Dog Show Grammar


  • April 04, 2018
  • By Kate Eldredge

I am a bit of a grammar nerd. Scratch that—I am a huge grammar nerd. I get excited about rules like when to use “effect” versus “affect” and arguments about the merits of the Oxford comma (I grew up anti-Oxford comma, but converted in college). While I understand that most of the world does not share my enthusiasm for beautiful prose, I do ask that everyone, dog people included, understand and adhere to some of the basics. Here are some things that I see frequently in dog-related Facebook posts, on kennel websites and perhaps worst of all, in dog-related publications.
 
From the monthly column "My Dog Is My Homework" by Kate Eldredge. ShowSight, October 2016, CLICK TO SUBSCRIBE
 
Loose versus Lose
 
This is one of my biggest pet peeves and dog people are constantly violating it. Loose is generally an adjective and describes something that is unformed or not tied down. A loose dog is one that is running through the parking lot with his owner and a gaggle of strangers in tow. A loose bowel movement or that soft, partially-formed stuff that is a nightmare to try to get into a baggie or pooper scooper. A loose lead is the opposite of a tight lead. “Loose” can also be used as a verb, but this is less common: “I loosed my dogs in the field,” meaning, “I let my dogs run free in the field.”
 
Lose, on the other hand, is strictly a verb, and is the action of misplacing or coming to be without something either literally or figuratively. You might lose your favorite brush ringside and spend the rest of the day asking random strangers if they’ve seen it. You can also lose your temper and start yelling at the exhibitor who keeps running up on your dog. “Lose” is also used as the opposite of “win.”
 
So please don’t say, “I don’t mind loosing to a good dog.” This is nonsense, unless you are saying that you don’t mind flinging a handful of liver through the air on a short flight into that good dog’s mouth. What you meant to say is, “I don’t mind losing to a good dog.” Hooray! You are both grammatically correct and a good sport!
 
Apostrophe Abuse
 
Apostrophes are those little comma-like things that float over letters. Apostrophes indicate possession, and are what make words like “dogs” and “dog’s” different. The first word, “dogs,” means there is more than one dog. The second word, “dog’s,” means that one dog has something. So if you are bemoaning on Facebook that your dog played in a mud puddle and needs a bath, you would type, “My dog’s feet are filthy.” The feet are dirty and they belong to your dog. This is not usually too big of a deal.
Where the confusion comes in is when you have multiple dogs that may or may not possess something. If all of your dogs had a pool party in that mud puddle, you have two options. The first is, “My dogs are filthy.” You have a couple dogs and they are all dirty. The second option you can use is, “My dogs’ feet are filthy.” The letter s immediately following “dog” indicates that multiple dogs are involved and the apostrophe after that letter s shows that those dogs all have feet.
 
I’ll admit it is not the most intuitive system. So let’s try a different example. “A Pugs coat should be short and dense.” This is nonsense, because you have the word “a” indicating a singular Pug, but then the “s” says that you have multiple Pugs. “Pugs coat” also sounds vaguely like someone might be making a coat out of a bunch of Pug pelts or maybe just has a coat with a bunch of Pugs on it. The correct sentence is, “A Pug’s coat should be short and dense.” The Pug has a coat of hair and it should be short and dense. Got it. If you want to have multiple Pugs in your sentence, you can say, “Pugs’ coats should be short and dense.” All of the Pugs have coats and they are all short and dense.
 
Basically, you should only be using an apostrophe if there is possession involved. If you are just talking about multiple Pugs, but they don’t have anything, let the apostrophe enjoy its day off. Which reminds me—the exception to this rule is when trying to say that “it” possesses something. “It’s” is the contraction of “it is,” so for the possessive, we use “its.” Finally, always remember, “its’” is not a word.
 
From the monthly column "My Dog Is My Homework" by Kate Eldredge. ShowSight, October 2016, CLICK TO SUBSCRIBE
 
Breed Plurals
 
While I do not expect everyone to master the plural forms of every single dog breed name, you really should be able to at least use yours correctly. Many go by the basic formation of plurals and simply add the letter S at the end of the breed name. You have one Dalmatian, but your friend has three 
Dalmatians—one Labrador Retriever or five Labrador Retrievers.
For other breeds, the singular and plural forms are the same. I can have one Belgian Tervuren and I can also have two Belgian Tervuren. The same goes for
Chinese Shar-Pei and Japanese Chin.
 
Still other breeds have plural forms that are more complex and rooted in their native countries’ languages. You can have one Puli now, but next year will have three Pulik. Your friend has one Kuvasz, but her breeder has four Kuvaszok. The correct plural for Cirneco dell’Etna is actually Cirnechi, despite “Cirnecos” being used several times on the AKC website.
 
Grand Basset Griffon Vendéens, Petit Basset Griffon Vendéens and Löwchens all have simple add-an-s plurals, but be sure to include proper punctuation.
 
If you aren’t sure about a breed’s plural form, check out the appropriate parent club website or just formulate your sentences to avoid using the plural at all!
 
General Lack of Proofreading
 
This applies most to more formal writing, such as ads, articles and kennel or breed websites. Whenever you write something, let it sit a couple hours or overnight then read it again. Are your sentences actually sentences? Do they make sense? Magazine editors are generally great about proofreading and polishing up ad text or articles, but it makes their job a lot easier if the original submission is reasonably high-quality.
 
Your kennel website depends on you for design and content. Websites are often the first impression that a potential puppy buyer or stud dog owner gets of you and your dogs, so it should look professional! Have a navigation system that is clear and allows people to easily find information about specific dogs, your breeding program, your handling experience or anything else applicable. Include both call names and registered names of each dog so that people know who is who. Any informational pages that have a lot of text should definitely be proofread for accuracy and to be sure that you sound experienced and knowledgeable. And don’t forget to include your name! That is something that I have noticed on a lot of kennel pages—we get so caught up in talking about our dogs that we never actually say who we are.
 
Grammar and spelling can feel like tedious pursuits, but they do improve communication clarity and in general make everyone look and sound smarter. Good luck at your next shows! 
 
Breed Names with Unique Plural Forms
Bouvier des Flandres Bouviers des Flandres
Cane Corso Cane Corsos or Cani Corsi
Cirneco dell’Etna Cirnechi dell’Etna
Coton de Tulear Cotons de Tulear
Dogue De Bordeaux Dogues De Bordeaux
Keeshond Keeshonden
Komondor Komondorok
Kuvasz Kuvaszok
LagottO Romagnolo LagottI Romagnolo
Mudi Mudik
Puli Pulik
Pumi Pumik
Spinone Italiano Spinoni Italiani
Breed Names with 
the same Singular 
and Plural forms
Azawakh
Belgian Laekenois
Belgian Malinois
Belgian Tervuren
Chinese Shar-pei
Great Pyrenees
Japanese Chin
Maltese
Norrbottenspets
Pekingese
Shiba Inu
Shih Tzu
Xoloitzcuintli
 
From the monthly column "My Dog Is My Homework" by Kate Eldredge. ShowSight, October 2016, CLICK TO SUBSCRIBE
 
Photo by Daniel Cartier

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