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Should Dog Breed Names Be Capitalized?

A pet lover passionate about educating readers about animal health and care. Love reading studies and recent research.
Published on
Tuesday 31 March 2020
Last updated on
Tuesday 9 May 2023
Should dog breed names be capitalized?
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Should we capitalize dog breed names? A lot of confusion exists in regard to this statement. Whether a breed’s name is being mentioned in a piece of text or as a title, writers need to know the proper capitalization for dog breed names. For example, if a dog breed name is constructed with two words, such as Fox Hound, should both names be capitalized?

From your living location to the means of publication and writing, there are no clear rules of capitalization concerning dog breed names. However, there are different expectations in various clubs and areas. We will be explaining the differences in circumstances and where they occur. Also, a general writing FAQ concerning dog breed names when capitalized will summarise the article to make sure all your questions are answered.

Dog Breed Name Capitalization by the AKC

The American Kennel Club (AKC) is one of the leading dog registration clubs in American. The AKC capitalizes every word of each dog breed name. Furthermore, you can also see they capitalize the word dog at the end of each breed when used. We can assume that they do this to signify the importance and to clarify which dog breed they are discussing.

As a well-renowned breeding and show club, the AKC places high importance on the clarification of dogs. From breed standards to multiple meetings with directors to discuss if a breed is eligible for representation by this organization, it is clear why they place such a high significance on the name of dog breeds. This breeding club exists to recognize differing dog breeds and the ideal breed standard. Therefore, the AKC aim to well represent and define each dog breed name on any form of media. Capitalization of each word making up a dog breed is a great way to accomplish this goal.

capitalization of dog breed names
Capitalization of dog breed names.

Merriam Webster’s Ruling on Dog Breed Name Capitalization

Merriam Webster is a well recognized American publishing company, known specifically for their production of dictionaries. In these books, it appears that proper nouns are capitalized whilst common nouns are not. A good example of this is with “English mastiff”. Where the word English is capitalized because it is a proper noun, while mastiff is lowercased because it is a common noun. Therefore, most dog breed’s names begin with a capital letter.

An exception to this rule can be seen from dog breeds that have originated from different countries and therefore do not begin with a proper noun generally or within their own language. For example, “basset hounds” come from France and the word “basset” actually means low, hence its lack of capitalization.

The American brand of Merriam Webster specializes in grammar, writing, and word contexture; dog breeds are not a priority to them and therefore they have no need to capitalize every word within them. Furthermore, the priority of the writers of the Merriam Webster dictionary is to follow the proper grammatical capitalization. This applies to adjectives, verbs, and nouns, in the case of dog breed names. This is why some writers only capitalize certain breeds.

Determine Who You Are Writing For

As you can see, there’s no mutual ruling on whether dog breed names should be capitalized. However, the concern should not be placed on what most people do, but instead, who your audience is. If your primary audience is dog lovers, then capitalize all the words to show importance. If you’re writing for a publication, ask them on the matter. There’s no problem in capitalizing or not capitalizing dog breed names directly, it depends on the context. Furthermore, publications want to keep their capitalization consistent. Therefore, if you are a publication, advertisement, or specific company, you will want to maintain whichever form of capitalization you choose.

Here are a few considerations that may influence whether or not you should capitalize dog breeds.

  • Your audience: Does your work target dog lovers, breeders, or dog clubs? Or are you mentioning dog breeds more infrequently? The more dog targeted your writing is, the more you may want to consider capitalizing all breed titles.
  • The origin country: If you wish to capitalize a dog’s breed based on whether or not nouns are involved, you may want to research what their breed name actually means from their origin country. Some countries will not name a dog in the same manner we will, so their breed title may not begin with a noun.

Capitalizing Dog Breed Names – FAQs

In order to make sure we have answered all of your questions concerning capitalizing dog breed names, we have composed a list of the four most searched questions.

Is “Dog” a Proper Noun?

Dog is not a proper noun and is defined as a common noun. Proper nouns are specific and direct such as a name or place, this could mean a city name or your name. Dog, however, falls into the category of a common noun as it is a species label/name, as opposed to a specific name. The only case where “dog” could be considered a proper noun is if it was a pet’s name. It can be confusing but take a look at this sentence for clarification:

My dog's name is Dog.

Note that only the specific name requires capitalization and the general name does not.

Should I Capitalize Dog Breed Names According to AP Style?

According to AP style (Associated Press Stylebook), proper nouns are capitalized and common nouns are not. This is the same as Merriam Webster’s rules for writing. AP style uses an English grammar style created by American Journalists, which you can regularly see in less formal writing. This includes some websites, advertisements, posters, and those with more informal writing styles. If your writing media is more casual then this may be the writing style you should consider using.

Do You Capitalize “Pit Bull”?

Pitbull capitalization, like with every dog breed, depends on what style you follow. Pitbulls originate from England and America. Their name contains “pit” as, during the heights of blood sports, they were used to kill rats and other fighting dogs in pits. The term pit is not a proper noun and therefore many will not capitalize the p in pitbull. Their full name though is ‘American pit bull’, as America is a proper noun, this should always be capitalized.

Should You Capitalize “Shiba Inu”?

The breed name for each dog breed always depends on opinions and use. The name Shiba Inu originates from Japan. “Inu” means dog and “Shiba”, although more difficult to translate, means brushwood. Therefore, we can take the word brushwood as a common noun which does not require capitalization. Bear in mind that if you follow this method of writing, you will need to maintain this consistency. You can do so by researching each breed’s origin country, translating the name if necessary, and then capitalizing only the proper nouns. You can also consider capitalizing all dog breed names for ease of writing.

The capitalization of dog breeds.
The capitalization of dog breeds.

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