Imagine buying a cute little puppy for less than $20. Better yet, you’ll never have to replace a chewed-up couch, take him for a walk in the rain or pick up his poop.

Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Perhaps this is why Puppy Luv has become a doggone popular download- a virtual pet simulation that lets you take care of Man’s Best Friend – right on your PC. While the game is missing a few features found in other dog sims, it’s very accessible and does have a certain charm – especially if you’re an animal lover.

Lost Sock Games’ Puppy Luv begins with you picking your new pet from a few different dog breeds, such as Dalmatians and Golden Labs. Then you choose a gender for your pup and give it a name for its birth certificate.

In case you’re wondering, my Dalmatian, Chip (as his spots look like chocolate chips), is a scrappy little guy who enjoys gnawing on a tennis ball in our yard.

Sure, you can have some fun with your pet by taking him for a walk around town, throwing him a Frisbee or giving him treats for behaving, but Puppy Luv first requires you to take care of your pet’s basic needs. Icons at the bottom of the screen — a water bowl, dog food, hairbrush (hygiene), Zzzz (sleep) and fire hydrant (er, take a guess) — will let you know you when it’s time to act on these necessities as the colored bars turn from green to amber to red.

Naturally, these real-time attributes change over time, but taking care of these tasks, such as washing your pet, also unlocks extra items for your pet, including different dog collars, bonus food bowls or new toys to play with.

The real fun in the game, however, is training your pet to learn new tricks (sit, stay, etc.), so you can enter them into one of six events, such as a Frisbee contest or a obedience competition, and win money that can be used to buy new goodies for your pet and yard.

The Store screen outlines what products are available and for how much. You get a few bucks to start with, so you may be able to afford a few treats for $5 apiece, but money won from competitions can be used to pick up big-ticket items. These include a dog house (ranging in price from $50 to $300), a brand new fence, gourmet water (isn’t your dog worth it?), trees for the yard, and numerous toys to play with in the park.

Puppy Luv isn’t the first dog sim out there, nor does it include everything available in other games. In fact, Ubisoft’s Dogz series, now in its fifth incarnation, offers more dog breeds, locations, day and night cycles, weather effects, and even clothes for your pet! Similarly, Nintendo’s Nintendogs for the Nintendo DS handheld machine has many features not found in this game, such as the ability to rub your dog’s belly with the stylus pen, call him or her by name (using the built-in microphone) or wirelessly play with other Nintendogs in the same room (on other Nintendo DS machines).

But Puppy Luv is a clever game with mass appeal, and can even teach kids the responsibilities of having a dog of their own. While it may not offer some of the features found in its competitors, it’s worth the trip to the breeder.