At a recent writing group meeting, we had a discussion about how to properly capitalize the names of dog breeds. Because there was no consensus. I thought it might be worth doing some research.
Looking at various dog breeder websites, there is no consistency as to how dog breed names are capitalized. Apparently no rules apply.
I decided to go to a grammar expert instead. According to Grammar Girl, the parts of the names derived from proper nouns are capitalized and those from common nouns are not. To be sure, she suggests checking a dictionary.
For the German shepherd dog breed, German is capitalized because it is a proper noun (Germany) and shepherd is not because it is a common noun. Dictionary.com agrees with this pattern of capitalization.
Using this model, a standard poodle is not capitalized, but the proper noun in Labrador retriever would be capitalized. Cross those two breeds, however, and the resulting labradoodle is not capitalized (Oxford concurs).
The dog breed that started the discussion was a Belgian Malinois, which is a type of working dog currently favored by law enforcement. Obviously Belgian is a proper noun, but what is Malinois? It turns out Malinois is also a proper name. It is derived from Malines, the French name for the city where the breed originated. Thus, both parts of the name should be capitalized.
Here’s how to pronounce Malinois:
In conclusion, whether you are writing about a beagle or an Irish setter a little research will keep you out of the dog house.