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What Makes A Great Dog Person?

Good dogs deserve good dog people. Here’s how to be one.

by Claudia Kawczynska
March 5, 2009
good dog owner plays with her husky in the grass
Photo: Yaroslav Shuraev / Pexels

Your pet wants you to read our newsletter. (Then give them a treat.)

There’s a lot of attention paid to what makes a good dog, but what about a good dog person? You’re out there at off-leash parks, navigating icy sidewalks and fretting in veterinarians’ waiting rooms. You read pet food labels, sign animal-welfare petitions, and reward your pup for dropping slobbery toys at your feet. Every day you probably strive to be the best pet parent you can be. Here’s a list of simple, concrete actions that can make you the sort of person your dog will brag about. Let’s get started.

Here are 10 ways to be a good dog person:

1. Take longer walks — in new places — with your dog.

When walking your dog, it’s easy to forget that dogs access the world through their noses, and investigating new smells is great brain exercise. So, don’t forget to give them time to smell the roses ... and the fire hydrants, and the telephone poles.

2. Double down on physical exercise.

Enroll with your dog in a class such as agility, Flyball, or Rally-O. Dogs make great hiking partners or even just for a power walk in the neighborhood. Try climbing stairs, swimming, or a good round of fetch. Flirt-poles can also provide a lot of good exercise in your own backyard.

3. Exercise those brain muscles too.

Make sure they have plenty of enrichment toys. Who knows? You might be living with a canine Einstein. While out on walks, use the time to engage with your pup. Call them, reward their recall, have them go into a down, reward them, then release them and walk some more. Short training or re-enforcement sessions help you both stay sharp.

4. Keep up with regular dog training.

Teach your dog a new trick and take regular play breaks. Try an obedience refresher course; thanks to the pandemic, there are more online classes available than ever before. (Even if your dog makes Lassie look erratic, there’s always room for fine-tuning.) 

5. Bring your whole self to the dog park.

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

6. Add new foods to their food bowl. 

Add variety and nutrition to standard fare with people food additions. Or, try baking your own treats or making a “barkuterie” board. Not only is it surprisingly easy to do, but with a little planning, homemade options are easy on the wallet too.

7. Give your dog regular check-overs.

Frequent home grooming sessions are a good way to check in with your dog. Cleaning ears, clipping nails, combing and trimming fur, and brushing teeth help your pup feel good and keep you tuned in to what’s going on with them.

8. Check your pup’s microchip.

Periodically review your dog’s microchip registration to make sure it has your current contact information. Or, if your dog’s not microchipped, schedule an appointment with your vet to get it done. And don’t forget ID tags, which can also be out of date or perhaps too worn to be easily read. Consider both microchips and tags to be part of your dog’s safety net, their way home in case of emergency or disaster.

9. Make your dog a mentor and foster a shelter dog.

Foster a rescue dog, especially if you’re a one-dog family. Not only is your pup likely to enjoy a little company, but it will also go a long way toward easing your guest into their 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.

10. Sustainable and earth-friendly options.

The selection of pet products is endless … there are more dog beds, more toys, more everything to address every need and fancy. So, choose sustainable and eco-friendly gear for your active and oh-so-stylish pup.

Take a moment to reflect on how much your dog contributes to your life every single day. Companionship, comfort, reasons to laugh, reasons to get a move on ... life with a dog is better in so many ways than life without one.

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Claudia Kawczynska

Claudia Kawczynska was co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Bark for 20 years. She also edited the best-selling anthology Dog Is My Co-Pilot.