Children's Books About Dogs:
Two Book Reviews

covers for Bad Dog Max and May I Pet Your Dog?

Children's Books About Dogs
Children's book reviews by P.J. Rooks

Ages 3-6

In his outstanding book, The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness, Harvard psychiatrist, Edward Hallowell, lays out a five-part plan for lifelong joy. Loads of psychological research are rolled into a chatty, reader-friendly and ultimately fascinating book that both upholds and upends various bits of conventional parenting wisdom.

Among other important ideas, Hallowell shows us that a sense of connectedness in children will lead to higher emotional intelligence and greater happiness down the road. There are several easy ways to help your children tap into their sense of compassionate community -- for starters, try having an animal pal at home. Hallowell stands very strongly by this recommendation so, in the interest of not mincing words or losing his meaning in paraphrase, allow me to quote directly from the sage doctor's text:


There, now -- any questions?

We have two extremely old (but supernaturally healthy) cats, an infinitely re-populating tank full of guppies and a three-year-old who would really like a dog too. She loves dogs -- trouble is, she's also scared of them. While their slobbery enthusiasm tends to both frighten and amuse, the bottom line is always the same -- "Mommy! Pick me up!"

Scouring the internet for help, I was really surprised to find that it's pretty slim pickings out there -- there are plenty of great children's books about dogs for older kids, but for little ones, cutesy seems to be the order of the day and their numbers are legion.

Rover, Rover, roll in the clover.
Look, now he's got ticks all over.
Blood-sucking parasites crawling on the rug.
Lyme disease, gangrene -- all from a bug....

Okay, no, I'm kidding, they're not all quite so nauseating, but still, where is the substance when you want it? (Am I wrong? Suggest a dog book!) I did find a couple, though, that I thought were great.

May I Pet Your Dog?
Written by Stephanie Calmenson and illustrated by Jan Ormerod, this "How-to Guide for Kids Meeting Dogs (and Dogs Meeting Kids)" is an excellent book whether you have a dog or not.

Harry, a long-haired, chocolate-dappled dachshund, both narrates and instructs as he meets a new boy at the park and the two begin to dramatize several different encounters with pooches on parade.

In the first three, the dogs are friendly. One is calm, one is wild and one is very large, but in each scenario, they are open to new friendships with our kid dog-greeter and instructions are given on approaching the dog including how to stand, hold out a hand for sniffing and gently stroke the dog from the side.

The book then moves into unfriendly dogs, guide dogs and other situations for canine-avoidance. A few more rules for dog safety are found in the back of the book including:

  • Never put your face close to any dog's face,
  • "Don't run or shout around dogs," and
  • If you are ever frightened of a dog, turn your head and look away. Then stay perfectly still and quiet.

Great advice!

All told, this book is friendly and fun with colorful and captivating illustrations. May I Pet Your Dog? is most certainly a handy safety guide that will help to ensure a lifetime of puppy-love for your kids.

Another doggy title worthy of tracking down is Bad Dog, Max! by Marina Windsor.

Bold, delightful illustrations by Steve Haskamp introduce us to the wild and quite unappreciated antics of mischievous Max, the Australian Cattle Dog. Everyone thinks that Max is a bad dog, even the cat, until Max goes to the vet for a check-up.

The vet has an Australian Cattle Dog too, and she explains that Max has lots of energy and will need to run and play every day. When the family learns how to have fun with their dog, Max loses her "Bad Dog" title and becomes a well-loved, good dog with an occasional lapse in judgment.

Bad Dog, Max! is a great story to help kids, who may not otherwise understand, that dogs don't mean to be "bad."

Bad Dog, Max! and May I Pet Your Dog? -- two great starter books that show kids how to celebrate and enhance their natural devotion to pets. I'd love to stay and chat about them more, but we're off to the animal shelter -- goodbye!

More of P.J.'s reviews.

The Ghost of Greyfriar's Bobby is a touching book about a faithful dog for older kids.

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