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Poodle, Dachshund, Terrier, and More: How 13 Dog Breeds Got Their Names

Some dog breed names are obvious (just watch a retriever with a tennis ball), but others take some digging to understand. But once you learn the origins of these 13 names, you're likely to nod your head in recognition.

By
Mignon Fogarty,

illustration of dog breeds

In honor of this year being the Chinese Year of the Dog, we found some dog names with origins that will make you nod in recognition or at least smile. Most of these are descriptive in that they reflect how people used the dogs before they became the pets that some of us let up on the couch when we shouldn’t today.

1. Poodle

Poodles come from Germany where they were called “Pudelhund,” which meant something like “puddle, water, or splashing dog" because poodles were used to hunt water birds, so you can think of  “poodle” as meaning “puddle.”

2. Dachshund

Since we just had the Pudlehund, I bet you won’t be surprised to hear that the dachshund, with that same “hund” meaning “dog” at the end, also comes from Germany. The “dachs” part means “badger” in German, and these dogs likely got their name because they were used to hunt badgers.

3. Terrier

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Terriers get their name from an Old French word for “earth,” as in “dirt,” because when they are hunting, they’ll go after their prey into burrows. In modern French, "le terrier" actually means "burrow."

Schnauzers are a type of terrier (this breed was first introduced in 1923), and their name means “growler” in German.

Pit-bulls are also terriers. The pit-bull terrier may get the “pit” part of its name from the idea of putting dogs into a pit to fight.

4. Doberman pinscher

The Doberman pinscher (and that’s “pinscher” with and S-C-H, not “pincher”) gets the “Doberman” part of its name from a German dog breeder named Louis Dobermann, and even though it’s spelled differently, the “pinscher” part of the name does come from the German word for “pinch”—probably relating to how the Doberman’s ears are usually clipped or pinched.

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About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of the Quick and Dirty Tips network and creator of Grammar Girl, which has been named one of Writer's Digest's 101 best websites for writers multiple times. The Grammar Girl podcast has also won Best Education Podcast multiple times in the Podcast Awards, and Mignon is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame. Mignon is the author of the New York Times best-seller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing" and six other books on writing. She has appeared as a guest on the "Oprah Winfrey Show" and the "Today Show" and has been featured in the New York Times, Business Week, the Washington Post, USA Today, CNN.com, and more. She was previously the chair of media entrepreneurship in the Reynolds School of Journalism in Reno, NV. She hates the phrase "grammar nazi" and loves the word "kerfuffle." She has a B.A. in English from the University of Washington in Seattle and an M.S. in biology from Stanford University. Mignon believes that learning is fun, and the vast rules of grammar are wonderful fodder for lifelong study. 

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