the oldest grown-up, there is something here for everyone.”
Lassie Come Home (Eric Knight) 1940
Lassie, Come Home is the story of a young lad, Joe, and his beloved dog, Lassie. Lassie is a prize collie and Joe’s loyal companion. But when Joe’s father is made unemployed, Lassie is sold to a wealthy, bad-tempered old man, the Duke of Rudling. The plucky collie refuses to be separated from Joe and escapes from the Duke three times.
Finally, the Duke sends Lassie to his estate in Scotland, 400 miles away from Joe. But Lassie refuses to be kept away from her beloved family, and instinct takes her on the long, dangerous journey south back to the home where she belongs. Despite the sickness, physical barriers, and new friends made on her way, nothing will keep Lassie from being reunited with the family she loves.
Packed with adventure and danger, this is the heartwarming tale of a dog’s loyalty. Be sure to have your Kleenex on standby when you read this one.
White Fang (Jack London) 1906
White Fang is set in the era of the Klondike Gold Rush in the Yukon Territory in Canada. The story chronicles the life of a half-dog, half-wolf in the wild. White Fang is wronged by animals and humans alike, but he survives despite brutal treatment. The wolf-dog is sold to an uncaring man who pits the animal against fighting dogs to battle to the death. Fortunately for White Fang, a Yukon gold prospector rescues him and gives him the chance of a new life.
This gripping story tells how the mistreated animal finally finds love and learns to trust a man. The book is narrated from the wolf-dog’s point of view and speaks of the harshness of life in the frozen wilderness of the north. The story ends when White Fang returns to civilization to live out his days in comfort with his new best friend.
Although it’s often read in schools, this book pulls no punches, and some of the scenes are pretty graphic and violent. Perhaps not the best read for young kids or those distressed by descriptions of animal cruelty.
Sounder (William H. Armstrong) 1969
Set in the 19th century in the Deep South, Sounder tells the compelling story of coon dog, Sounder, and his family. The African American family is always short of food, and every night the young boy’s father takes Sounder out to search for something for his family to eat. As the days pass, the poor man grows more and more desperate.
When the table is suddenly full of food one morning, it seems like the family’s prayers have been answered, but all is not what it seems, and trouble is on the way in the form of the local sheriff and his deputies. Despite everything, Sounder remains loyal to his family and is determined to help them even though hard times look inevitable.
Sounder is a classic novel that starkly illustrates the love, faith, and courage that bind a family together, despite the inhumanity and racism that they face. If you enjoyed Where the Red Fern Grows and Old Yeller, you’ll fall in love with Sounder. You’ll need to get those Kleenex ready again though.
Marley & Me (John Grogan) 2005
Marley & Me is the memoir of John Grogan that’s written in tribute to his beloved dog, Marley. John and Jenny Grogan began their life together without a care in the world. And then they bought Marley, a delightful little furball of a puppy who was to turn their perfect life upside down.
Little Marley quickly grew into a 97-pound golden Labrador retriever, whose rambunctious character and hefty physique saw him crashing through doors, stealing his owner’s underwear, and gouging through the drywall. Naughty Marley refused to be tamed and was even expelled from obedience school. But Marley’s love and loyalty were as boundless as his energy, and he remained unstintingly devoted to his beloved human family, even when the pup’s behavior drove them crazy.
“Marley & Me is John Grogan’s funny, unforgettable tribute to this wonderful, wildly neurotic Lab and the meaning he brought to their lives.”
Lily And The Octopus (Steven Rowley) 2016
Ted is a gay, single, struggling writer who finds himself living a lonely life. Ted is unable to open his heart to anyone except his unwaveringly steadfast and loyal companion, Lily, his elderly dachshund. When Lily becomes ill, Ted promises that he will save her, whatever it takes. Sometimes hilarious, sometimes heartrendingly poignant, the adventure is magically realistic. Lily and the Octopus reminds the reader how it feels to love fiercely, how difficult it can be to let go, and how the fight for the ones we love is the greatest fight of all.
“Be prepared for outright laughs and searing or silly moments of canine and human recognition. And grab a tissue or three.”
Good Dog, Carl (Alexandra Day) 1986
Good Dog, Carl is the first book in a series of wordless books that are designed for parents to “read” to very young children. The canine hero of all the books is responsible Rottweiler, Carl. Carl is left to babysit his infant mistress by her mom, and many crazy adventures ensue. These books are perfect for parents who enjoy making up their own stories, using the gorgeous illustrations featured to fuel their imagination.
Dog On It (Spencer Quinn) 2009
Dog On It is the first novel in the New York Times bestselling Chet and Bernie mystery series. The canine hero and narrator of the book is, Chet. Chet “works” alongside his unsuccessful private investigator owner, Bernie. In this first novel, the dynamic duo takes on a new case involving a frantic mother’s search for her missing teenage daughter.
It’s not clear whether the straight-A student has been kidnapped, but she has undoubtedly gotten herself mixed up with some very unsavory characters. Chet’s highly-trained nose leads the detectives into the shady world of biker bars and gangland dons until the bad guys try to turn the tables, landing the plucky duo in grave peril. This quirky page-turner will leave you begging for more.
Merle’s Door – Lessons From A Freethinking Dog (Ted Kerasote) 2007
While he was on a camping trip, the author of Merle’s Door met a stray dog, living wild. The Labrador mix soon formed an attachment with Ted Kerasote who named the dog, Merle and decided to bring him home. Kerasote quickly realized that Merle’s native intelligence would soon be diminished by living exclusively among people, so he put a dog door in his home so that the dog could live outside as well as inside.
The book is a deeply touching portrait of an exceptional dog and his relationship with the author. Merle’s Door looks at the issues faced by animals and their human companions as their worlds collide. The latest research into animal behavior and consciousness are explored, as well as insights into the origins and evolution of the partnership between canines and humans.
Merle’s Door is a thought-provoking glimpse at how dogs might live without human intervention and how those lessons could be applied universally. The book is suitable for adults and older teens.
The Plague Dogs (Richard Adams) 1978
The Plague Dogs is a lyrical, engrossing tale written by Richard Adams, author of the brilliant teen novel, Watership Down. This is the story of two canine best friends, Snitter and Rowf, who escape from the horrors of an animal research facility into the wilderness. But the two canine heroes’ troubles have only just begun, as the media fuels the flames of public panic by portraying the actions of the starving dogs as the behavior of animals whose brains are adversely impacted by the plague they are supposedly carrying.
The Plague Dogs is a thought-provoking novel that challenges our perceptions of the rights and wrongs of using animals for research and exposes the influence of the media on public behavior and opinion. A gripping read for adults and older teens.
Shiloh (Phyllis Reynolds Naylor) 2000
Shiloh is the heartwarming tale of Marty Preston who meets a young beagle, living in the hills behind the boy’s home. For both the beagle and Marty, it’s love at first sight. However, Marty’s new four-legged friend means big trouble. The dog, which Marty names Shiloh, belongs to a bad-tempered, gun-owning drunk called Judd Travers. Travers thinks nothing of abusing his dogs, so when the little beagle runs away from Travers to be with Marty, the young boy has to hide his new friend to protect him from his wicked owner.
Unfortunately, Marty’s secret becomes too hard to keep, and when word gets out, his entire family is put at risk from Judd’s fury. To what lengths will Marty have to go to keep Shiloh? Shiloh is a great read aimed at kids from 12 to 99. If you enjoyed this book, the good news is that there are three more in the series.
Santa Paws (Nicholas Edwards) 1995
Santa Paws is a beautiful family story about a homeless puppy who is living on the streets of the fictional town of Oceanport during one of the most brutal winters on record. During his search for a warm, welcoming home and a family to love him, the small, brown, hairy pup comes across people in need.
The brave dog saves a family from a burning house, rescues a drowning boy, and finds a blind girl’s wallet, but will the hero ever find a loving family to call his own? Santa Paws is aimed at kids aged from seven to 10 years. And if you loved this book, there is a whole series to enjoy.
A Dog Called Kitty (Bill Wallace) 1980
A Dog Called Kitty is the tale of a small, fuzzy puppy with a friendly, wagging tail. So, what’s not to love? Well, it turns out that young lad Ricky has been terrified of dogs since he was attacked by one when he was a baby. So, when a tiny, stray puppy appears on his family’s farm, Ricky tells it to get lost. But the puppy won’t take no for an answer and keeps trying to play with Ricky.
When Ricky’s Mom feeds the farm cats, the little pup comes running, but the cats have no intention of sharing their food, and the poor puppy is slowly starving. If Ricky can’t overcome his fear, the puppy may die. But if Ricky can let himself get close enough to the pup to feed it, he might find the very best friend a boy could ever have.
This multi-award-winning book is aimed at kids aged from age eight to 12 years. But this heartwarming read is the perfect pick-me-up for adults after a bad day at the office too.
The Happy Ending
We’re sure you’ll love our selection of 15 of the most memorable and enjoyable dog books ever written. Why not take a trip down memory lane and share these evergreen stories with your dog-loving family? And who knows, you might even feel inspired to pick up your pen and start writing your own doggy best-seller/