Misgendering someone else’s dog you meet in the park

It seems that we are arguably a little sexist when we meet someone in the park who is taking their dog for a walk. Dogs are great for meeting strangers and starting a little chat. We almost invariably admire the dog and ask, “What breed is he?”

He? The starting point appears to be that we presume the dog is male. Well, we don’t think about the gender but we do use the male pronoun, he, when the dog could quite easily be female.

Frank Skinner and a cavapoo. This is no his cavapoo! Image: MikeB. The Frank Skinner image is from Wikipedia – see base of article for the credit. The dog is from the Canva database.

This may irritate the dog caregiver as happens with Frank Skinner, who’s a dog lover. Mr Skinner is an English comedian, actor, presenter and writer. He is very well known in the UK.

Until recently it appears that he wasn’t concerned about pronouns. Also, until recently he always lived with a male dog. Perhaps that’s why he had no issues with pronouns.

Since he adopted Poppy, a female cavapoo he has encountered the dog misgendering problem, which has irritated him, he says in the Walking the Dog podcast.

He said:

For the first time I understood the controversy about pronouns because when I’m out walking her and someone says ‘He’s a nice dog’ I go ‘ It’s a she’. It really annoys me.

Frank Skinner

Personally, I have been guilty of dog misgendering. It is a sexist presumption to refer to a dog you’ve met before as male. We have to be more pronoun/gender-sensitive.

The first thing one should do when meeting a person with a dog who you want to talk to is to ask if she is female of male and secondly if you can touch her. You can’t make that presumption either.

Frank Skinner picture: By Raph_PH – FSkinnerSoho081117-6, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=99364032

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