A Dog’s Purpose

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Short takes

Not recommended under 10; parental guidance to 13 (violence, scary scenes, adult themes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for A Dog’s Purpose
  • a review of A Dog’s Purpose completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 11 May 2017.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 10 Not recommended due to violence, scary scenes and adult themes.
Children aged 10-13 Parental guidance recommended due to violence, scary scenes and adult themes.
Children over the age of 13 Ok for this age group.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: A Dog’s Purpose
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild themes
Length: 100 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the 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 film spans many decades and follows four of the dog’s ‘lives’ from birth through to death. It is narrated throughout by the dog. In its second life, the dog is a red retriever that belongs to a little boy called Ethan (KJ Apa). They become true friends and we see the two grow up together. In its third life, the dog is reincarnated as a police dog who must help a lonely officer (John Ortiz) to solve crimes. In its fourth life, the dog comes back as a corgi belonging to lonely college student ‘Maya’ (Kirby Howell-Baptiste) helping her to find romance and live a full and happy life. The dog’s fifth life starts roughly but takes a surprising turn!


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

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

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • Ethan’s father is drunk (he is an alcoholic) and threatens to hit Ethan’s mother and 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, to get his dog accustomed 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 whilst trying to protect its owner.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • A malicious practical joke goes wrong and Ethan’s house catches on fire. Ethan, his mother and Bailey need to 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 seen chained up outside a rundown house and neglected, before being abandoned on the street.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • A young girl is pushed off a bridge and falls into the water where she struggles to stay afloat, she is dragged to shore by a dog.
  • Ethan is sad because his Father is a depressed alcoholic and often becomes angry and shouts a lot when he’s been drinking.
  • Ethan breaks up with his high-school sweetheart and it is quite emotional.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

  • Children in this age group may also be disturbed by the above scenes.

Thirteen and overinfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

  • Some children in this age group may also be disturbed by the above scenes.

Product placement

  • None noted.

Sexual references

There are some romantic and sexual references in this movie, including:

  • When Ethan sees 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.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • Ethan and Hannah kiss in his car. The dog comments on how they are always licking each other’s faces.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Alcohol

Coarse language

There is some mild coarse language and toilet humour in this movie, including:

  • Dog says, “My butt itches”
  • Shit.
  • Bailey the dog passes wind in the car causing everyone some discomfort.

In a nutshell

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

The main message from this movie is that the love and devotion of a pet is forever.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

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

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as.

  • Alcoholism, domestic violence, arson.