Tales that Wag the Heart: 15 Tear-Jerking Dog Books for Every Age

Jul 15, 2023


The bond between humans and dogs is a theme that has been beautifully explored in literature across ages. These canine companions leave paw prints on our hearts with their tales of loyalty, courage, and unconditional love. But prepare yourself, for the journey through these pages might require a box of tissues close at hand. This curated list of 15 heartrending dog books is divided by age groups to suit readers from all walks of life.

For Young Readers

1. "Dog Heaven" by Cynthia Rylant

This book offers a gentle introduction to the concept of loss and the idea of an afterlife for pets. Beautifully illustrated, it envisions a paradise for dogs, where they can frolic freely, watched over by angelic beings.

2. "The Dog Who Belonged to No One" by Amy Hest

The touching tale of a small dog with no home and a little girl who yearns for a friend. It captures the poignant moment their lives intersect.

3. "Good Dog, Carl" by Alexandra Day

This is the story of Carl, the family Rottweiler, who takes care of the baby when the parents are not at home. Though not sad throughout, the ending is a tear-jerker.

Good Dog, Carl : A Classic Board Book

For Middle Grade Readers

4. "Where the Red Fern Grows" by Wilson Rawls

A classic tale of a boy and his two coonhounds, which explores themes of ambition, perseverance, and loss. The ending is bittersweet and memorable.

Where the Red Fern Grows

5. "Because of Winn-Dixie" by Kate DiCamillo

This book tells the tale of Opal, who rescues a smiling dog at a supermarket (Winn-Dixie). Their bond helps her navigate life's ups and downs, ultimately teaching her about friendship, kindness, and the pain of loss.

Because of Winn-Dixie

6. "Old Yeller" by Fred Gipson

A beloved classic, this book follows a brave and loyal dog, Old Yeller, who protects his family in the Texas frontier. His tale of courage and sacrifice is as moving as it is heartbreaking.

Old Yeller (Perennial Classics)

For Young Adult Readers

7. "Sounder" by William H. Armstrong

Set in the deep South, this story revolves around an African-American sharecropper family and their loyal dog, Sounder. It's a tale of resilience and hope amid heartache.

Sounder: A Newbery Award Winner

8. "A Dog's Purpose" by W. Bruce Cameron

Told from the dog's perspective, this book takes the reader through several lifetimes, exploring the dog's quest for purpose. It's a beautiful yet tearful exploration of love, life, and the bonds that connect us.

A Dog's Purpose: A Novel for Humans (A Dog's Purpose, 1)

9. "The Art of Racing in the Rain" by Garth Stein

This heart-wrenching book, narrated by a dog named Enzo, is filled with life lessons and emotional moments that will leave you reaching for tissues.

The Art of Racing in the Rain: A Novel

10. "Shiloh" by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

"Shiloh" is a powerful narrative about a young boy who finds an abused beagle and names it Shiloh. The story delves into ethical dilemmas as the boy tries to protect Shiloh from his cruel former owner, offering an emotionally charged narrative that explores themes of morality, empathy, and courage.

Shiloh (Shiloh Quartet, The)

11. "My Dog Skip" by Willie Morris

This heartwarming memoir tells the story of a boy and his dog growing up in the American South. The book explores themes of friendship, growth, and loss, and highlights the bond between a child and his pet.

My Dog Skip

For Adult Readers

12. "The Call of the Wild" by Jack London

This timeless classic portrays the transformation of a domestic dog into a creature of the wild. It's a moving story about survival and the indomitable spirit of life.

The Call of the Wild

13. "Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog" by John Grogan

John Grogan's hilarious and poignant memoir chronicles life with Marley, a neurotic and lovable Labrador retriever. Marley's escapades give Grogan rich material for his columns, but as Marley grows from an incorrigible puppy into an irreplaceable part of the family, the narrative takes a deeply touching turn.

Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog
14. "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle" by David Wroblewski

This epic novel follows the story of a mute boy named Edgar Sawtelle and his unique breed of dogs. When a family tragedy strikes, Edgar goes on the run with three loyal dogs, leading to a dramatic, heart-wrenching climax.The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

15. "Lily and the Octopus" by Steven Rowley

A unique and moving exploration of grief, "Lily and the Octopus" tells the story of Ted, a struggling writer, and his aging dachshund, Lily. When Ted discovers that Lily has a brain tumor (which he imagines as an octopus), he embarks on a quest to save her.

Lily and the Octopus

In conclusion, these books offer profound stories that encapsulate the joy, companionship, and inevitable heartache of the human-canine bond. Though tear-jerking, they provide valuable perspectives on love, loss, and resilience, reminding us why dogs are indeed our best friends.