Puppy Love: 25 Picture Books about Dogs
Everyone knows that dogs are man's best friend, so it's no surprise that they are central characters in so many beloved children's books. Here are 25 of my favorite picture books and easy readers starring dogs. All these books are in print—with one exception at the end of the list—and should be available from your local library or favorite bookstore. Those titles available from The Global Baby are linked below.
A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka (2011)
This Caldecott winner is completely wordless, but the vivid illustrations tell the story of a little dog and her beloved red ball. Daisy spends all her time—waking and sleeping—with her red ball until another dog accidentally pops it and it must be thrown away. Daisy is distraught, but a friend brings her a new ball and she learns that new friends and toys can be wonderful, too.
Bark, George by Jules Feiffer (1999)
Children adore this hilarious story by Jules Feiffer. When George, a young dog, opens up his mouth to bark at his mother’s request, a variety of other animal sounds come out. George’s mother takes him to the vet to figure out what the problem is. The illustrations are simple but expressive, and the conclusion is very satisfying.
Biscuit by Alyssa Satin Capucilli, illustrated by Pat Schories (1996)
This is the first book in a beloved series of easy readers about a sweet yellow puppy. In this story, Biscuit does not want to go to bed, and like little ones everywhere, he comes up with excuse after excuse to delay bedtime. The repetitive text makes the Biscuit books a great choice for beginning readers, but they are also a favorite for read alouds.
Can I Be Your Dog? by Troy Cummings (2018)
Sweet Arfy, a homeless dog, writes letters to everyone on Butternut Street, asking to be their dog, but each time he is rejected. Observant readers will notice, however, that the kind mailwoman delivering his letters has been reading them, and one day Arfy awakes to a letter from her asking, “Can I be your person?” This lovely story, told entirely through letters, is all about finding room in your heart for a new friend.
Clifford the Big Red Dog by Norman Bridwell (1963)
Chances are you remember Clifford from your own childhood. After all, this giant (we’re talking two-story-house-size) red dog and his friendship with Emily Elizabeth are pretty hard to forget. Clifford is mostly just like other dogs—he plays fetch and can do tricks—but sometimes his size gets him into trouble. Nonetheless, Emily Elizabeth loves him, and so do readers—there are countless books, board books, and easy readers, plus a very popular PBS Kids show, starring this lovable dog.
Dog’s Colorful Day by Emma Dodd (2000)
A white dog, with one black spot on his ear, goes off on a day of adventures that leaves him covered in a rainbow of spots—until bath time that is. This simple story is a perennial storytime favorite and lots of fun to retell with young children.
Gaston by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by Christian Robinson (2014)
Gaston is an oddity in his family of poodles—he doesn’t look anything like his sisters, he slobbers, he yaps, and he runs. Then one day he goes to the park with his family and meets Mrs. Bulldog and her puppies, one of which, Antoinette, certainly doesn’t belong. Gaston and Antoinette trade families, and by all appearances, everything is finally perfect, but as it turns out, nobody is happy with this new family situation. This sweet story about finding your place and your family proves that belonging is about so much more than appearance. Christian Robinson, one of my favorite illustrators, lends great vitality to this lovely story.
Go, Dog, Go! by P. D. Eastman (1961)
Reminiscent of Dr. Seuss’s nonsense books (like Hop on Pop), this classic easy reader is filled with dogs; silly illustrations; concepts like opposites, colors, and numbers; and lots of words (though not a lot of continuity between them). It’s fun to read—for adults and beginning readers alike—just don’t expect a plot!
Good Dog, Carl by Alexandra Day (1985)
In this classic, nearly wordless picture book, Rottweiler Carl is left in charge of the baby while her mother goes out. The baby proceeds to get into all sorts of mischief with loyal Carl at her side, but he is sure to clean up the evidence of all their fun before her mother returns home. This is the first of fifteen Carl books, all beautifully illustrated and heartwarming in their depiction of the human-dog bond.
Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion, illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham (1956)
In this classic story, Harry the dog really does not want a bath. So, he takes matters into his own hands and buries the scrubbing brush in the backyard. Then he sets out on a day of adventures. By the time Harry gets home, he is so dirty that his family barely recognizes him. Harry’s determination to avoid bath time will resonate with many young readers.
Hondo & Fabian by Peter McCarty (2002)
Hondo the dog and Fabian the cat spend the day doing their favorite things: Hondo goes to the beach with his friend, and Fabian stays home and plays with the baby. But their day ends together, just as it began, peacefully sleeping side by side. This Caldecott Honor winner is a supremely gentle view into the daily lives of pets.
It’s Only Stanley by Jon Agee (2015)
The Wimbeldons’ dog, Stanley, keeps waking them up throughout the night with strange noises, but each time the father investigates the noises, Stanley is up to something odd but apparently harmless. That is, until the final noise, “KAPOW,” which signals the conclusion of Stanley’s nocturnal tinkerings and the fulfillment of a plan that neither the Wimbledons nor the reader could have expected. It’s Only Stanley is a great read aloud— the rhyming text is fun to read, and the illustrations are humorous and filled with meaningful details for the observant reader (don’t miss the family cat in each illustration).
Madeline Finn and the Library Dog by Lisa Papp (2016)
Madeline does not like to read, probably because it doesn’t come easy for her. One day, when her mom brings her to the library, the librarian tells her that she has a surprise—Madeline can practice reading to Bonnie, a library dog. With the support of her new friend, Madeline develops the confidence to make mistakes and become a better reader. Between its charming illustrations and my own memories of the sweet canine companions that visited my library to read with the children when I was a librarian, I adore Madeline Finn and the Library Dog.
Madeline’s Rescue by Ludwig Bemelmans (1953)
Adventurous Madeline is up to her old tricks until, walking along the handrail of a bridge, she slips and falls into the Seine. She is rescued by a courageous dog, and little girl and dog are shepherded home and sent to bed. The dog (named Genevieve by Madeline and her fellow students) soon becomes a beloved part of life in the “old house in Paris.” Then comes the dreaded day of inspection by the school’s trustees, who promptly kick poor Genevieve out of the house. Will Miss Clavel and her students be able to find Genevieve in the streets of Paris? Although this is not the first (and best loved) Madeline book, Madeline’s Rescue, which won the Caldecott Medal in 1953, is another delightful Madeline story.
McDuff Moves In by Rosemary Wells, illustrated by Susan Jeffers (1997)
In this sweet, old-fashioned rescue story, a little white dog searches through the night for a home. After being shooed away from multiple houses, a young couple welcomes him in, but following a bath and dinner, they decide they are just too busy to keep him and must take him to the pound. In the end, though, they just can’t bring themselves to drive to the pound, and they return home with their newly christened McDuff. This is the first in Rosemary Wells’s long series of McDuff books.
Mr. Scruff by Simon James (2019)
All the other dogs have owners (owners who share a remarkable resemblance to them, not to mention rhyming names), but not Mr. Scruff. He’s all on his own . . . until he meets Jim. Jim doesn’t mind that he and Mr. Scruff are nothing alike; he knows they are right for each other. This is a sweet, simple rhyming story about finding your perfect companion.
Odd Dog Out by Rob Biddulph (2016)
In a world filled with identical dachshunds (in some hilarious poses and outfits), one dog always stands out. So, she sets out to find a new home where she can fit in. But a friend teaches her that there’s no reason to blend in when you can stand out. She returns home to find that the other dogs have been inspired by her to embrace their own uniqueness, creating a place that celebrates diversity and individualism. Though Odd Dog Out’s message to be yourself is nothing revolutionary, the joyful illustrations make this book well worth a read.
Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann (1995)
Officer Buckle is very concerned about safety, and he shares his safety tips with the students of Napville School. Unfortunately, they aren’t particularly interested in his tips until he brings the new police dog, Gloria, to one of his presentations. Unbeknownst to Officer Buckle, Gloria is adding some lively entertainment to his safety tips, and the students give him raving reviews—and finally start following his advice. But what will happen when Officer Buckle learns he’s not the star of the show? This Cadecott winner comes from the same author-illustrator as the beloved Good Night Gorilla, and the illustrations are similarly vivid and humorous.
Oh No, George! by Chris Haughton (2012)
George the dog promises to be good when his friend Harry goes out, but then he spies a cake on the kitchen counter, and his best intentions go out the window. When Harry returns home, George is very remorseful, and Harry offers to take him on a walk. This time, as temptations arise, George ignores them all, but can he keep up his good behavior? Little ones will enjoy George’s antics, the story’s vivid illustrations, and the repeated refrains of “Oh no, George!” and “Well done, George!” Plus, I think we (children and adults) can all relate when it comes to the challenges of trying to be good in the face of temptation.
Puddle Pug by Kim Norman, illustrated by Keika Yamaguchi (2014)
Percy is an adorable, expressive pug who loves puddles, but he just can’t seem to find the perfect puddle until one day he discovers a wonderfully muddy puddle that is already occupied by a family of pigs. Although it is the perfect puddle, Mama Pig does not want Percy around, and no matter what he tries, she keeps kicking him out. When disaster strikes and a tree falls into the puddle, scattering the pig family, Percy comes to the rescue, earning him a place in the pigs’ puddle and their hearts.
Rescue & Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship by Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes, illustrated by Scott Magoon (2018)
While a special dog named Rescue is training to be a service dog, a girl named Jessica is learning to adjust to life without one of her legs. When they are paired together, Rescue helps Jessica do lots of things that are hard for her to do, she makes sure he has lots of time to play and be a dog, and together they build a heartwarming relationship. This is a fictional story based on a real-life human-dog pair, and the author’s note includes information on the service dog organization that trained the real Rescue.
This Book Just Ate My Dog! by Richard Byrne (2014)
Bella is taking her dog for a walk through a book when all of a sudden . . . her dog disappears. Help arrives but is just as quickly swallowed up by the book. So, Bella takes matter into her own hands, and with a little help from the reader, she sets everything to rights. The quirky concept and reader involvement will make this book a hit with little ones.
This Is a Dog by Ross Collins (2019)
This is supposed to be a child's first book of animals, but the dog has other ideas. He joins each of the other animals on its own page, taking over the spotlight and generally making mischief. He even crosses out some of the words and adds his own. The other animals are not too happy, but the dog, in his irrepressibly cheerful way, outsmarts them all and ends the book on his own terms.
Where’s Spot? by Eric Hill (1980)
In this beloved lift-the-flap book, help Spot's mama look for him in different hiding spots around their house. This is the first in the series of books about the iconic yellow dog. I love the full-length hardcover version, but be aware that the flaps may be too fragile for babies, making the shorter board book a better option.
And one bonus . . .
Part-Time Dog by Jane Thayer, illustrated by Seymour Fleishman (1965)
Though sadly out of print today, Part-Time Dog is one of my very favorite childhood stories—one I shared with my beloved grandmother. A sweet little dog named Brownie shares his time between three different families, but none wants a dog of their own. When he is taken to the dog pound, however, the families come together to bring him back home.