The old joke goes that if you play a country song backward, the singer gets his dog, truck, and girl back—roughly in that order. The point of the joke is that these three things (and the loss of them) appear in a lot of country music.
Dogs play a variety of roles in country music. Some songs tell the stories of legendary pups while others explore the relationship between humans and dogs, even using them as metaphors. Check out these 13 best country songs about dogs to see just how versatile these animals can be in this music genre.
1. Ol’ Red – Blake Shelton
Ol’ Red is a song that’s full of intrigue and romance, and it’s got a couple of plot twists that delight first-time listeners. Blake Shelton wasn’t the first to record this song; Kenny Rogers and George Jones both recorded versions. However, Shelton’s modern take on this bluesy country epic is the most known and popular version.
The song tells the story of a man who caught his wife cheating. It’s implied that he killed one or both of them and received 99 years in prison. After getting into the warden’s good graces, the narrator is tasked with taking care of a dog named Ol’ Red.
Ol’ Red is the prison tracker; he’ll sniff out any prisoner who tries to escape. The narrator spends time taking Ol’ Red off in a certain direction to “romance” a female dog. Once Ol’ Red is used to having romance in a certain direction, the narrator escapes prison and runs the other way, knowing Ol’ Red will head for romance instead of tracking him.
2. Little Boys Grow Up and Dogs Get Old – Luke Bryan
Luke Bryan gives us a thought-provoking and emotional song. Perhaps one of the reasons this track is so popular is because it resonates with many who have lived out exactly the life and events he sings about.
The song tells the story of a little boy growing up alongside a black lab named Bandit. They do everything together, from sleeping and going to the bus stop to fishing and growing up over time. Eventually, though, the boy becomes a man and the dog becomes too old to keep up with the adventures. One day, the boy leaves his parents’ home and the dog stays behind. It ends on this sad note, with the narrator lightly bemoaning the loss of childhood innocence.
3. Feed Jake – Pirates of the Mississippi
Feed Jake was released in 1991 and remains one of the most successful songs from Pirates Of The Mississippi. The track does contain a reference to a literal dog named Jake, which also acts as a metaphor for what the narrator is leaving behind.
The narrator sings about how he’s leaving the people (and dog) behind to chase his dreams and the spotlight. Much of the lyrics complain about the state of the world and how hard it is, but the chorus continuously reminds whoever he left behind to feed Jake—who is a good dog—while the narrator is chasing his dreams.
4. Tennessee Hound Dog – Osborne Brothers
This upbeat, twangy bluegrass song is an ode to the Tennessee hound dog. It calls the dog ugly and uses other less-desirable traits to draw a picture of the hound dog, but still ends up with the conclusion that the dog is a Romeo.
5. My Dog & Me – John Hiatt
John Hiatt’s entry into the category of country songs about dogs is a simple piece about the joy of exploring nature when it’s just you and your canine friend. The narrator talks about how free he feels when it’s just him and his dog hiking and camping in the wild.
There’s also a nostalgic note of companionship in this article. The singer notes that the dog would do anything to protect him, including taking a bullet for him. Thankfully, we don’t get any sort of sad ending. Instead, the dog in question runs after rabbits during the day and curls up by the narrator near a campfire at night.
6. Cracker Jack – Dolly Parton
This song from Dolly Parton hits some of the same storytelling notes that Little Boys Grow Up And Dogs Get Old and My Dog & Me do. She sings about Cracker Jack, a pup that was found and made a friend. Similar to Luke Bryan, she covers the theme of a dog as a companion and part of childhood. Cracker Jack went everywhere with the little girl and was her secret keeper and best friend.
At the end of the song, she sings that Cracker Jack only lives in memories now, but the note is mostly positive because the memories are sweet.
7. It’s Just a Dog – Mo Pitney
Another country song about a dog who becomes a best friend, It’s Just A Dog starts with the narrator saving the furry creature from the side of the road even though he doesn’t know why. “It’s just a dog,” the refrain goes.
But the dog ends up a longtime companion, keeping him company while fishing and even helping him get over a breakup with a girl. At the end of the song, the narrator notes the animal is getting old and possibly sick or dying, and he asks why he’s crying if it’s just a dog.
8. The More Boys I Meet – Carrie Underwood
This entry to the list from Carrie Underwood isn’t as much about a dog as some of the other songs included. Instead, the track repeatedly mentions a dog as being more likable than the boys the songwriter meets and, presumably, dates. Read between the lines, and the message is that her pet is a better and more loyal companion than the men she’s seeing.
9. Like My Dog – Billy Currington
Carrie Underwood isn’t the only one comparing love interests to a faithful pup. In this song, the narrator compares the way a woman complains and treats him to the way his dog operates. “I want you to love me like my dog does baby” is the refrain throughout this song.
10. Maggie’s Song – Chris Stapleton
Here’s another nostalgic and somewhat sad song about a dog who was a great family companion. Chris Stapleton wrote this song about Maggie, his actual dog, the night she died. The themes are similar to the ones in the Luke Bryan and Dolly Parton songs on this list, though Stapleton digs a bit deeper into the grief associated with losing Maggie.
11. Dirty Old Egg-Sucking Dog – Johnny Cash
Need a different sort of country song about a dog to get you out of the slump after listening to so many nostalgic pieces about good boys? Johnny Cash delivers a quick tune about a dog that won’t stop misbehaving by killing the chickens and sucking the eggs.
12. Can’t Be Replaced – Dierks Bentley
We’re back to songs about long-term canine companions and the sorrow that comes when they pass away. In this song, the dog is only mentioned at the end as a 15-year companion who can’t be replaced. Before getting to the dog, Dierks Bentley sets the stage with a number of other examples of things and feelings that can’t be replaced.
13. Move It on Over – George Thorogood and the Destroyers
To round out the list, let’s end with a more upbeat tune that takes a humorous look at the relationship between man and dog. When the singer gets tossed out of the house after a fight with his woman, he’s in the literal dog house and tells the dog to move over to make room for him.
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