In the rulebook, designer David Short describes Dog Lover as having been inspired by Josh Wood's Cat Lady, which is also published by AEG. That may be an understatement. BoardGameGeek classifies Dog Lover as a 'reimplementation' of Cat Lady, and tho' it isn't just a canine reskin, the core games are very similar.
Like Cat Lady, Dog Lover is a set collection card game. The 2-4 players each start off with one dog and, each turn, players will be drafting cards from a 3 x 3 grid that is replenished after every selection. You can usually take the three cards in any row or column but when a row is replenished, a bulldog meeple stands guard over it and the next player will only be able to take one card if they choose to take from that row/column. The cards will typically offer you more dogs; food (canned food, dry bits or scraps) required to feed your dogs - the dogs will score you negative rather than positive points if they are unfed; enhancements such as training, which will add to a dog's victory point value; traits, which add to a dog's abilities and will also therefore affect scoring; or 'favourite things ' - objects or toys that score incrementally more the more you collect. You can also pick up Adoption cards, pairs of which can be exchanged for one of the three 'Rescue Dogs' on display. These all have special abilities that can enhance a player's score.
Dog Lover offers you more to collect than Cat Lady, and we welcomed the extra options. We were less convinced by the innovation in Dog Lover of 'trick cards' that let a player select an alternative pattern of cards instead of a simple row or column. Those that allow a player to draft four cards rather than three obviously delivered an advantage worth taking but those that just offered a different three-card combo (eg: 'Catch' which lets you take, for example, two cards from the top row and one from the bottom) seemed to offer a fiddly element that felt to us like an unnecessary complication - especially as less experienced players sometimes found it unintuitive spotting the requisite pattern, especially taking account of the position of the guard dog that still limited selections.
If you enjoy Cat Lady, you'll almost certainly like Dog Lover, and especially so if the canine theme appeals and you're charmed by Kali Fitzgerald's art. Tho' there's a bit more going on than in the feline game, Dog Lover remains a light filler-length family game. It plays well at all player counts, tho' it's inevitably more chaotic as you increase the number of players: with four players, the grid will have changed completely by the time your next turn comes around.