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Things Your Dog Doesn’t Want You to Know (And I Don’t Want to Know Either)

Dog Book Misses Mark for Middle Grade Kids

Dear Human,

Your dog probably puzzles you. Most of us do that. And most of us would like to keep things as they are: humans in the dark, dogs with the upper hand.

But we dogs are about to let you in a little secret.  Okay, a lot of secrets.

  • We graduated first in our obedience class three times. This should tell you something.
  • Puppies know that they’re being cute. They’re using you.
  • We don’t sound anything like those silly voices you use to imitate us.
  • We hate those ridiculous names you give some of us. Moonbeam is not a dignified name for a mutt.
  • You might want to check your herb garden for fertilizer.
  • We are only wearing this stupid birthday hat so we can get some cake. No self-respecting dog cares about his birthday.
  • We are not spoiled, certainly not in comparison to teenage girls.
  • We are in charge of the house. We let you pretend that you are.
  • We’d be lost without you. We love you.

It’s all in our new book, Things Your Dog Doesn’t Want You To Know, as told to humans Hy Conrad and Jeff Johnson. Even Steve Martin (yes, THAT Steve Martin) raves about us!  Inside you’ll find revelations such as the reason we at the sofa (leather tastes very similar to rawhide), and what we really think of the costumes you dress us up in.

I’m not alone. Ten other courageous canines have stepped forward to tell you what your dog won’t – every last dirty, hairy bit of it.   If you have dogs, love dogs, or have ever been baffled by a dog, this book is a must-have.


I admit that I brought this book to my mother/daughter weekend at her sleep away camp and I envisioned up snuggled up in the tent, reading this book together.  I had bought her a lantern, even with this in mind. I got her the larger size one so that it would cast a light strong enough to read at night. She loves dogs. These are dog stories. It was supposed to be perfect.

So what happened? They say that there is no such thing as a bad dog. There are only bad dog owners. These stories will make you think otherwise. By making the dogs anthropomorphic and imbuing them with very strong and slightly twisted personalities, the dogs come off as slightly bitter and in somewhat sad situations.

The stories start up light and fairly happy. I wish the authors could have kept up that tone and story line. We turned the corner to the dark side when the German Shepard, Sarge, who is chronically “unemployed,” gets a taste for marijuana while a drug detection dog. The story goes on to indicate that perhaps Sarge might trade up to cocaine and heroin. WHOA! My rising 7th grader and I agreed: THIS BOOK IS NOT FOR MIDDLE SCHOOLERS!

This is a shame because most of the other stories would appeal to a middle grade audience. The layout, too, is very attractive. The entire book is in color and each story is less than two pages with photos of each dog narrator. I wish the book had received a hard edit to skew it a little younger.

So, if the stories need vetting for content, I wracked my brain on who the audience would be. Adult comedians like Steve Martin thinks it’s funny. I suppose this would appeal to an adult audience. I didn’t think these stories were David Sendaris funny, though the potential was there. High school then? I’m not sure about that either. Perhaps for reluctant high school readers?

My conclusion is that this would appeal to dog owners. Adults rather than children. Teens but not tweens. It misses the mark but only narrowly.

In a perfect world, I’d probably make this book a one author book rather than two, though as a reader, I had no idea who wrote which story. The darker stories need to be removed and the book shortened in half. Then, I’d enlarge the font slightly, add in a few more illustrations to each story and recast this book for ages 9 and up.

The drug story, though, needs to go. That was our turning point when we put the book down, too disturbed to continue.

To purchase the book at Amazon, click on image above. To purchase at Barnes and Noble, click on image below.

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By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. Thanks for taking part in the tour!

    • Hi Teddy Rose,
      Thanks for inviting me for the tour. I wish this book had been edited for a PG-13 version. It was on the verge of being a great middle grade book until some of those stories took a dark turn. I kind of had to draw the line at the story of Sarge with his drug addiction and my 12-year-old agreed. Too bad, because we were really enjoying it together as a Living In A Tent Together Read Aloud. (It was a Mother/Daughter weekend at her sleep away camp). The layout is great! Visually the book is very appealing. Most of the stories work as MG but it just has too much of an edge. I wonder if it was one of the three authors and maybe that person’s stories should be cut. It’s not really an adult book though. Or YA. What did you think and what audience would you hand this book to?

  2. Artchoo!

    Interesting. Sounds like a hit or miss sort of a read. Poor, drug-addicted dog.
    Artchoo! recently posted…Outdoor Learning SpacesMy Profile

    • Hi Artchoo!
      I’m not sure if I want my kids reading about a drug-addicted dog and my eldest had no interest; in fact, that is where she closed the book and rejected it. Too bad because it was so appealing up to that chapter. It’s laid out like a magazine with 4 color spreads and photos. It’s a near miss!

  3. Margie

    Very interesting about the dark side of this book. Thanks for the review.

    • Hi Margie,
      It made us think, “poor doggies.” And truly, dogs are not really like that. At least I don’t think so or mine does not appear to be. It could have been a fun book for kids so I’m sorry that it made a turn to the dark side.

  4. Jeff Johnson

    Hi — thanks so much for taking the time to read and review my new book. I’m sorry it didn’t meet your expectations. We tried to give the 11 dog characters a bit of an edge and aimed the book squarely at an adult audience. That’s why Steve Martin loved it so much — because it wasn’t as sentimental as many dog humor books are. Nevertheless, I appreciate your candor and honesty. Thanks again.
    Jeff Johnson recently posted…Why will our dog go to the bathroom when she is free outside, but when we have to have her on a leash (with someone holding her, or connected to her dog house) she won’t go to the bathroom? This often results in her going to the bathroom inside.My Profile

    • Hi Jeff,
      Perhaps I was the wrong person to review your book then! The layout was so appealing, I was sure it was for kids! Also, I only blog on kid and YA books so I assumed it was a kid book! I can see the appeal for adults though! Thanks for stopping by!

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