A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from August 28, 2012
“The dog ate my homework” (student excuse)

"The dog ate my homework” is the classic lame excuse that a student makes to a teacher to cover for missing homework. It’s not known what student first made the excuse.

“The dog ate it” excuse has been cited in print since at least 1932. “The dog ate it” became an excuse for missing homework by at least 1962.

“My homework ate my dog” and “My unicorn ate my homework” are jocular variations.

[This entry includes research assistance from the Quote Investigator.]

23 June 1932, Boston (MA) Globe, “Odd Items From Everywhere,” pg. 28:
The story of what became of the speech Gen Max Weygand was to have made when he took his place recently as one of the Immortals of the French Academy, has been revealed. When the time came for his address, he rose and said: “Gentlemen, I had prepared a speech of more than six pages, but I left it on my study table and my dog ate it.”

3 April 1960, New York (NY) Times, “Census Aides’ Day is Spent on Phone” by Will Lissner, pg. 82:
At the Union County, N, J., district office, where Shelby F. Fell is supervisor, a record was kept of the explanations householders gave for their need of a census form. Only a few said the mail carrier had failed to deliver it.

Others said:
“My dog ate it.”
“My baby chewed it up.”
“It went out with the garbage.”
“My son burned it up with old papers.”

18 August 1960, Boston (MA) Globe, “Quick Course” (AP), pg. 34:
When Marlin Townsend acquired his young German shepherd dog he borrowed a book from the library on the care and training of the pet.

Townsend didn’t find what was in the book. The dog ate it.

17 October 1960, Chicago (IL) Tribune, “Reaching Absentee Voters Presents Big Election Task” by Louise Hutchinson, pg. 5:
Once a ballot is sent, the board must know its whereabouts if it isn’t returned. And this yields some odd responses.

“A Chicagoan vacationing in California answered our inquiry one year that a dog had eaten it,” Machinis said. “Another replied the baby had lost it.”

18 February 1962, New York (NY) Times, “In a Class by Themselves” by Florence Crowther, pg. BR10:
Homework still isn’t handed in because the book was left in school; the dog ate it; the baby ate it; little brother scribbled all over it; mother was sick; last night was Scout meeting; it rained.

Google News Archive
13 July 1964, Meriden (CT) Journal, “Fun Time—The Chuckle Box,” pg. 5, col. 4:
Passenger: I’m sorry, but my dog ate my ticket.
Conductor: Then I suggest you buy him a second helping.

17 April 1969, Evansville (IN) Courier, “Internal Revenooers Find Tea A Bit Corny” (L.A. Times-Washington Post Service), pg. 2-A, col. 8:
As of Tuesday afternoon, the Philadelphia center was short about 2 million returns. They will be showing up in the Thursday or Friday mail. Many will contain notes stating the stamp fell off, a broken leg delayed my trip to the mailbox, the dog ate my withholding statement, and so forth.

15 June 1970, Naples (FL) Daily News, “Fifth-Graders Come Up With A Classic” by Rachel Kearns, pg. 1, col. 5:
Perhaps the most useful information in the book can be found way over on page 141—excuses for not having your homework!

First prize, according to “Learning is Fun,” went to “What homework?”

Close behind in the same category were: “My dog ate it” ...

4 April 1971, The Herald-Coaster (Rosenberg-Richmond, TX), “Uncesnored Reese,” The Lamar Hoffbeat, pg. 10, col. 7:
1. I forgot.
2. I lost my book.
3. I didn’t understand the assignment.
4. My pencil lead broke.
5. I had arthritis in my hand.
6. My dog ate it.

19 March 1976, Register-Republic (Rockford, IL), “Excuses are for losing candidates” by Robert Yoakum, pg. A6, col. 6:
“Speaking of excuses, have you done your homework yet?”
“Yes, but it’s missing. I think maybe the dog ate it.”

11 October 1976, Morning-Star (Rockford, IL), pg. A5, col. 4:
As long as we have homework, we will have excuses for not getting it done.

One of the most interesting is, “I did it, I really did, but my dog ate it at the bus stop.”
A Time for School by Dave Parrish
in the Marengo Beacon-News

6 September 1977, Daily News-Miner (Fairbanks, AK), “Back-to-school study hints,” pg. 12, col. 5:
EXCUSES: This is the last resort technique in the learning process is left to the totally imaginative students due to the fact that it takes much time and effort to achieve an exceptable excuse because “My dog ate my term paper” is no longer acceptable.

Google Books
25 October 1978, The Free Lance-Star (Fredericksburg, VA), “From ‘The Ann Landers Encyclopedia,’” pg. 23, col. 4:
A 13-year-old boy who tells the teacher, “The dog ate my homework,” should not be permitted to go to the movies on Saturday with his chums.

OCLC WorldCat record
“But, Teacher, the Dog Ate My Homework”
Publisher: Sage Publications
Edition/Format:  ArticleView all editions and formats
Publication: Intervention in School and Clinic, 23, no. 5 (1988): 522
Other Databases: ECO

OCLC WorldCat record
The dog ate my home-work : and other famous excuses.
Author: Michigan. Office of Highway Safety Planning.
Publisher: Lansing, Mich. : Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning, [199-?]
Edition/Format:  Book : State or province government publication : English

OCLC WorldCat record
The dog ate my homework : poems about school
Author: Sara Holbrook
Publisher: Cleveland, OH : Kid Poems for the Not-So-Bad, ©1990.
Edition/Format:  Book : Juvenile audience : English

OCLC WorldCat record
The dog ate it : conquering homework hassles
Author: Elaine K McEwan-Adkins
Publisher: Wheaton, Ill. : Harold Shaw Publishers, ©1996.
Edition/Format:  Book : English

OCLC WorldCat record
The dog ate my homework : personal responsibility--how we avoid it and what to do about it
Author: Vincent E Barry
Publisher: Kansas City, Mo. : Andrews and McMeel, ©1997.
Edition/Format:  Book : English

OCLC WorldCat record
My dog ate my homework! : a collection of funny poems
Author: Bruce Lansky; Stephen Carpenter
Publisher: Minnetonka, MN : Meadowbrook Press ; New York : Distributed by Simon & Schuster, ©2002.
Edition/Format:  Book : Juvenile audience : English
Summary: A collection of humorous poem that are very good to read out loud.

OCLC WorldCat record
Little dog ; The dog ate my homework
Author: Sally Murphy; Teresa Culkin-Lawrence
Publisher: Miranda, N.S.W. : Banana Books, 2003.
Series: Doggy duo.; Banana splits. 
Edition/Format:  Book : Fiction : Primary school : English
Summary: Little dog: Mira is desperate for a dog, so when she finds a tiny dog down a drain she thinks all her dreams have come true. The dog ate my homework: Jeremy doesn’t have his homework because the dog ate it. But why is it that adults don’t believe you, even when you are telling the truth? Suggested level: primary. 

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityEducation/Schools • Tuesday, August 28, 2012 • Permalink