This is a common question in American English for a couple of reasons. First, because dogs are a big part of our lives, they come up fairly frequently in writing. And second, even if you understand the rules, they seem to be applied inconsistently.
With that in mind, let’s see if we can get to the bottom of the issue.
Why You Shouldn’t Usually Capitalize Dog Breeds
Dog-breed names are most often descriptions rather than proper nouns, and in these cases, they don’t have to be capitalized. Grammatically speaking, retriever (applied to a dog) is the same type of term as person. For that reason, you wouldn’t have to treat retrievers as proper nouns for capitalization.
In spite of that, you’ve probably seen many dog breeds capitalized anyway. That brings us to a couple of notable exceptions.
When You Should Capitalize Dog Breeds
Even though you typically don’t need to capitalize dog breeds, there are occasions in which you might.
For one thing, certain breeds are used as proper nouns, usually because they are associated with a place or a group of people. For instance, Great Dane, Samoyed, and Shi Tzu are all capitalized regularly. Rottweiler, Pomeranian, and Scotch Terrier are a few more that are often capitalized.
In other instances, dog breeds might be capitalized because they are being referred to as proper titles or categorizations. For example, you may find that certain websites or magazines will capitalize all dog breeds because they want the differences to stand out within the text.
Certain style guides also may direct that dog breeds be treated as proper nouns rather than as descriptive terms. If you suspect your school or employer might have special requirements, check their style guidelines to be sure.
Deciding When to Capitalize Dog Breeds
While it might sound like there is a lot to remember, using dog-breed names in a grammatically correct way isn’t all that hard. Simply remember that:
1) In normal everyday usage, you won’t capitalize them, especially if they refer to broad categories of dogs.
2) When you do encounter a dog-breed name that refers to a specific country, region, or people, then you probably will want to capitalize it.
Keep those two guidelines in mind and you’ll likely avoid most of the ruff capitalization errors among the dog-breed names that you write.
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