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Dog Ate My Homework History



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SIMON: I don't know what to say. The dog ate my script.


SIMON: You know that old excuse that makes people groan, palpably ridiculous, right? But was it always so? This week Forrest Wickman of Slate magazine traced the origin of that phrase school kids have used for decades to explain why they don't have their homework and adults have cited as what amounts to an exemplar of absurdity.

Forrest Wickman joins us from Slate in New York. Thanks so much for being with us.

FORREST WICKMAN: Thanks for having me.

SIMON: So, near as you can tell, who was the first person to say something like, the dog ate my homework?

WICKMAN: It's hard to point to anyone in particular. One can make the argument that one of the first examples is this guy Saint Tyron(ph) who around the fifth century had this fox that he found and he started taking the fox around. And at some point the fox ate his psalms.

SIMON: So the fox ate my scripture?



SIMON: OK. So that's the 5th century. We've got some time to account for. Yes. And?

WICKMAN: It really starts picking up in the 20th century. One of the earliest really popular stories that's told often around 1905, 1910 - this priest who finishes his sermon and then he pulls his clerk aside and he asks his clerk: What did you think of the sermon? He's a little worried. And the clerk says: Oh, I think it was a fine sermon. And the priest says: Oh, I'm so glad because the dog just ate the last several pages of my sermon.

SIMON: What other kind of permutations were you able to find over the years?

WICKMAN: Yeah, so even through the '60s people - it's still juts one of many excuses. People might say my dog ate my homework. My dog went on my homework is one excuse that's used in a popular book from 1965 that's called "Up the Down Staircase."

SIMON: This is Bel Kaufman's novel about a New York City high school. Right. Yeah.

WICKMAN: Right. And it was turned into a movie in 1967. And then in the 1970s, it finally really becomes a think, a stock excuse that was well known as perhaps the most popular excuse.

SIMON: Is it an excuse that's running out of steam in the digital age when it might make more logical sense to say the dog drooled on my hard drive?

WICKMAN: Right. There has been some speculation about this. Google has these things called engrams, which track the appearance of a phrase over time. And pretty much any permutation of my dog ate my homework, all of those phrases, have been declining over the last decade or so.

SIMON: Anything to replace it?

WICKMAN: I don't know. In the '90s, there were all these children's books that started to really play with the phrase once it was so well known. So, "Godzilla Ate My Homework," "A Dinosaur Ate My Homework," "Aliens Ate My Homework," "My Teacher Ate My Homework." But I don't see any of those taking over anytime soon.

SIMON: I like the aliens ate my homework. I mean, perhaps that's their way of learning about our world.

WICKMAN: That could be how it works.


SIMON: Forrest Wickman of Slate magazine. Thanks so much for being with us.

WICKMAN: Thanks very much.


SIMON: This is NPR News,

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Calvin...has problems...

Basically, this is any child character explaining to his teacher why he hasn't done his homework. This will be either a lie, which may or may not be believed, or a Cassandra Truth. If it is the latter, expect them to also bring in the evidence proving their case (such as moist bits from homework, or even the animal itself.) The most common variant involves a dog, but other animals can be used as well. Though this has become a Dead Horse Trope, and children rarely use this excuse seriously, the second variation on this trope is in fact Truth in Television. Many dogs do have a thing for paper, or are just Extreme Omnivores.


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    Anime and Manga 

  • In Futakoi, Nozomu is always wary whenever the goat is around when he's doing his homework. No one believes Nozomu because the little bastard is nice to everyone except him.
  • Inverted in Kokuhaku Game, where the dog attempts to do the homework.

    Comic Books 

  • A Disney AdventuresGoof Troop comic had PJ offering this excuse for his homework. Though he had the sense to bring Chainsaw, still attached to said homework, with him.
  • Viz had neotenous bank manager Playtime Fontayne use this excuse to explain his failure to deliver a bunch of monthly reports to head office.
  • In Archie Comics, one Jughead comic's Cover Gag involves Jughead not submitting any homework. Miss Grundy was in complete disbelief over his excuse.

    Grundy: Let me get this straight: You ate your own homework?

    Jughead: I can't help it! All those word problems were about food!

    Fan Fic 

  • IT'S MY LIFE!: "Hey Scot yuo must do are homework an yurs but well eat yurs so you get a bad grad LOL!" My [mad dog] bros sayd an started to pump at me.
  • Someone from Harry's year in Oh God Not Again! had to turn in their homework in tattered ruins, after the book Hagrid assigned for his class tried to eat it.
  • In Strange Visitors from Another Century one of Salazar Slytherin's students claims that his pet bowtruckle ate his homework and Slytherin assigns him an essay on the importance of having a ready excuse.
  • In With a Forked Tongue I Lie in Wait (Taming Snakes) Harry starts spinning an excuse about an "ugly monkey" in the lake and his missing Transfiguration essay.

    McGonagall: You don't honestly expect me to believe that a kappa ate your homework, do you?

  • The 17th Kill la Kill AU comic mentioned that a the two-year old Mako ate Nui's homework, however, it also noted that she wouldn't do so otherwise if the latter didn't spill food on it.
  • In The Paths Diverge Natasja Irons used this particular excuse so often that her art teacher became convinced that paper was said canine's natural diet.
  • In The Snitch EffectThe Monster Book of Monsters eats Harry's homework.


  • 102 Dalmatians has an example not related to school. Probation Officer Chloe Simon wants one of her charges, Ewan, to show a pay stub and he says he can't because a dog ate it. Chloe, of course, doesn't believe him and asks if he couldn't come with a better story. He tells one about being abducted at Picadilly Circus. Ewan eventually shows a photograph of him and his boss at the dog shelter he works at and a drool-covered IOU note he received instead of the pay stub because the shelter is low on funds.


  • Aliens Ate My Homework (they really did, too). It doesn't end well, but the aliens appreciate how the apparent Refuge in Audacity helped cover for the other weird things that were happening.
  • Discworld:
    • Mentioned in Thief of Time, in that no dog dares to eat homework given to Susan's students. Instead, they sniff it out and carefully bring it to her class if the kid forgot. She is like that.
    • In another Discworld book, it's mentioned that at Unseen University, your homework could eat the dog.
  • A Peanuts picture book has a literal version. Snoopy was playing World War I Flying Ace and pretended Sally's book report was sensitive papers. She chased him and he swallowed the report. So she takes him to school the next day and takes him up in front of the class.

    Sally: I might have a little trouble reading it. *shakes Snoopy* I SAID...I might have a little trouble reading it!

  • In the Raine Benares story The Trouble With Demons, a student tells his teacher that a Krog (a lesser demon that eats paper and ink) ate his homework. After a thorough quizzing from the teacher (who is the head of the demonology department) on the alleged Krog, the excuse is accepted.
  • The main character in Paula Danziger's The Cat Ate My Gymsuit uses the title statement as one of her excuses for not participating in PE class.

    Live Action TV 

  • In one season 10 episode of M*A*S*H, Hawkeye gets in serious trouble because a goat ate the entire payroll (and, naturally, no one believes him; he is charged with stealing it). Later, Hawkeye is finally proved innocent when the goat subsequently eats a general's report on the issue. Seems sort of the same thing in spirit.
  • Briefly mentioned in an episode of Wizards of Waverly Place when the Russos adopt a dragon that's been transformed into a beagle. At one point, the dragon dog sets Alex's homework on fire, to which she comments: "The dog burned my homework, that's a new one."
  • In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "The Nagus", Nog tries to explain why he hasn't done his homework. The only excuse he comes up with is that "Vulcans stole his homework".
  • Ren Stevens in Even Stevens, when having to be paired up with a Pig, ended up having her homework eaten by the pig. She tries to explain this to her teacher, with predictable results.
  • An episode of Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide involved Ned giving tips on good excuses. He comments that saying a dog ate your homework is a bad excuse... right before a dog eats his homework. The rest of the episode has him trying to find the dog and convince his teacher Mr. Sweeney that he wasn't lying.
  • Married... with Children invoked this trope in an episode where Peggy goes Back to School because she didn't pass home economics (no surprises there). At a scene, a teacher asks the class to wake Kelly, who quickly responds that her dog ate her homework. Later on, when Peggy is introduced to class, both she and Kelly fall asleep and the teacher asks the class to wake them both, who respond that the dog ate their homework.
    • And later, Al eats Peg's homework (a roast rack of lamb).
  • In one episode of Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters from Beverly Hills, one of the heroes was doing her homework when they've been called into battle. She then took the homework with her, eventually leading to the homework being eaten by the monster. The teacher later sarcastically asked if a dog ate her homework. She answered it was a monster and the teacher took it for sarcasm.
  • Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad had an episode titled "A Virus Ate My Homework". Unlike what the title might have made fans expect, Sam's homework wasn't eaten. His little sister painted it over. Fortunately, the emergency caused by the virus (namely, Kilokhan trying to use the world's nuclear arsenal to start World War III) made the students go home earlier, allowing Sam another day to redo the homework. It was cold comfort.
  • Invoked in the lyrics to the theme song for Saved by the Bell.
  • In an episode of Full House, the Tanners' newly-acquired puppy Comet eats DJ's book report, but DJ is smart enough to know it won't fly even if it is the truth so she decides to tell her teacher Michelle ate it.
  • In one episode of The Wonder Years, Kevin has to do a school assignment involving a potato. His new dog eats it, and the teacher reacts in disbelief that his dog ate his homework.
  • Inverted in a fourth-season episode of Person of Interest: Bear eats Finch's students' papers before Finch can grade them.


  • Happens to the kid at the beginning of Mötley Crüe's video for "Smokin' In The Boys Room".

    Newspaper Comics 

  • Calvin and Hobbes provides the page image.
  • The Far Side: One cartoon has a class full of dogs with the teacher asking, "Well, here we go again... Did anyone here not eat his or her homework on the way to school?"
  • On FoxTrot, Jason's iguana Quincy has eaten his and his siblings' homework, causing them to either force Jason to fix up their homework (and it is also implied in the final panel that they were actually feeding the iguana their homework), or tell Jason off for feeding the iguana the wrong homework assignment. At least once Peter collected the bits of homework left by Quincy to take to his teacher to prove it actually happened.
  • A 1995 Peanuts strip has this variation:

    Rerun: We don't have homework in kindergarten.

    Lucy: I know. You're lucky.

    Rerun: When we do, I'll tell the teacher my dog ate my homework.

    Lucy: You don't have a dog.

    Rerun: I'll borrow a dog.

    Snoopy: Write your homework on a doughnut, and I'll eat it.

    • Inverted in another comic, where instead of eating Charlie Brown's homework, Snoopy actually wrote it.
  • In Dilbert, a kid tries to invokethis with Dogbert. It ends badly.

    Kid: A dog made me eat it.

  • Garfield:
  • Subverted in For Better or for Worse when Elizabeth tries to get Farley to eat her homework. He refuses to touch it.
  • Inverted in a cartoon published in a book of puzzles: a dog is ripping through a pile of papers, and a woman is screaming: "You stupid mutt! How am I supposed to tell my students that my dog ate their homework?"
  • Grand Avenue: In the October 6, 2014 strip, Michael has to tell his teacher that "My grandma ate my homework." For once, it's a logical explanation: his homework was an experiment involving rock candy.

     Tabletop Games 

  • The adult party game Cards Against Humanity features a question regarding substituting 'dog' for something else. Naturally, given the nature of the game, this is very likely to enter the realm of Refuge in Audacity ...

    Video Games 

  • Implied in Persona 4; the main character can eat his little cousin's science project. So it's easy to imagine poor Nanako trying to explain to the teacher that her cousin (or Big Bro, as she calls him) ate her science project...
  • The "Comic Calamities" case in Another Case Solved involves retrieving a rare comic book which, when the player character finds it, is missing a few pages. When you confront the artist about this he babbles "My hamster ate them! Really!"
  • A couple of word problems in Math Rescue feature this. One plays this straight with the logical consequence of the student having to redo their homework. The other turns it on its head by having the teacher's dog eat homework that said teacher was grading.
  • Phil's favorite excuse for missing notes or evidence in Medieval Cop. Given Phil is a talking dog, who is also literally a lawyer from hell, it's more I ate it! though.

    Web Original 


  • Sandra and Woo:
    • In one strip, one of the other girls in class, on being asked about her homework, admits that she ate it herself. Specifically, Larisa put it through a blender and force-fed her the resulting mash. Nobody believes it, of course, but Sandra notices an electrical plug poking out of Larisa's backpack... and considering Larisa's nature, you really can't put it past her.
    • Larisa also once tries the excuse that her father ate her homework. And it's actually the most credible of the many excuses she gave for not having her homework in that strip.
  • Freefall:
    • Florence was asked in one strip if her owner ever asked her to eat his homework. She replies "Of course not, it was all done on the computer. He taught me to delete it instead."
    • Referenced in this strip, where destroying a potentially dangerous sticky note by eating it is the least problematic disposal method.
  • Gil from Girl Geniusonce said in fever "Sorry, professor, my latest experiment ate my lecture notes..."
    • More recently, it's been revealed that the university in Paris does not accept the old "My homework ate my dog" excuse.
  • In one Kevin & Kell strip, Rudy claims "I accidentally ate my own homework".

    Western Animation 

  • An episode of Angela Anaconda had Angela's dog actually eat her homework (her mom accidentally spilled bacon grease on it while her dad was looking it over), but of course no one believed her.
  • Kick Buttowski: Suburban Daredevil: Kick tells his teacher, "A dog ate my homework," and it's the truth. A vicious little dog did (and is shown in Flashback) eat his homework.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In one episode the dog really did eat Bart's homework just before he left for school. Naturally, his teacher didn't believe him.

    "You ate my homework? I didn't know dogs really did that."

    • When the family dog, Santa's Little Helper, starts working for the police, Bart has no choice but to eat his own homework.
    • In an episode where Bart's teacher starts dating Ned Flanders and saw Santa's Little Helper, she asked Bart if that's the dog that eats his homework. Trying to convince her by giving the dog a homework for him to eat. The dog refuses. Bart then covers the homework with dog food. The dog ate the food, cleaned the paper and signaled the answer of a math question.
    • When Bart is nominated for class president and asked to give a speech, he says the dog ate his speech.
  • In Codename: Kids Next Door, Numbuh Five has a genuine problem of her homework getting eaten every day by a dog she passes by on the way to school. She has enough and decides to take the problem head on. Turns out that it's a rival classmate who can morph into a weredog and eats Five's homework out of spite, and the teacher is in on it, too. And, even then, it's only because Numbah Five has been helping Numbah Four with his homework (since he usually does poorly in school. This turns out to be useful for the KND because It turns out that poorly-done homework actually makes weredogs sick.
  • The Secret Files of The Spy Dogs had Sheela's dog eating her homework... on purpose. Because she has accidentally created a formula that seizes the king-side doggie food packs, Von Rubie tries to rewrite the homework from scratch, but when his mistress arrives... Needless to say, the trope happens, as well as Rubie escaping through the window.
  • One short in What A Cartoon! Show has a cowboy telling his teacher his dog ate his homework. Obviously she doesn't believe him, but he tries to prove it by pulling out a dog chewing on a piece of loose-leaf paper. The teacher responds by lecturing him on bringing pets to class.
  • The Emperor's New School has a variant where Yzma plans on forcing Kuzco to give this excuse, and even lampshades on its Dead Horse status:

    Kronk: Come on, "A llama ate my homework"? It's the oldest excuse on the book.
    Yzma: Exactly! It's so old, no one will believe him.

  • In Spongebob Squarepants, some children's homework fell victim to the Alaskan Bullworm on the corresponding episode.
  • An episode of Catdog was devoted to the citizens of Nearburg making Dog eat their homework, which Cat exploits for their money. However, when the big one comes where Dog must eat the Mayor's written speech before he speaks up front, he becomes sick from eating too much homework, and Cat is forced to eat it himself. This turns out to be a bad decision as the entire crowd finds the idea of a cat eating homework ludicrous and boo the Mayor off the stage (and into the clowning business).
  • In one episode of Arthur, the Brain deliberately flouts several superstitions to show there is nothing in them, then has a terrible streak of bad luck, including having a dog eat his homework, which causes him extra distress because he knows how the report will be received.
  • In Animaniacs, this is a joke waiting to happen when the Warners attend school. Even when it was their first day. Turned out the dog was Wakko.

    Teacher: Bad dog! Gimme that!

    Wakko: Grrrr...

  • In Recess, TJ managed to have his teacher believe this showing his homework shredded and drooled (which was done by him and never started the assignment). She didn't believe it since he still had a scrap of paper on his lip.
    • In the same episode, Spinelli used the typical "dog ate it" response, and Vince claimed his brother ate it.

    Vince: My brother ate it!

    Miss Grotke: Eaten by a family member? That's a new one.

  • In The Amazing World of Gumball, Darwin and Gumball said their dad ate their homework. Naturally, no one believes them, and naturally they were right ("I thought it would make me smart!")
  • In Tales from the Crypt Keeper, there was a boy who, instead of using a dog, used a monster as an excuse. He told a homework-eating monster another monster showed up before. After a trip to monster land, the boy confessed and the monster took him home and made him do two homeworks: one to be eaten and another one to be taken to school.
  • Danger Mouse On The Orient Express: Penfold loses a valuable document to a hungry fish in a Venice canal. When he's captured by Greenback's agents he readily tells them that a fish ate the document. Nobody believes him.
  • An episode of Beverly Hills Teens is called The Dog Ate My Homework. In this case, the dog belongs to Bianca, and is sent by her deliberately in order to make Larke stay at home instead of competing against her. Also subverted, since for awhile, Larke's own cat is blamed, the homework was on a floppy, and there was no attempt to use the excuse.
  • One episode of Uncle Grandpa begins with the title character eating a boy's diorama of Ancient Egypt, which he needed to pass the class. Naturally, Uncle Grandpa tries to help, and naturally things go horribly wrong. Also naturally, the episode is called "Uncle Grandpa Ate My Homework."
  • Doug: When the kids are performing in the school talent show, Skeeter plans to play an ocarina he made out of one of the school cafeteria's dinner rolls. He's forced to withdraw from talent show when Roger's cat, Stinky, accidentally eats it. Mr. Dink doesn't believe him.

    Mr. Dink: Not the old "cat ate my ocarina" excuse. At least be original.

  • Dennis the Menace and Gnasher: In "The Show Mustn't Go On", Dennis claims that he had to feed his homework to a giant paper-eating alien bug to prevent it from destroying Beanotown.
  • In the American Dragon: Jake Long episode "Fu and Tell", when Haley brings Fu Dog in to her class's show and tell, one boy asks Fu to eat his homework. Fu obliges, commenting, "Tastes like a D minus."
  • Martha Speaks: In a between-episode segment, T.D. brings Martha the dog to school and asks her to say that she ate his homework. There's also a song sung by Helen saying that Martha ate her music homework, which she actually does in the episode "Martha Sings".

    Real Life 

  • Many dogs like to chew on things and some find that textbooks and other homework actually are worth eating.
  • This trope has been slowly replaced with "My printer broke" or "My email stopped working" in high schools. For adults, it's something like, "my social media was hacked", when they post something Overshadowed by Controversy.
  • A t-shirt available on Threadless features a x-ray of a dog. Inside the dog is a math book, a protractor, a pencil, and so on.
  • If you take a culinary class, this is a very real possibility. And it might not just be the dog. You might have to say "My roommate ate my homework."

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