When it comes to capitalization of dog breeds, the linguistic rules involved can be complex, especially when talking about proper nouns such as dog breed names. As such, dog lovers will often ask, “Are the names of dog breeds capitalized?” In this in-depth article, we share the general rules of capitalization when it comes to the scientific names of dogs to help you refer to and write their names accurately.
Capitalizing Breed Names
Generally, a dog breed’s name is considered to be a proper noun and therefore, it needs to be capitalized. This means that specific breed names should be written using an initial capital letter. A few examples of this include “Labrador Retriever,” “Golden Retriever,” and “German Shepherd Dog,” which should all be written in capital letters.
Using the Name of a Person
Different breeds named after people or a location associated with people can be an exception to the above rule. In cases like this, both the name of the person and the name of the breed should be capitalized. One such example is the Jack Russell terrier, named after the man responsible for breeding the finest strains of this working dog, Reverend John Russell.
Other great examples of this rule include the following:
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
- Saint Bernard
- Doberman pinscher
- Plott hound
- Gordon setter
- Boykin spaniel
When a place name is part of the name of a breed, always capitalize proper nouns. For instance, the “French” in French bulldog will always be written in capitals since it’s the name of a place. Another example of this is the Boston terrier, which is named after the city of its origin.
There are many other examples of this rule, which include the following dogs:
- Irish setter
- Belgian Malinois
- English bulldog
- English Mastiff
- English springer spaniel
- Siberian husky
- Alaskan malamute
- Afghan hound
- Scottish terrier
Style Guides and Consistency
Maintaining consistency and using the correct form when writing about dogs is essential but this will depend on the various style guides you wish to follow. Different style guides will have their own set of rules on capitalization, so be sure to check the right guide for the context you’re writing in. When it comes to The Chicago Manual of Style, dog breed names are generally capitalized.
According to the AP style of writing, only proper names are uppercase while everything else is lower case. One such example of this rule is the “Australian cattle dog,” where the name of the place is capitalized, but the words used to describe part of the breed are left in lowercase.
Moreover, the University of West Florida provides a quick guide to remembering the simple rule stated above. Be sure to capitalize nicknames, pet names, and epithets and you can also capitalize animal names if some parts or the whole name is taken from a proper noun. If a name isn’t derived from proper nouns, don’t capitalize it but you should capitalize the first and second words in proper names that have been hyphenated.
What Not to Capitalize
There are some cases when the breed name should never be capitalized since that would break the fundamental rules of some naming conventions. Here are a few examples.
Types and Classes of Dogs
In the dog world, you’ll see that certain kinds of dogs meet a specific set of criteria that allow them to be categorized in a class of their own. These classes are usually accompanied by a proper name that helps distinguish one breed from another inside their class. Whether they’re dogs that have short, wired hairs or come with long manes, these are generic terms and shouldn’t be capitalized.
This is because they serve as common nouns that describe a set of characteristics that will always be present in that specific breed of dog. Below are a few examples:
The Dog’s Profession
There are some dogs named after the particular job they’ve been bred to do, which has also placed them in a class of their own. As such, they are also considered to be common nouns:
- Basset hound
- Cattle dog
- Old English sheepdogs
- Mountain dog
The Name of the Dog Breed
Just like humans, some dogs were given their own name that doesn’t come from a particular person or place. Instead, they take their name from the creative person who gave them their name. Because of this, they’re not considered to be proper nouns, and their names aren’t capitalized, including:
- Chow chow
Descriptions and Adjectives
When using descriptions or compound adjectives to modify a dog’s name, the adjectives aren’t capitalized unless they’re taken from proper nouns. For instance, “black Russian terrier” isn’t written with all the first letters in uppercase. But if their adjectives are taken from proper nouns, then everything should be capitalized, such as German Shepherd or Yorkshire Terrier.
Don’t capitalize the general name of a dog breed. This is due to many breed names being made up of proper nouns that can be capitalized as well as more generic terms that should be lowercase. As mentioned above, many breed names are taken from the names of places, and will often refer to a breed’s country of origin.
However, there are times when the place refers to a particular region in that country:
- Brittany spaniel
- Airedale terrier
- Great Pyrenees
Moreover, a generic term of foreign origin can also be combined with the name of a place such as in the case of the Lhasa apso. Other dog names are taken from nothing but general terms, even though they’re no longer of common parlance or from a different language:
- Cocker spaniel
- Great Dane
- Miniature schnauzer
In other dogs, breed names can be capitalized to clarify and adhere to conventions, such as Shiba Inu and Old English sheepdog.
Context and Common Usage
If you’re confused about how to capitalize “Pitbull” then be sure to check the context in which it’s being used. If the word “Pitbull” is being used to describe a specific breed such as the American Pit Bull Terrier, then it can be capitalized. But if you’re using it simply to describe dogs like it with similar traits, then the lowercase “pitbull” should be used.
Using Dog Names in a Sentence
We all know that the word at the beginning of a sentence should always be capitalized no matter the type of word it is. Whether the first word you use is a proper noun or not, it should always be capitalized just because it came first. This rule is absolute and will extend to the first word of every sentence, and is immediately identified by the period located at the end of each sentence.
Are the Names of Dog Breeds Capitalized?
While there are a lot of capitalization rules that need to be followed, these can help dog owners remember the specific times when to capitalize their dog’s full name. They also teach us the proper way of writing down the names of these great animal species. If you’re still confused and need more guidance, all you need to do is check with the American Kennel Club to see how they spell out the names of the dogs in their registry.