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Capitalization of dog breeds

When referring to “French” and “English” bulldogs, the geographic part of the breed will always be capitalized. What are the rules about capitalizing the stand alone word “bulldog?”

From what I understand, AKC dropped the requirement to use “English” in front of the word “bulldog” (or so I’ve been told....) so I am left with the word “bulldog.”

Should I capitalize or not? I referred to the AKC site to see how they were handling the capitalization and they begin by capitalizing the word then use a non-capitalized version throughout their article.


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When it comes to dog breeds, etc., I only capitalize the name when it functions as a name: Chesapeake Bay retriever, Labrador retriever, but not when the name has become a sort of generic descriptor: french fries.

So "English bulldog" but just "bulldog" when it is alone. I think that the Chicago Manual of Style and the AP style book both prefer the lowercase then.

chas.clifton August 19, 2009, 8:25pm

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Thanks, Chas.
I am working on copy for a club that holds shows and competitions for the bulldog breed. I think I will use the "bulldog" version of the word. It seems awkward to have the word capitalized throughout the document.
Thanks again.

jenn August 20, 2009, 7:00am

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#1 is right--except I'm not sure if I should capitalize ""French fries" now. Great.

Only capitalize the proper name words: "German," "Labrador," "English," "Newfoundland," and "Dalmatian." Dog breed ITSELF is not a proper name, so "bulldog" and "English bulldog," "poodle" and "French poodle." Okay?

scyllacat August 24, 2009, 11:56am

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When using the name of a dog, i.e.; "My poodle, Alphonso..." is only the given name capitalized but not the breed ("poodle"). Please advise.


vonlea October 25, 2009, 8:32am

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Sylacat ~ thank you for prompt response. Vonda

vonlea October 25, 2009, 8:33am

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I'm writing a paper that mentions dog breeds and the bulldog bit was very helpful, but do I capitalize shar-pei?

ebony_kiss_009 February 16, 2010, 5:53pm

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Buford Joma,
I'm not sure who you would like to contact. I started this thread (capitalization of dog breeds) last year. There are many contributers. Cheers.

jenn May 2, 2010, 7:20pm

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I am also accustomed to using the "down style" and not capping dog breeds except when a proper noun is present (German short-haired pointer). But here's my problem: Rottweiler or rottweiler? Merriam-Webster shows it not capped, but then explains the dogs hail from a city in Germany: Rottweil. Okay, so we'd cap Bostonian, wouldn't we? Why not Rottweiler? That's gotten me to thinking about the issue of "speciesism." I know, I know. But why not just cap them all -- out of *respect* -- like we do countries, tribes, teams, gangs for pete's sake? The sentence I'm editing looks silly: Labs, goldens, Dalmatians, rottweilers. I'm going to have a hard time justifying this to the author, with good reason. Chicago's wrong here, I think. Can anyone make me feel better?

kathrynrobyn September 20, 2010, 9:31pm

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1) Writing is about communicating, not following rules. Like driving, on occasions one breaks one or more laws to avoid an accident.

2) It is interesting that Poodles are retrievers but not Retrievers.

opticjohn January 23, 2011, 8:51pm

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Yes of course it is; however I was editing a book; and grammar rules as well as style guidance can help make writing better.That's my job, to make the writing not get in the way of the story.

kathrynrobyn January 24, 2011, 1:31am

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Really interesting discussion. I've heard that all words should be capitalized but it makes more sense that only the proper name parts would be.

It seems odd to me that the AKC would drop the "English" part so they're referred to as just bulldogs. My dog's recent DNA test said she was part bulldog but now I'm left wondering - English or French? Or American (which people forget about)?

Too confusing sometimes, I think I'll stick with "mutt." No grammar worries there either :)

sonia February 2, 2011, 5:30pm

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The piece I am looking at reads "St. Bernard and Scotch shepherd." Anyone know why St. Bernard would be capitalized?

hankar February 16, 2011, 9:25am

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What about Great dane? Or Great Dane?

redlight.silver February 26, 2011, 11:02am

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Commonly Used Animal-Related Words
The common names of animals are not capitalized unless they contain a proper noun. In this case
the proper noun is capitalized, along with any word preceding (but not following) it. For example,
German shepherd, Labrador retriever, English bulldog, Great Dane.

Kim March 17, 2011, 10:51am

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What about border collie? Or, perhaps, Border collie? Is Border a place or name or anything?

Hailey July 19, 2011, 8:44am

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Hailey, "border" in border collie refers to the herding dog's origin, the border between Scotland and England. The border between two countries is not a proper noun, so should not be capitalized.

porsche July 20, 2011, 9:33am

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I had no idea. That's good to know, thank you.

Hailey July 20, 2011, 1:42pm

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Lots of people on here referring to proper nouns, Like German short-haired or English bulldog. Although these still need to be capitalised, due to the fact that they come from proper nouns, they are in fact being used as adjectives in this situation. German and English are proper nouns relating to the language. German or English used to describe a man or dog is actually an adjective. Cheers.

Phil97 September 19, 2011, 1:44am

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Phil97: I guess you could say they are "proper adjectives." ;) I'm still a bit confused, because I've always written "Beagle" using a capital B, but I suppose beagle isn't a proper noun, nor is it a geographic location.

Frankie November 10, 2011, 1:00pm

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Would "standard poodle" be capitalized?

Grace February 16, 2012, 2:13am

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Oh my gosh, I'm an English teacher - and reading this is giving me a headache.

audra June 26, 2012, 10:45am

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How about yellow lab or a german shepard?

eastar2 February 6, 2013, 6:46am

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I too am writing an article containing dog breeds, and based on what I've gleaned from this discussion, especially Kim's contribution, it's Yellow Lab and German shepard, right?

Maile July 13, 2013, 12:16pm

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On their website, the Kennel Club (the authority in Britain), capitalise everything - Golden Labrador, German Shepherd, Border Collie, Standard Poodle etc., as do Wikipedia,, and

If you're just describing somebody's dog, lower case is probably better - "They've got a poodle", but if you're describing the breeds themselves, I imagine capitals are the way to do it. That's certainly what a little Googling would suggest.

Warsaw Will July 13, 2013, 3:16pm

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Okay, so, in the article I'm about to send, would you agree that I should write that I've had the pleasure of knowing the following breeds:
Yellow Labrador Retrievers
Black Labrador Retrievers
Golden Retrievers

Maile July 13, 2013, 5:09pm

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I don't claim to be any expert on dog breeds, but judging by what I've seen at the biggest dog-related websites,yes. Why not try a bit of Googling to check Here's the relevant page (on gundogs) at the Kennel Club. Click on a breed for more details.

Warsaw Will July 14, 2013, 12:34am

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Warsaw Will, This is excellent! Thanks so much for both the URL and the very clear answer. Now I know: first letters will be written in caps when I refer to a specific breed. . (This was consistent with what I found when I checked other websites, specifically at

Maile July 14, 2013, 4:25am

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I'm still looking for the proper method. Everyone states something different. English can be difficult sometimes.

The Bearden Pack May 19, 2017, 6:39pm

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Yes     No