What Makes A Great Dog Person?

Where there’s an ideal, there’s a way. Help us set the standard.
By The Bark Editors, March 2009, Updated February 2015

There’s a lot of focus on what makes a good dog, but what about a good dog person? That’s one of the goals here at The Bark. Through our stories—directly or indirectly—we explore this simple question. Now, we’re putting that question to you.

You’re out there in the agility rings and the off-leash parks, navigating icy sidewalks and fretting in veterinarian’s waiting rooms. You read pet food labels, sign animal-welfare petitions, reward your pals for dropping slobbery toys at your feet. Everyday you probably strive to be the best guardian you can be. So we ask: How do you do it?

We’ve started our list of simple, concrete actions that can make us the sorts of people about whom our dogs brag. We hope you’ll add to our list, improve on our suggestions, or just tell us what you do to be a good dog person. We’ll gather together all your intel (posted as a comment or sent to webeditor@thebark.com) to write the first-ever Bark reader-driven guide for how to be a top-flight, A-1 dog person.

Let’s get started.


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Double-down on physical and mental exercise. Teach your dog a new trick. Take breaks for games together throughout the day (if you’re lucky enough to be together.) Enroll with your dog in a class such as agility, Flyball, Rally-O, or even an obedience refresher course.

Take longer walks—in new places—with your dog. Use the time to engage with your pup. Call to her often, reward her recalls, have her go into a down, reward her, then release her and walk again. Short “training” or re-enforcement sessions keep you both sharp.

Bring your whole self to the dog park. It’s fun to meet your friends and visit, but your dog and her activities are the priority. (There’s a reason they call it a dog park.) Don’t be so distracted by a conversation (cell phone call or texting) that you lose track of your dog. More dog park tips.

Resolve to cook or prepare “homemade” chow. Maybe start with one meal a week--such as, chicken and brown rice?  Or add variety and nutrition to standard fare with “people food” additions. Or try baking your own treats. Not only is it surprisingly easy to do; with smart planning, homemade options are easy on the wallet too.
Give your dog regular check-ups. Frequent home grooming is a good way to check in with your dog. Cleaning ears, clipping nails, combing and trimming fur, and brushing teeth help keep your pup feeling good and keep you tuned in to her status.

Keep up with your dog’s essential vaccinations without over-vaccinating.

Foster a shelter or rescue dog, especially if you’re a one-dog family. Not only will your pup enjoy a little canine company but you’ll help socialize your guest and ease his or her way to a forever home. If you can’t foster, consider sponsoring a shelter/rescue dog. You can help defray the cost of spaying/neutering, vaccinations, microchipping and more; a small donation goes a long way.

Read a good training book. Smart trainers are always coming up with new, useful pointers. Even if your dog makes Lassie look erratic, there’s always room for fine-tuning. (See our recent recommendations.)

We’re fired up about our new website and the direct, immediate feedback we’ve been getting from you. It’s a good thing that makes us want more. Post a comment below or email your suggestions the webeditor@thebark.com.