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Who’s a Good Dog?

And How to Be a Better Human

A guide to cultivating a shared life of joy and respect with our dogs.
Who’s a Good Dog? is an invitation to nurture more thoughtful and balanced relationships with our canine companions. By deepening our curiosity about what our dogs are experiencing, and by working together with them in a spirit of collaboration, we can become more effective and compassionate caregivers.
With sympathy for the challenges met by both dogs and their humans, bioethicist Jessica Pierce explores common practices of caring for dogs, including how we provide exercise, what we feed, how and why we socialize and train, and how we employ tools such as collars and leashes. She helps us both to identify potential sources of fear and anxiety in our dogs’ lives and to expand practices that provide physical and emotional nourishment. Who’s a Good Dog? also encourages us to think more critically about what we expect of our dogs and how these expectations can set everyone up for success or failure. Pierce offers resources to help us cultivate attentiveness and kindness, inspiring us to practice the art of noticing, of astonishment, of looking with fresh eyes at these beings we think we know so well. And more than this, she makes her findings relatable by examining facets of her relationship with Bella, the dog in her life. As Bella shows throughout, all dogs are good dogs, and we, as humans and dog guardians, could be doing a little bit better to get along with them and give them what they need.

304 pages | 3 halftones, 3 tables | 5.5 x 8.5

Biological Sciences: Behavioral Biology

Philosophy: Ethics, General Philosophy


“Pierce is one of the leading canine bioethicists in the world. In Who’s a Good Dog? she carefully applies her deep and broad knowledge of ethics and dog behavior so that all canines—homed and free-ranging dog beings—can have the best lives possible, and so too can their human companions or the humans with whom they have contact. When dogs and humans form and maintain close, give-and-take relationships, it’s a win-win for all. In this landmark and readable book, Pierce tells us just how to do it.”

Marc Bekoff, author of "Dogs Demystified" and "Canine Confidential"

Who’s a Good Dog? is sorely needed to fill essentially a void in the public conversation about the human-dog relationship. Pierce bravely asks us to examine our assumptions about our dogs’ emotional landscapes, and to consider our own actions and choices within those relationships. Her book is a comprehensive, accessible manual for people who have never before considered the basic ethical implications of living with a dog.”

Lisa Moses, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, Harvard Medical School Center for Bioethics

“An astonishing book. Reading Who’s a Good Dog? is akin to the project Pierce asks of us: to adopt a beginner’s mind in relation to understanding the dogs we live with. There’s a sense with many of the questions posed in the book that there is much more to say—but this is also its beauty, that with incredible restraint, Pierce has created opening after opening for us to do the work of reflection (and theorization) ourselves. Original, well-executed, and engaging.”

Kathryn Gillespie, author of "The Cow with Ear Tag #1389"

“A book that all loving pet owners should read.”

New Scientist, on "The Last Walk"

“There is of course so, so much more to enrichment for pets; I’d recommend starting with Pierce’s book if you want to know more.”

New York Magazine, on "Run, Spot, Run"

Table of Contents

Introduction: We Dog
Chapter 1: The Difficulty of Being a (Pet) Dog
Chapter 2: Human-Dog Relations
Chapter 3: Care and Constraint
Chapter 4: Landscapes of Fear, Landscapes of Pleasure
Chapter 5: Technologies of Control
Chapter 6: Training Dogs to Be Good
Chapter 7: Bad Dogs and Behavioral “Problems”
Chapter 8: Dwelling in Possibility

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