Study Guide

A Dog's Purpose

A Dog's Purpose Introduction

We love dogs. All dogs. Pugs. Dachshunds. Golden retrievers. Collies. Beagles. Schnauzers. Pit bulls. Dogs who listen to Pitbull. Weird blends like snickerpoos and Wienerschnitzels. Did we mention the Shmoop labradoodle?

We love big dogs, small dogs, skinny dogs, drooling dogs, smelly dogs, fat dogs, hot dogs, and dogs in the throes of an existential crisis after reincarnation.

We meant it when we said all dogs.

Ever since Oog the Caveman went hunting with his trusty Sabrewulf companion, humans have told dog stories. From Old Yeller to Marley & Me, they're often heartwarming tales about humans and dogs, but they usually end with pages soaked in tears.

A Dog's Purpose isn't one of those schmaltzy books where the dog dies at the end. No, in this one, the dog dies at the beginning. Then he dies again. And again. Each time, he is reborn as a new dog, but he retains the memories of his past lives. Eternally reincarnated, our dog narrator ponders a big question: Why?

Why is he here? What is his purpose? Will he ever catch his own tail?

The book's author, W. Bruce Cameron, is no newborn pup. An experienced humor columnist, Cameron wrote the book 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter in 2001, which was adapted into a TV show with John Ritter. With Cameron's cred—not to mention the fact that it's not hard to sell a book with a cute puppy on the cover—A Dog's Purpose was a surefire success when it was published in 2010.

But like its starring dog—who lives as a feral mutt, a beloved family dog, and a K-9 cop—A Dog's Purpose exceeded expectations. It spent over a year on the New York Times Bestseller List, which is a few lifetimes in book years. Cameron later wrote a sequel, A Dog's Journey, in 2012, which showed us that a dog's work is never done. Neither is that of a bestselling author.

Writing one of the most successful dog stories since Lassie meant that Cameron's novel was sure to be made into a Hollywood film. Well, the movie is directed by the only man we could see helming a movie about a loyal dog: Lasse Hallström. Really, his name is Lasse, people. Hallström also directed Chocolatthough hopefully he kept chocolate away from the set of A Dog's Purpose—and an earlier film called My Life as a Dog, which is not in fact about a dog. A Dog's Purpose, which is about a dog, stars humans Dennis Quaid, Britt Robertson, and more dogs than you can shake a stick at.

But don't shake that stick unless you plan on throwing it. That's just cruel.

Why don't you throw this dog a bone and check out A Dog's Purpose to find out what a dog's purpose really is. Is a dog's purpose to make us go aww? That's a big part of it, but you can find out the rest once you get past the adorable cover. And—dare we say it?—the book might even get you thinking about your purpose, too.

What is A Dog's Purpose About and Why Should I Care?

Asking this question about A Dog's Purpose is like asking Do you even have a heart? The book has a puppy on the cover. Aww, puppy. How can you not care, you monster?

Okay, once you open up the book and don't see picture after picture of adorable puppies (that's what the Internet is for), you see that there's a story inside. With words. Words about, believe it or not, a dog looking for his purpose.

And that's a good reason to care about this book. If you care about dogs, like really care about them, you know that you have to be prepared to handle all aspects of a dog's life before you make the commitment to own one. Life with a dog isn't only fluffy tails, big paws, snuggles, and slobber. Owning a dog is like a marriage: it's through sickness and health, good breath and bad, spayings and neuterings, 'til death do you part.

On top of that, through his multiple lives, the dog narrator of A Dog's Purpose experiences the ups and downs of existence, just as we do. And we see that the best relationships he has are with owners who understand the reality of canine companionship.

Worst-case scenario? Your dog will care about the book, even if you don't, because it'll give him something new to chew on.

A Dog's Purpose Resources

WEBSITES

An Author's Purpose
Cameron's website gives you the scoop on his books and the eclectic assortment of films he has written, like Muffin Top and a mockumentary featuring Melissa McCarthy.

MOVIE

A Dog's Movie
If you get nothing else out of the website for A Dog's Purpose, you can at least get three seconds of enjoyment from the fact that it transforms your mouse cursor into a paw print.

ARTICLES-AND-INTERVIEWS

In a Past Life
In this interview before the publication of A Dog's Journey, the sequel to A Dog's Purpose, Cameron talks about his newspaper career writing columns about "daughters, dogs, manhood." That would be a good title for another sequel to A Dog's Purpose.

Barkens Up the Right Tree
Best-named website Sniff and Barkens interviews W. Bruce Cameron about his career writing about dogs, dogs, and more dogs. Cameron also reveals the story about his own dog, Tucker.

Two Paws Up
Get Cameron's dog's review of his books in this insightful interview.

VIDEO

Giving You the Feels
The Dog's Purpose trailer seeks to find both the meaning in life and a way to get your butt into a theater seat.

Behind the Barks
There are humans in the movie, too. Find out what they thought about making the movie.

AUDIO

Bark Bark Bark
If you need some background noise while you read, here are twelve hours of dog barks.

IMAGES

Down Under Doggy
The Australian cover makes it look like the dog is materializing out of the heavens.

Puppy Love
This image was either scanned from a young boy's childhood scrapbook or taken from the movie trailer.