Gender Roles And Dogs: What You Need To Know And Why Gender In Dogs Doesn’t Matter

Sweet little terrier with black and white spots

How much does gender influence a dog's behavior? Perhaps a more relevant question is: how do our assumptions about gender impact our dogs?

Congratulations! It’s a dog! No, but really. That’s about it when it comes to dog gender. We’re not here for an in-depth lesson in gender studies, but it’s important to remember that sex and gender are different. While there are physical differences between male and female dogs, they don’t manifest much differently in terms of their behavior.

An adorable small dog in some pebbles


While we’ve all heard certain things about male dogs being more aggressive or perhaps more fun-loving, and about female dogs being more moody but ultimately docile, these things don’t have much grounding in reality. Perhaps you’ve heard exactly the opposite! We tend to suffer from confirmation bias when it comes to anthropomorphizing our dogs, in that we see what we want to see and don’t pay as much attention to things that don’t fit our expectations and worldview. If we have inborn assumptions about human gender roles, we’re very likely going to project them onto the dogs in our lives.

Happy border collie running through a field


It’s important to remember that, when it comes to picking out a dog, you really can’t rely on gender to carry much weight in how they behave. Look into different breeds for specific personality traits, go for an older dog with an established pattern of behaviors, and ask a lot of questions, but don’t just say that you want a male dog and assume that they’ll act and react exactly as you want. Behavior is individualistic, although some breeds may have overarching elements that help you choose the right dog.

Chihuahua looking serious


There’s also value in remembering that, in terms of the gender roles we superimpose on our dogs, breed has a fair amount of play. Using gendered stereotypes fall short when you examine different breeds. For example, if you identify masculinity based on strength and stature, even the most coded, masculine Chihuahua will pale in comparison to a female Doberman. If you’re assuming that female dogs are calm and easy-going, compare a female border collie to a male Basset hound. Gender just can’t be that determinant of behavior in dogs.

Adorable puppy sniffing the air


Concentrate on meeting the right dog and doing your best to raise them without too many assumptions based on gender, because they aren’t particularly helpful and may lead you to improperly raise your dog or choose a companion who doesn’t fit your lifestyle. Oh, and when it comes to dressing up your dog, you’re not likely to cause any confusion or crisis by femming up a male dog or butching up a female dog. Regardless of gender, most dogs just don’t like wearing costumes. Maybe stick to a bandana. Pink or blue, your dog won’t care much either way!


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