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What Is a Good Dog?
(also see What is a Bad Dog?)


Can I be as sweet as I look?

My youngest is a Toy Poodle who is the best dog I've ever owned. It's not because she does so many tricks. I've taught her the basic commands, but all my dogs learn those. It's because she immediately stops what she's doing when I say the word NO in a firm tone of voice.

Healthy Relationship

We have a healthy relationship of human/leader to dog/follower. She's a wonderful companion and I love her deeply. I have not, however, lost sight of the fact that she is a dog. She may bark annoyingly; she may chew the heck out of a rug; she may some day try to bite the postman.

At the end of the day, she is a dog and I understand that. I'm just happy that she responds consistently and appropriately when I tell her No.

Canines need corrections

Again, she's a dog and will respond to stimuli the way a dog does, not the way a human does.

I'm very concerned with owners who don't understand that. These are the owners who refuse to correct their dog's bad behavior. It's not that the owner is lazy (or maybe that's part of it), it's that they think all-positive training is the only way to treat a dog and don't allow any corrections.

Even Karen Pryor, the mother of positive dog training, does not go that far. If a dog jumps on an arriving houseguest, there is nothing wrong with saying No or giving the dog a quick squirt with a water bottle. You don't let a dog knock down and possibly injure someone. People have taken Ms. Pryor's teaching to a nutty and dangerous extreme.

Even mini dogs require time and energy

A recent newspaper article explained the plight of an animal rescue shelter that experienced a 44% increate in the number of handbag-sized dogs turned in by owners.

Sometimes people, especially younger ones, try to mimic the celebrities who carry small dogs in their purses and carriers. Sometimes people get a small dog because they think they'll be much easier to keep. Once they realize they still need to train, walk and care for the dog, they get bored or overwhelmed and decide to abandon the dog.

Not a furry human being

I hear people all the time asking 'how would you like it if someone put you in a crate or similar.'

I wouldn't like it, but I'm not a dog. My family wouldn't rejoice if I learned to poop in the backyard. I don't greet strangers by jumping on them or sniffing their anus. I don't sit in the middle of the living room and lick my privates when guests are present.

Tragic results

The problem with this distorted view of dogs is that humans expect things from dogs that they can't provide. No dog can meet all of a human's emotional needs. When the dog acts a like a dog, an immature human is going to blame the dog. That's one reason why so many dogs are turned in to shelters.


You may be disappointed that I didn't give you a concrete answer to What Is a Good Dog. It really depends on what you want from your dog. If you think your dog is perfect, I'm not going to argue with you.

If canine and human are living together in harmony, you have a good dog. You stack the odds of that when you accept that your dog will act like a dog and you train him to live successfully in a world run by humans.

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