The perky pooch who would eventually be known as Barney Bulldog debuted late on in 1968, on the back page of Sparky, thanks to the artistic efforts of Bill Ritchie. Originally his strip was called John Bull Dogg, but it was later renamed Barney Bulldog in time for the Sparky revamp of February 1969. The newly retitled strip scooped front-cover status in Sparky comic issue 211, taking over the coveted position vacated the previous week by the notorious 'Sparky' character.

Appealing, wholesome, and usually well-meaning, the strip marked a down-to-earth departure from Ritchie's previous work on the bizarre extra-terrestrials known as The Moonsters, and their outer-space frolics. The layout and presentation of Barney Bulldog accorded well with the bright outlook of Sparky during this period, and the light slapstick capers and domestic cavortings still look pleasing and readable today. The strip often finished off with a large 'punch-line' frame, illustrating the play-on-words or ironic outcome of that week's particular episode.

Barney was often accompanied by youthful young pup sidekick Ben, an innocent young scamp who acted as a secondary backup character necessary for the character interplay. The early years of the strip saw the stories recounted in the traditional 'three rows of panels' format. Come 1973, however, changes were afoot within the comic, which included seeing this strip mutate into a large single-image cartoon (usually without dialogue) with Barney at the centre of an ironic gag. This period also saw different themed covers by John Geering alternating in the front-page slot with the bulldog. Barney was eventually freed from his Sparky leash sometime in 1974.