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