Story

A Dog’s Purpose is the story of a dog (voice of Josh Gad) who is reincarnated into a different life every time he dies. The story spans several decades and follows four of the dog’s ‘lives’ from birth to death. The dog narrates throughout. In its second life, the dog is a red retriever that belongs to a little boy, Ethan (K.J. Apa). Ethan and the dog become true friends and grow up together. In its third life, the dog is reincarnated as a police dog that must help a lonely officer (John Ortiz) solve crimes. In its fourth life, the dog comes back as a corgi owned by a lonely college student, Maya (Kirby Howell-Baptiste). The dog helps Maya find romance and live a full and happy life. And the dog’s fifth life starts roughly but takes a surprising turn.

Themes

Family breakdown; domestic violence; alcoholism; death; animal neglect; romance; kidnapping; reincarnation. 

Violence

A Dog’s Purpose has some violence. For example:

  • Ethan’s father is drunk (he is an alcoholic) and threatens to hit Ethan’s mother. He also pushes her over. Ethan jumps in front of his mother and wrestles with his father, telling him to leave.
  • A policeman aims a gun and practises in a shooting alley. He’s trying to get his dog used to the sound of gun shots.
  • A man kidnaps a young girl, holds her hostage on a bridge, and threatens to push her over.
  • A police dog gets shot while trying to protect its owner.

Content that may disturb children

Under 5
In addition to the violent scenes mentioned above, A Dog’s Purpose has some scenes that could scare or disturb children under five years. For example:

  • A malicious practical joke goes wrong and Ethan’s house catches on fire. Ethan, his mother and Bailey the dog must escape through a second-storey window. It’s a scary scene, which involves Ethan being rushed off to hospital in an ambulance.
  • Bailey the dog dies of old age, and Ethan is devastated.
  • A dog is chained up outside a rundown house and neglected, before being abandoned on the street. 

From 5-8
In addition to the violent and distressing scenes mentioned above, A Dog’s Purpose has some scenes that could scare or disturb children in this age group. For example:

  • A young girl is pushed off a bridge and falls into the water, where she struggles to stay afloat. A dog drags her to shore.
  • Ethan is sad because his father has depression and alcoholism. Ethan’s dad often becomes angry and shouts a lot when he has been drinking.
  • In an emotional scene, Ethan breaks up with his high-school sweetheart.

From 8-13
Children in this age group might be disturbed by the violent and distressing scenes mentioned above. 

Over 13
Some children in this age group might be disturbed by the violent and distressing scenes mentioned above. 

Sexual references

A Dog’s Purpose has some romantic and sexual references. For example:

  • When Ethan meets Hannah at the fair for the first time, the dog comments on how Ethan and Hannah have a funny, sweaty smell when they see each other.
  • There are various romantic scenes of couples falling in love. 

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

A Dog’s Purpose shows some use of alcohol.

Nudity and sexual activity

A Dog’s Purpose shows some sexual activity. For example, Ethan and Hannah kiss in his car. The dog comments on how they are always licking each other’s faces.

Product placement

None of concern

Coarse language

There is some mild coarse language and toilet humour in A Dog’s Purpose.

Ideas to discuss with your children

A Dog’s Purpose is a heart-warming, funny and very emotional drama aimed towards older children and young teenagers. It touches on many serious themes without being too confronting. It’s funny and has lots of powerful messages about friendship and love. It’s a good movie for dog lovers.

Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include the:

  • strong bond between people and their pets
  • importance of love and family.

This movie could also give you the chance to talk with your children about real-life issues like alcoholism, domestic violence and arson.