The Boss Dog of the Park

story by Marian McGuinness , illustrated by Sarah Davis

Learning intention: 

I am learning to explore texts that highlight issues and problems with making moral decisions and to reflect on decisions that have an impact on characters, so that I can create more complex characters.  

Success criteria:

  • I can reflect on the decisions a character makes and the possible outcomes of these decisions.  
  • I can discuss how challenges faced by characters and how they might work together with others to overcome a challenge can create a stronger character for the audience.  
  • I can compose an extract to add to the story, where a character is challenged.  


Read The Boss Dog of the Park. Discuss how Gretel reacts when faced with danger, ensuring students note that she acts bravely. Discuss the following questions:  

  • What risks might Gretel have faced when she stood up to the Boss Dog? (e.g. the Boss Dog might have bitten her) 
  • How else might Gretel have acted? (perhaps she could have phoned for the police, or slowly backed away from the dog) 
  • What might have been the outcome of this new choice? (the dog might have followed her) 

Inform students that many of the characters in The Boss Dog of the Park rely on others to help them overcome a challenge. Focus students’ attention on the character Barney. Discuss the events in the story from Barney’s point of view, ensuring students note the following:  

  • They arrive at the dog park and Barney is happy and excited to play with Gretel.  
  • When the Boss Dog approaches, Barney is scared and he cowers behind Dylan.  
  • When Gretel scares away the Boss Dog, Barney feels relieved and he confidently walks with Gretel and Dylan.  

Place students with a partner and instruct them to describe the events in this story, this time from Dylan’s point of view. Ensure they note that at the beginning of the story Dylan is excited to be in the park, when the Boss Dog approaches he tries to stand up for Barney, but when Gretel steps in to rescue them he is relieved.  

Discuss the events from Gretel’s point of view, emphasising that she wasn’t particularly scared of the Boss Dog due to her previous experiences chasing foxes away so she independently stood up to him. Discuss an experience that might cause Gretel to rely on other characters in the story, The Boss Dog of the Park, to overcome a challenge. Sample responses include, she encounters something she is scared of, mice for example, and she needs to rely on someone else, such as Barney, to save her.  

Collaboratively compose an extract to add to the story, where Gretel is faced with a challenge that another character helps her to overcome. For example:  

The trio walked along in companionable silence. Barney enjoyed the coolness of the shade on his tired paws. Suddenly Gretel let out a shriek. Barney’s tail dropped. The Bully Dog must have returned. Through half-closed eyes he forced himself to look in the direction Gretel was pointing. There, on the ground, scuttled two brown mice.  

Barney looked at Gretel. Her hand was over her eyes and she was shaking. She was petrified. Poor Gretel, he had to help. Barney jumped to attention, barking and stomping his paws at the mice. All at once, they turned and ran away. Barney held his head high. Gretel swooped down and hugged him tight.  

“Oh Barney, I was so scared. You’re my hero.” 

Place students in pairs. Instruct them to compose an extract to add to the story, where Gretel is challenged, and she must rely on others.