Keeping Up With The Penguins

Reviews For The Would-Be Booklover

Does The Dog Die? 30+ Books To Avoid

I have read way too many books lately where (gulp) the dog dies. I hate it. I especially hate it when I have no idea that it’s coming. I know it’s my personal trigger, not shared by everyone, but it bothers me enough that I decided to put together a list, just in case anyone else out there wants to avoid being blindsided.

Does The Dog Die - 30 Books To Avoid - Book List - Keeping Up With The Penguins
Help keep my dog in stylish harnesses and destroyable toys: make a purchase via an affiliate link on this page.

This list is not exhaustive, obviously. I haven’t read every book (though I’m giving it a red hot go). I also haven’t included books where the dog famously dies (e.g., Old Yeller, Where The Red Fern Grows, those “classics”). This is specifically a list of books where the dog dies and you might not see it coming. I’ll update this list of books to avoid as I encounter more.

I’ve also included books with instances of cruelty towards dogs or dog injuries, even if they don’t necessarily die, because I find those just as difficult (so I’m assuming others do, too). Where I’ve published a review, I’ve linked to it, if you’re looking for a bit more context about what happens.

Oh, and I’ve included a few photos of Fyodor Dogstoyevsky too, just to remind you in this misery parade that there are happy, beloved dogs out there living their best lives.

Fyodor Dogstoyevsky wearing a rainbow harness sitting on the grass, next to a copy of Sharp Objects

Books To Avoid Where The Dog Dies

A Game Of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder by Holly Jackson

A Tale For The Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

The Absolutely True Diary Of A Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

The Anomaly by Hervé Le Tellier

Big Swiss by Jen Beagin

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Burst by Mary Otis

The Call Of The Wild by Jack London

The Chain by Adrian McKinty

The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time by Mark Haddon

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

The Days Of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante

Death In Her Hands by Ottessa Moshfegh

Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver

Fyodor Dogstoyevsky cuddling his teddy on a soft blanket next to a copy of The Silence Project

Educated by Tara Westover

How To Sell A Haunted House by Grady Hendrix

The Grapes Of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Lapvona by Ottessa Moshfegh

The Little Friend by Donna Tartt

The Maidens by Alex Michaelides

The Marriage Act by John Marrs

Milkman by Anna Burns

My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent

My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

The Nothing Man by Catherine Ryan Howard

Of Mice And Men by John Steinbeck

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

Perfume by Patrick Suskind

Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe

Fyodor Dogstoyevsky in a Christmas outfit under someone's arm, behind an open Santa book

She Is Haunted by Paige Clark

The Southern Book Club’s Guide To Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

Tender Is The Flesh by Augustina Bazterrica

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

The Vegetarian by Han Kang

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

The Winners by Fredrik Backman


  1. Ugh, thank you for this list! I’m currently reading a Middle Grade fantasy series (the Wingfeather Saga-four books total) and in the first book, you are led to believe the dog dies (in a devastating way) only to find out that he is healed and comes back as a dog big enough to ride (charming!). Then in book 2, he actually DOES DIE horrifically and I was so crushed I couldn’t pick the book back up for several weeks (still haven’t finished it).

    Another book to add to your list that scarred me was Where the Forest Meets the Stars by Glendy Vanderah.

    Anyway, I am always here for this trigger warning.

    • Sheree

      July 8, 2023 at 1:25 PM

      GAHHHH!!! That series sounds like my nightmare – and to think it’s MIDDLE GRADE 😭 And thank you for the tip re: Where The Forest Meets The Stars, will update the list accordingly. Big hugs! x

  2. Grady Hendrix and John Steinbeck… repeat offenders! Although I think we’re safe to passume JS was a dog person…
    I’ll throw in Animal People by Charlotte Wood. Found it personally devastating as it is a GSD and I have a very cute, very sooky GSD…

  3. Good heads up, amazing I can read about a dozen people dying in some nasty way but leave the animals out of it

    • Sheree

      July 23, 2023 at 9:44 PM

      I heartily agree, Phil!

      • I Am Legend by Richard Matheson, and The Wall by Marlen Haushofer are two best avoided. As the main characters best friends, upon whom they rely for emotional support, the unexpected deaths of the sweet animals took me apart. I adore Matheson’s writing (What Dreams May Come is brilliant), but killing pets is never acceptable with me. Stephen King is also guilty, but I’m seldom surprised by his imagination.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *