Married with two young children, Dodd began freelance illustrating. She worked, among others, for the New Zealand Correspondence School.
In the early 1970s she and a relative, Eve Sutton, collaborated on a picture book, My Cat Likes to Hide in Boxes. It is still in print four decades later.
Dodd also worked cartooning for newspapers in the 1970s. Then in the mid 1970s she started to write as well as illustrate. The first of her own picture books was The Nickle Nackle Tree (1976). She has written and illustrated 30 more in the years since.
In 1979, while living in Lower Hutt, she made a small sketch of a rather unkempt-looking dog and penned a few words underneath. These words proved to be life-changing and Hairy Maclary was born.
Over five million Hairy Maclary books have been sold worldwide, with over nine million Dodd books sold overall.
Dodd has been recipient of many awards including Children's Picture Book of the Year (1984, 1986, 1988, 1992) and the Margaret Mahy Medal (1999).
Awarded the Distinguished Companion to the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2002, Dodd became Dame Lynley Dodd in 2009.