A Dog’s Way Home parents guide

A Dog’s Way Home Parent Guide

A safe, sentimental, paint-by-numbers family film with strong appeal for children and dog lovers.

Overall B

After getting separated from her beloved owner, Bella travels 400 miles to get back home in this heart-tugging film with strong echoes of the classic "Lassie" movie.

Release date January 11, 2019

Violence B
Sexual Content A
Profanity A
Substance Use A

Why is A Dog’s Way Home rated PG? The MPAA rated A Dog’s Way Home PG for thematic elements, some peril and language

Run Time: 96 minutes

Official Movie Site

Parent Movie Review

Bella (voiced by Bryce Dallas Howard) is a young puppy, growing up with her mother and a pack of cats in the ruins of an old home. When Animal Control tries to clean out the space, Bella’s mother is taken, and Bella falls into the care of one of the cats. That is, until Lucas (Jonah Hauer-King) and Olivia (Alexandra Shipp) come by to feed the cats, and Bella decides that it’s time to find a new home with Lucas. Bella grows up to be a large dog and she and Lucas are very happy - until Animal Control returns to tell them that since Bella is a pit bull, she won’t be allowed in the city and will be euthanized if she is found off Lucas’s property. To save Bella from this dire fate, Lucas sends her to stay with friends in New Mexico temporarily until he can move to a safer location, but Bella can’t wait for Lucas to come back. She sets off on a grand adventure to find her way home and meets all kinds of strange animals and people on the way: some friendly, some dangerous, and some in between.

Frankly, there isn’t too much I can say about this movie that you can’t intuit from a plot synopsis or the trailer. It is one of those films that is exactly what you’d expect it to be, and nothing more. There are no surprising twists or dramatic revelations: The characters are the typical “bad” or “good” guys with few shades of grey, and the plot follows a pretty standard formula for a lost animal movie. I don’t know what else you’d expect from a director whose credits include “Air Bud” and both “Dolphin Tale” movies. It’s a safe, sentimental, paint-by-numbers family picture with strong appeal for children and animal lovers.

There’s not much for parents to be concerned about here. There is almost no objectionable content of any kind, and all but the youngest and most sensitive children should be able to handle the moderate peril and brief violence in the film. Adults and older teens may be bored by the insipid story, but hey, if I can make it through, so can you. Luckily, the dog is cute and engaging, so that helps. As far as the production values go, the film is pretty bland. The script is highly predictable and the music either sounds like the royalty-free stuff available online, or, even worse, cheesy covers of rock classics. There are a few uses of CGI (some more justified than others: you don’t really want your canine star play-wrestling with a live cougar) and they all look distinctly out of place.

This isn’t to say that A Dog’s Way Home is a bad movie. It isn’t a good movie either. It’s just a harmless movie that will be enjoyed by its target audience and tolerated by everyone else.

Directed by Charles Martin Smith. Starring Bryce Dallas Howard, Ashley Judd, and Barry Watson. Running time: 96 minutes. Theatrical release January 11, 2019. Updated

Watch the trailer for A Dog’s Way Home

A Dog’s Way Home
Rating & Content Info

Why is A Dog’s Way Home rated PG? A Dog’s Way Home is rated PG by the MPAA for thematic elements, some peril and language

Violence: Some scenes of peril which may be frightening to especially young or sensitive children. A gunshot is heard, and an animal is shown dead. A dead deer is shown, covered almost entirely in leaves. There are several encounters with a pack of coyotes, one of which involves some non-explicit violence between the animals. A man is buried in an avalanche but survives with some broken limbs. A homeless man dies quietly in his sleep. The remains of a small dead animal are shown but are not gory. There are several vehicle collisions in which no one seems to be hurt, as well as one in which an animal is struck and injured, with small amounts of blood on its fur.
Sexual Content: Couples are seen embracing, once in bed.
Profanity: None. Occasional name-calling or insulting words.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Two adult side characters are shown having a glass of wine together with dinner, but not drinking it. An empty beer can is seen in the background of another scene.


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A Dog’s Way Home Parents' Guide

Lassie, Bella…these fictional dogs imitate their real life canine counterparts in making long distances to return home. How do you think they manage to find their way across such vast distances?

Pets who get lost are at risk from predators and disease. Does your community have animal rescue organizations that care for these animals? Is there any way you can help?

Loved this movie? Try these books…

A classic kid-friendly novel about the connection between a boy and his dog is Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls. Newberry Honor Book, Old Yeller, by Fred Gipson remains a classic story of canine devotion – but don’t read it without a hankie nearby. Young children grieving a lost or deceased dog can find comfort in Hans Wilhelm’s I’ll Always Love You, with its gentle story and beautiful watercolors about a boy and his dog and his grief at her death.

Older readers will enjoy Garth Stein’s Art of Racing in the Rain, which gives a dog’s perspective on life. Readers looking for a funnier dog’s eye perspective will get a big laugh out of Jeremy Greenberg’s Sorry I Pooped in Your Shoe (and Other Heartwarming Letters from Doggie.)

Readers looking for stories guaranteed to tug at their heartstrings can head straight for Chicken Soup for the Soul: Loving Our Dogs: Heartwarming and Humorous Stories about our Companions and Best Friends by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen.

Home Video

The most recent home video release of A Dog’s Way Home movie is April 9, 2019. Here are some details…

Related home video titles:

Far From Home: The Adventures of Yellow Dog tells the story of a boy and his dog who are washed ashore after a shipwreck and must rely on each other to survive and find their way home. Alpha tells a similar tale, but one set 20,000 years ago in Ice Age Europe. Yet another story of a dog (actually two dogs and a cat) looking for a way back home is told in Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey.

Looking for doggy movies with a sky-high cute factor? Look no further than Dog Days and A Dog’s Purpose. Both films will hit the “awwww” switch for the dog lovers in your family.

Young dog enthusiasts in your family can enjoy kid-friendly canine tales in Lady and the Tramp and 101 Dalmatians.