Dogs and Gender – Reprise

I am stunned. When I published my post yesterday, I anticipated a few lukewarm responses, mostly in the vein of telling me I am projecting too much. I did not expect the enthusiastic and in-depth comments you all shared! Who knew one could combine dogs and gender politics so successfully? It’s so cool that I am not the only one interested in this stuff! I fully intend on responding to every comment but because I wasn’t expecting such a large amount of solid feedback, I published on a day I would be stuck working late. But I will get to it, I promise!

To clarify a little, my question wasn’t asking whether gender is a real thing. We are all familiar with the standard stereotypes. Most of us probably feel like we don’t quite fit into these molds but we have been socialized from such a young age to believe them anyway. As mentioned by a few of people, people who are transgendered are the largest victims of this. According to gender norms, men are supposed to like cooking outdoors, shooting things with guns, and wearing flannel. (Obviously I am simplifying) Some believe these traits are hard-wired into the male brain. However, it is clearly possible to be born a male and prefer shoe shopping, taking care of babies, and wearing pink. Unfortunately, at least in the Western world, we humans seem to find it impossible to live without these gender rules, regardless of how arbitrary they are.

Someone asked a question in the comments about the origins of pink being a feminine colour. There are a number of sources on this subject and it’s hard to place the exact time humans made the switch from the traditional blue to pink. It seems to have been a decision made by children’s clothing companies. There is a short article on Jezebel that explains it a little. But when you examine the history, the idea girls are born preferring pink is nothing short of ridiculous.

But, of course, I digress. This is a dog blog. I’ve never had to remind myself of that before.

Begging for food is not very becomming on a young woman

The question I was mostly concerned with yesterday was whether you think dogs have their own set of gender rules. Do dogs get weirded out if a male of the species likes to play “girly” games? Considering how much similar expectations have screwed us up, I truly hope not.

Yesterday, many of you brought up breed differences, which is something I didn’t even consider. It’s a fascinating concept that males and females of a specific breed could seem to behave in very different ways. It is possible to breed females differently than males? Genetically, what could create this? I did read a study a long time ago – that I am too lazy to find for you now – that found spayed female German Shepherd dogs tended to be more aggressive than un-spayed females of the breed. Whereas it was the opposite for males. I don’t know if the study has any merit but it does show the idea cannot be completely dismissed.

In my own observations, Shiva is not traditionally very ladylike. She drools, begs for food,  and would rather run and sniff than interact with others. She has no manners, is not very considerate, and if I fall she is more interested in the treats sliding from my pocket than my safety. She is selfish, likes to hunt, and doesn’t care one iota about her appearance. Shiva is not one for cuddling except on her own terms. If she was human, she would not perform her gender very well. But perhaps in dog world, this is typical female behaviour.

I guess we’ll never know.

Tomorrow I promise to return to my normal blogging fare. I have been lazy (see above) about getting last weekend’s fun match video edited and ready for public viewing. But unless the world comes to an end I intend on sharing it in my next post. Thank you very much for putting up with my inner musings for the past few days! You have given me so much to think about.

13 thoughts on “Dogs and Gender – Reprise

  1. So do you wish you had a do over on your My 7 Links post? lol

    I guess Storm is not the stereotypical female. She is tough as nails but never holds a grudge. She will try to hump Thunder and is not at all interested in cuddling for the most part. She is definitely more dominant than Thunder (male) who is also quite dominant. But Storm will also play nicely with other dogs and kids and will try to lick you to show affection. I contribute that to her breed and breeding, (her parents/grandparents and others way far back in their pedigree) and her socialization rather than her sex. I do think breed/pedigree/socialization contribute more to who she is rather than her sex. (I also realized that I had to state the sex of my dogs because their names are not gender specific, although I suppose some could argue that.)

    Great job on bringing up such an interesting topic. Glad you revisited so I remembered to come back and read other responses.


  2. I’ve honestly never considered the gender roles of my dogs, but it’s a really interesting idea. Nemo is the only male dog in my house and I don’t think I could attribute any gender specific behaviors that he has that the other dogs don’t have. I do have a tendency to put the lady dogs in pinks and purples though – I feel like it’s just wrong when someone mistakes them for dudes 🙂


  3. No, I don’t think dogs get weirded out if a boy likes to play ‘girly’ games. First I think you would have to define “girly” what games are traditional for a female dog to play and what games are traditional for males. In general I think dogs like to play, whether it’s running, hunting, fetching, agility you name it, they like to play. I think dogs like the socialization and the interactivity with humans and they are not gender specific.

    As for cuddling, Delilah is like the Shivster, on her terms, although she does crave the attention when I get home and she does tend to snuggle more at night. Sampson likes the loving whenever he can get it. 😉 Now I think THAT is gender specific. 😉 😉


  4. No, I don’t think gender matters in dogs. After all, both male and female dogs are used in search-and-rescue, hunting, policing, and the military (“male” jobs), and in therapy (“female”), if we’re using human gender-role constructs. I think male dogs and female dogs might differ to some degree in aggressiveness and DEFINITELY in the pee-on-everything behaviour (walk a male dog just once– you’ll see!). But there are dominant and submissive males and females, and I suspect that perhaps breed does have something to do with temperament. My dog definitely prefers females to males, though he does okay with males too, if they’re sufficiently non-threatening (i.e., 1/10th his size).

    In Will Smith’s “I am Legend,” the dog there provides an insight to this topic… but don’t bother watching the movie unless you’re into apocalyptic zombie vampires.


  5. Like you said at the end of the third to last paragraph, we as outsiders to their culture are not capable of saying whether or not they have ‘gender roles’ and what those gender roles are. We can’t use our own stereotypical gender roles to define the roles in the canine kingdom (quiet, calm, clean and sedentary which are roles we often put on young girls can’t be used for female dogs). It’s an anthropological thing… if we are to describe their social constructs we have to be a part of that community/culture for quite a while, and at the least have a community member as a translator to explain things …but we aren’t privvy to that.

    We can describe behavior we see but I don’t think we can’t make sweeping cultural construct generalizatoins through our own culture’s lenses.

    But it’s super interesting and fun to think about…


  6. Thanks for the follow up! Need to get back to the original post and catch up on comments. I agree that I found a lot of thoughtful ideas on the subject and it was great to hear everyone’s views.

    And just to blow the whole “male dogs peeing on everything” gender construct for dogs out of the water, my Maggie (female obviously) marks territory on walks like you wouldn’t believe. Worse than most male dogs I’ve seen!


  7. Love this discussion! The one thing that I find funny — and the opposite of stereotypes — is that Frankie pees like a girl, squatting. He never marks like male dogs traditionally do, which makes for easier walks. On the occasions when he does raise his leg, he pees balletically, getting it all done at the same thing.


  8. I’m not sure what “ladylike” behavior would be in a dog – probably not my mud loving, leg lifting, ungraceful girl 🙂 Can’t wait to see your video!


  9. On the whole musing on gender roles, I can just say that as someone who works with very young children that I believe that a lot of how they behave is hard wired in their brains. Little girls and little boys play very differently, and sometimes, I have children who have very specific preferences. I have a little boy in class right now who is FASCINATED with a tutu that we have in the living center. Not only the tutu, but wearing the sparkly pink shoes and a shiny bead necklace, too. He loves wearing them in a way that’s beyond the normal experimentation that a lot of the boys in our class go through. Since he’s mentioned ballet several times with great interest I got out a book that we had with a male dancer that has great pictures of him moving his body in different ways. He looked at it and said “That’s not ballet.” So, I dug through the book shelf and got out a book that has some ballerinas in full regalia, with lots of different costumes from some famous ballets. He was all about that. I seriously doubt with his background that he’s been encouraged towards any of the things that he’s drawn to, and I don’t discourage him. I just find it interesting that so many young children have strong gender identities firmly in place, and I don’t think it matters how they’re treated. They’re just different, and I am glad that they are!


  10. I loved the post Kristine, it gave me so much to think about. I actually love anytime a fellow dog blogger posts something thought provoking like that. Perhaps it is only my family & friends, but ’round here dog bloggers seem to have a reputation for being all pomp and no circumstance. “Soooo, you write about dog’s then? *awkward pause* That’s it?” I love seeing dog bloggers putting out intelligent thoughtful pieces – and I always enjoy your blog no matter what you’re posting.


  11. It’s hard to get away from using human standards of “ladylike,” isn’t it? 🙂

    Because, really, begging for food is probably very “ladylike” for a dog. It could be the best way to make sure your puppies grow to adulthood.


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