The Loaded Dog: Themes, Techniques & Analysis

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In this lesson, we will examine the themes and literary techniques used by Henry Lawson in the short story 'The Loaded Dog.' It's a story of some miners who are also fishermen. They run into trouble when they create an explosive to use on catfish.

Story Summary

Dogs and other pets make great companions, but think about a time that a pet stirred up trouble. In Henry Lawson's short story The Loaded Dog, Andy, a miner, loves having his retriever, Tommy, with him at camp and enjoys playing a game of fetch. It never occurs to him how much trouble it will cause when Andy and his comrades, Dave and Jim, decide to make an explosive to deal with the prickly catfish.

The dog thinks it is another game of fetch when the men run away from him after the dog takes the cartridge in his mouth and drags the fuse through the fire. There are some tense moments as the dog runs toward people and buildings with a lit explosive. Let's examine the literary techniques and themes used in this story.



One of the themes of the story is fear. When the dog takes the cartridge, he puts himself and everyone near him in danger, but he has no concept of fear because he is ignorant of what the cartridge is capable of doing to him.

As the three men run away, the dog chases them playfully. The men react to their fear with an every-man-for-himself attitude. This fearful reaction continues as, in an attempt to find safety, Dave runs into a bar, exposing more men to danger.

Finally, when the dog encounters the vicious, yellow mongrel, 'Tommy drops the cartridge, gives one terrified yell, and takes to the bush.' In reality, the thing that Tommy fears is what saves him from true danger.


A never-give-up attitude is usually considered a positive attribute, but in this story, excessive perseverance results in a lot of issues. First of all, Dave is so relentless in his effort to stir up the fish that he decides to use explosives. Tommy is so determined to play a game of fetch that he chases Andy, Jim, and Dave through various obstacles. The neighbors have persevered for years, trying to get rid of the yellow mongrel that lives under the kitchen, but it takes the mongrel's own curiosity in the explosive to finally take him out.

In the end, the other bushmen persevere in their ridicule of Dave, saying 'El-lo, Da-a-ve! How's the fishin' getting on, Da-a-ve?' In each of these scenarios, it would have been helpful if the pursuer had taken time to stop and think if the object of their pursuit was worth their time and energy.

Literary Techniques

The author uses the following literary techniques in the story to create an engaging, realistic story:

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