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There are some books that become rooted in our collective memory, spanning decades or centuries, and are beloved by a whole new generation of children over and over again. These 13 classic dog books for kids (listed in chronological order of release) may kick off a lifelong love of dogs for your family.

“The Call of the Wild,” Jack London

Although it was written for adults, this classic — first published in 1903 — has become an important part of school reading lists. Set in the 1890s, during the Klondike Gold Rush, it tells the story of Buck, a dog stolen from his family and sold as a sled dog.

sled dogs mush
Courtesy of the American Kennel Club
Dog sled team and driver with cargo, circa 1914

The harsh Alaska environment forces Buck to fight for survival, so he gradually sheds domestication and returns to being a wild dog. London spent about one year in the Yukon, which gives “The Call of the Wild” and his other classic dog book, “White Fang,” an authenticity that makes them timeless.

“Lad: A Dog,” Albert Payson Terhune

Before there was Lassie, there was another heroic Collie named Lad. Albert Payson Terhune, who was well-known for his classic dog stories, wrote the novel in 1919. He based the fictional Lad on his family dog. A “thoroughbred in body and soul,” Lad protects and defends his people and others of his own species, often putting his own life at risk.

©eugenegg -

“Lassie Come-Home,” Eric Knight

In 1938, the world first met rough-coated Collie Lassie in a story published in the “Saturday Evening Post.” Later, Knight expanded it into a novel and created a classic (and a movie franchise). It became a benchmark for many future tales of challenge, love, and loyalty between a dog and her human family. Interesting fact: the hyphen in the title refers to the phrase “come-home dog,” which is a dog that runs away and returns to her original owner, no matter how many times she’s sold or how far away she’s taken.

Collie standing in profile in a field.
Svetlana Valoueva/Shutterstock

“The Poky Little Puppy,” Janette Sebring Lowrey

People of a certain age grew up on the Little Golden Books, like this one. Published in 1942, it tells the story of a curious puppy and the world he discovers during his adventures. Written for very young kids, “The Poky Little Puppy” has sold nearly 15 million copies, and its popularity lasts to this day.

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“Big Red,” Jim Kjelgaard

Kjelgaard wrote more than 40 books, many of them about dogs. “Big Red” was his first book to focus on an Irish Setter. The combination of the relationship between boy and dog and the vivid outdoor settings have captivated children since the book’s publication in 1945.

Irish Setter head portrait outdoors.
©Field Dog Imagery

“Old Yeller,” Fred Gipson

Published in 1956, the story takes place in the 1860s and centers on a dog taken in by young Travis Coates on his family’s Texas ranch. The dog proves his value again and again, saving family members from every imaginable danger. Like many dog books for kids, “Old Yeller” is more about the circle of life and the lessons we learn along the way.

Mixed breed sitting giving a high five in the park.
suemack/Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

“The 101 Dalmatians,” Dodie Smith

Before the beloved movie, there was the book, first published in 1956. Even kids who already know the story of Dalmatians Pongo, Missis (it’s Perdita in the film) and their puppies (and Cruella de Vil) can enjoy reading it over and over again.


“The Incredible Journey,” Sheila Burnford

The author based this book on the relationship she observed between her own pets: a Bull Terrier, a Siamese cat, and a Labrador Retriever. Maybe that’s what makes the bond between the fictional characters so believable and touching. Published in 1961 and adapted into the Disney film “Homeward Bound,” the book is a favorite to this day.

American Staffordshire Terrier lying outdoors next to a kitten that is playing with the dog's nose.
©Grigorita Ko -

“Where the Red Fern Grows,” Wilson Rawls

Published in 1961, “Where the Red Fern Grows,” which features one boy and two Redbone Coonhounds, joins the list of classics passed down through the decades. It’s been adapted into movies twice. This novel is often found on school reading lists.

Redbone Coonhound wading through a river.
Lokibaho/Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

“The Phantom Tollbooth,” Norton Juster

This funny fantasy has enchanted children and adults alike since it was published in 1961. Kids will love following a boy named Milo and an oversized talking dog on their journey together.

dogs and kids
©Ermolaev Alexandr Alexandrovich -

“Go, Dog. Go!,” P.D. Eastman

Featuring cartoons and simple language, this beloved 1961 book is often used to teach children to read. It’s part of the Beginner Books series, which was started by Theodor Seuss Geisel (better known as Dr. Seuss).

kids sitting in car with dog

“Clifford the Big Red Dog,” Norman Bridwell

Clifford and his human pal Emily Elizabeth have dazzled young readers for decades with their shared adventures. The first book featuring the popular dog debuted in 1963. It helped make its publisher, Scholastic, a top-tier publishing house. In fact, Clifford is the official Scholastic mascot.

Newfoundland laying down in the grass next to a young girl.
© Ermolaev Alexandr Alexandrovich -

“Because of Winn-Dixie,” Kate DiCamillo

Some dog books become instant classics, like this heartwarming story published in 2000. The story follows a young girl and the dog she brings home. It explores themes such as friendship, healing, and the power of community. This book won the Newbery Medal in 2001 and was adapted into a feature film in 2005.

West Highland White Terrier with its owner getting pet by a little girl in the park.
©Alena Ozerova -
Related article: The 10 Most Beloved Dogs in Literature
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