Gender-Based Assumptions About My Dog (UPDATED)

My dog and I recently celebrated our eighth adopt-a-versary. Since I also treat that day as her birthday, and the vet estimated that she was about two years old when I got her, that means that last month was her tenth birthday. She has been recovering from knee surgery since early June, so it was a very low-key celebration. I do plan on doing a bit more to celebrate when she’s off restricted duty.

She likes to sleep a lot anyway, so her "light duty" assignment works out okay most of the time.

She likes to sleep a lot anyway, so her “light duty” assignment works out okay most of the time.

Since she has been confined to a crate for more than a month, and since we have had numerous people coming and going through our house for various reasons (e.g. the squirrel urine problem that I still don’t want to talk about here), I have noticed something that has always happened, but that happens much more frequently under the present circumstances. To paraphrase a typical exchange with a visitor, in dramatic form:

Visitor: Cute dog. What’s his name?
Me: Her name is Zeta.
Visitor: [To Zeta] Well hello there! [To me] May I asked what happened that he needs the cone?
Me: She had knee surgery, so the cone is there so she doesn’t nibble off her stitches.
Visitor: Aw, well, he’s adorable.
Me: Yes, she is.

This is something that I have noticed out in public with my dog on occasion, but it has happened in one form or another multiple times over the past few weeks.

Is it just because I’m a guy that people assume that my dog is a guy? That might explain the initial assumption, but so many people seem to stick to their initial choice of pronoun even after I make it clear that my dog is a “she,” not a “he.”

Is it her apparent passion for playing in the mud?

Is it her apparent passion for playing in the mud?

In the grand scheme of things, it really doesn’t matter. She’s spayed, so the only significant difference between male and female dogs (the whole “going into heat” thing) is not an issue. I really don’t think she cares if people get her sex wrong—all she wants to do is sniff and lick people. I just find it interesting.

(This topic was already on my mind, but inspiration also came from this tweet by Alice.)

UPDATE (07/15/2015): Alice (she of the above h/t) noted on Facebook that dogs are often presumed to be boys, while cats are presumed to be girls. I’m quite sure I’ve made that assumption about cats many, many times. Now I’m pondering how far the gendered assumptions and/or stereotypes go (i.e. dogs being big & dumb, cats being aloof, etc.) Probably best not to dwell on it too much.


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