“Good” to Go

I’m sure you have heard when talking to a dog breeder, owner, or handler – “He’s a good dog!” “Her hips are good.” or “He’s from good lines.” Did you understand what that person meant when you heard these statements?

Because I usually don’t.

Northwest Guardians Gratuity - 2019 Sarplaninac

So what does “GOOD” really mean? Is the definition of GOOD fluid? Does it change based on context or opinion? Is it a technical term in dog hips? And does it matter?

I believe that the word “GOOD” is too vague when it comes to our dogs, unless it is in the specific context of an OFA rating.

I guarantee that what I would call a “good dog” and what a Golden Retriever owner would call a “good dog” are very different animals. Does this mean one of us are wrong?

I don’t think so.

I do think is that words like “good” and “bad” and “cute” aren’t useful when we are discussing dogs in an analytical sense. These words mean very different things to different people, even within the same class or breed. Just like breeders vary in their priorities for their programs, owners have personal preferences in appearance, behavior and even eye contact. So too, a “good dog” to you may be a “bad dog” to me.

Such "good" puppies!

I have a proposition: Let’s say what we mean, rather than fill the world with as few syllables as possible.

Instead of “He is a good dog.” How about: “He excels in agility and herding, which is the purpose of his breed.”

Instead of “Her hips are good.” – Say “She has OFA rated “Good” hips and a distraction index of .22 from PennHIP.” or the more commonly accurate translation “She isn’t lame, so I assume her hips are well formed.”

Instead of “He has good lines.” – Mention his ancestors he takes after. Mention their accomplishments and temperaments (or whatever you think is “good” about them)

Tanner in the show ring.

Words have meaning and significance that is often derived from context and opinion. Everyone likes to think they have a good dog, and of course, through their priority and worldview filter they may be correct! Even if the dog has a slew of medical issues or dropped pasterns.

Wade being a "good boy."

In the end, “GOOD” doesn’t tell us much. Here are some words and phrases I propose to replace the word “good” when we discuss our dogs:

  • Fits the breed standard.
  • Biddable.
  • Independent.
  • Soft.
  • Easy to train.
  • Intuitive.
  • Smart. 
  • Gentle.
  • Sharp.
  • Good Listener.
  • Great with my kids.
  • Natural Therapy/ Service/ Working Dog
Homework: What are some words or phrases you can substitute for “Good”?