Dog World Language



The Dog World Vernacular



In every endeavor, sport or fancy, there is a particular set of words and terms that apply specifically to the goings-on of that very specialized group. It is the “language" spoken and understood within the confines of that group. This specialized language then becomes the vernacular for that particular subset of people. The usage of certain words takes on a different meaning when applied within this group. Outside of this subset group, the exact same word may have a total different connotation altogether from what it means inside this tight circle of activity.


In our canine world, the word “bitch”, a female dog, is appropriately used when referring to any female dog. Our show dog catalogs boldly display this very appropriate verbiage. We advertise dogs of this gender in every periodical, magazine and dog chronicle, as “Brood Bitches”, “Winners Bitch”, “Top Bitch” and every other colorful adjective to paint a pretty picture about how wonderful our “bitch” may be. Labrador fanciers will verbally throw around the words, “black bitch”, “yellow bitch”, and “chocolate bitch” as free as a Frisbee is flung at a park.


In the company of other “dog people” we never have a second thought about discussing the tremendous value of our “bitches”, however the radar goes up whenever our immediate circle of human counterparts are not into dogs. We throw great caution into the wind with the use of certain words especially when we are gathered with a group outside the dog world’s parameters. None-dog-people heads will assuredly turn at the mere mention of anything bitch! Looks of disdain will be cast towards the speaker of such an unmentionable word. I have even had total strangers; ten feet away from my immediate sphere of influence exclaim out loud with “Excuse me!” upon hearing such perceived profanity.


Our two kids, Jessie and Ryan are drilled about certain words that are commonly used at dog shows, dog training classes and other canine activity, to not use those same words at school or anywhere else outside the realm of dogs. They then are totally aware of the double standard used in the differing circles of people.


The word bitch is our prime example, but there is an array of other words that have very specialized meaning in the world of dogs. We refer to a female dog that has had puppies as a “dam”; so offensive sounding is this word that at times in advertising it will be softened up some with the addition of an extra “e” at the end, making it a nice sounding “dame”. To the dog world citizens, the copping out of using “dame” is also accepted since we “know” why the person copped out in the first place by using the “softer” version of the word. The word dame, not as much in usage nowadays, actually was used to refer to a woman of authority or the mistress of a household, where as the word dam refers to a female quadruped mother, e.g. a female dog.


Not all word and terms have a good/bad connotation, take the phrase “to put up”. To the ordinary folk, this might mean to put away, however in the canine world, this is what you want the judge to do to you and your dog. To be “put up” is a very good thing for it means that your dog has been selected over others to either go further in the competition, win or receive a placement.


The exact opposite of being put up is to be “dumped”. Outside the confines of dogdom, “to be dumped” might indicate a love affair gone sour, however in the show ring, the term is mostly reserved for a champion dog that is not liked by the judge and does not award it any placements for the day in the Best of Breed competition. Of major consequence and for sure to raise the ire and hackles of the owners, breeders and/or handlers, is when the judge favors the “class dog” and awards it Best of Breed over the champion dogs in the ring. The class dogs or class bitches are those dogs that have not won enough points yet to attain their championship title, so they must continue to compete from the regular classes until they reach the specified number of points, as opposed to competing out from the Best Of Breed competition.


So the terminology heard around ringside when this occurs might go something like this, “That idiot, blind as a bat judge dumped all the specials for the class dog!”


Of course such language must be reserved and muffled or else someone might overhear and call for a “show bench committee hearing” for the use of profanity and casting dispersions on a judge’s decision! A show bench committee hearing is sometimes like a kangaroo court, where anything might go since it is usually “he said that she said” and then some ordinary folk, usually club members from the host club make a decision based on whom they like better.


Okay, so that is my opinion on how it goes, maybe there are times when such civil interventions are actually called for!


So what’s a special’s dog? Supposedly a champion dog that is being shown in the Best of Breed competition is referred to as a “specials”. In actuality, there might not be anything special about the dog, it is just the act of showing the dog in the Best of Breed competition that makes it a “specials dog” or “specials bitch”. Of course all of us old timers have seen countless dogs and bitches being specialed that actually were lucky to have accumulated the required points to be allowed in the Best Of Breed competition.


Okay, okay, so that’s my opinion again, but actually those not-so special dogs that are being specialed do serve a purpose, in advertising the real specials dogs that actually win BOB can state that they “won over x-amount of specials”.


A specials dog or specials bitch that is shown with the goal of having it “ranked” is called a “campaign”. The more a dog or bitch wins in the Best of Breed competition, the higher the “ranking” for its particular breed. The object would be to get a top 25 national ranking in your breed to receive an invitation to the annual Eukanuba Championship Invitational.


So you campaign your special’s bitch and hope that the judges puts her up and doesn’t dump her so that she gets ranked, but you are very careful what you say, especially if you are not choosy with your verbiage if your dog does get dumped for the class dog, so that a bench committee hearing is not called against you by your opponents if they overhear you berate the judge and his decision.


For those folk that just stumbled upon a dog show for the very first time and overheard the preceding conversation, a look of bewilderment would certainly glaze over their faces obviously clueless to the vernacular in use. They would not be privy to the terminology of the dog show world’s subset of people. Of course it doesn’t take much time to catch up and be hip to what’s happening (hip language circa 1995) or as the vernacular in my kid’s (the now) world would say being “tight” and knowing what’s “zzup”!


The following is a guide to current dog world vernacular that can be considered “zzup”. Of course I have included my two-cents worth after each term, what’s an article if it doesn’t have guts and glory?


  1. Pulled – to not show a dog that is entered for varying reasons, some valid some nefarious. “She pulled her dog because he was limping.” (Valid) “She pulled her dog to break the major.” (Nefarious)
  2. Throw – the ability of a sire dog to “give” something to his offspring in litter. “Receiver threw great heads on his progeny.” (V) My opinion
  3. Type – The closest approximation to the accepted consensus look of a breed. Good luck finding a consensus!
  4. Weedy – Moving away from type to the light side extreme. Most people that have dogs that do not conform to the breed standard will call these weedy individuals “field lines”.
  5. Overdone – Moving away from type to the heavy side extreme. If it reminds you of something other than the breed that was intended, then it is not a good specimen of the breed, if it reminds you of an elephant then “Houston we have a problem!”
  6. Blow Coat – Shedding hair as to not be in show form. Many exhibitors will use this excuse year round because their dogs actually have no coat!
  7. Fault – an obvious deviation from the written breed standard. Of course not too many owners will admit that their beloved Pooch has any fault, to them faults are things found on other people’s dogs.
  8. Pet Dog – As opposed to having show potential, usually used as a derogatory term when applied to a dog in the ring that does not measure up to the competition. Realistically, about half the dogs shown in the Labrador ring would classify as Pet Dogs if a fair and impartial evaluation were to be administered by the judge.
  9. Major points – a pre-determined number of dogs needed to be defeated in competition to receive that classification. A fluctuating hurdle that is imposed by the AKC to make matters more difficult in obtaining a title that can be obtained if any dog is shown enough!
  10. Finish – to achieve the champion’s title. See the preceding term, too many dogs will finish that actually do not deserve the accolade.
  11. Big Five – winning all five awards in a breed ring, Best of Breed, Best of Opposite Sex, Best of Winners, Winners Dog and Winners Bitch. Wishful thinking by 99% of breeder/exhibitors.
  12. Double handling – a second person, usually outside the ring used to aid in making the dog look better in the ring. Some dogs might even need triple handling to win.
  13. Over handle – doing too much as a handler to a dog in the ring. See above
  14. Making the cut – being selected from a large lineup of dogs for further consideration. Sometimes used as a friendly gesture by the judge to a particular handler.



Come back often, as more terminology will be added from time to time.

Back to Reference Library

Back to Reference Library

Back to Home Page


  Back to Home Page