The Good Dog

The Good Dog

By Avi
For Ages: 8 - 12
  • 2
When the Wild Calls

McKinley, a malamute, is a good dog -- he's reliable and trustworthy. Whether it's watching over the other dogs of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, or taking care of his human pup, Jack, McKinley never even thinks of letting anyone down -- until he meets Lupin. Lupin is a she-wolf and she's urging the dogs of Steamboat Springs to leave their domesticated lives and join her wild pack. And though she scares McKinley, he also finds himself drawn to her and the life of freedom that she offers.
For the first time, McKinley's loyalties are torn. Should he stay with his humans and continue to lead the dogs of Steamboat Springs? Or should he join the wolf and live freely, like his ancestors did? When the wild calls, what will McKinley's answer be?
  • Atheneum Books for Young Readers | 
  • 256 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780689838255 | 
  • April 2003 | 
  • Grades 3 - 7 | 
  • Lexile ® 560L
List Price $7.99 (price may vary by retailer)
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Reading Group Guide

A Reading Group Guide to

The Good Dog
by Avi

About the Book

McKinley is one lucky dog! He spends his days roaming freely around Steamboat Springs, Colorado, but at night he can return to his warm and loving home with Jack and his parents. And McKinley is lead dog in Steamboat Springs, respected for his strength, wisdom, and charisma. But McKinley’s world is turned upside down when a she-wolf comes to town and tries to convince the dogs to join her pack. Suddenly McKinley’s leadership is challenged by another dog, and his friends are in danger. And something deep within him responds to the she-wolf and the wild life of freedom she offers. Publishers Weekly notes, “Themes reminiscent of Jack London’s Call of the Wild ring throughout this vividly imagined animal story.”

Discussion Questions

1. In The Good Dog, Avi creates an alternate world for dogs, with rules, traditions, and phrases all its own. What are some of the differences between dog life and human life? Do these canine details add to or detract from the story?

2. McKinley feels a sense of ownership for Jack and his family, yet humans traditionally feel that they own dogs. Who do you think is right? Can it be a partnership? What does each party bring to the relationship? What is Lupin’s view of “ownership”?

3. Describe McKinley’s first see more

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About the Author

Photograph by Katherine Warde


Avi is the author of more than seventy books for children and young adults, including the 2003 Newbery medal winner Crispin: The Cross of Lead. He has won two Newbery Honors and many other awards for his fiction. He lives with his family in Denver, Colorado. Visit him at