Thursday, August 30, 2012


If you ask me, it's woman who is dog's best friend.  It only seems natural that the nurturing gender would make the bigger contribution.  Historically, women trained dogs for domestic tasks and used them for hauling heavy loads.

No accessories were spared in decorating this travois or dog for that matter. Very festive.
Photo: University of Washington

In most Native American cultures women were responsible for dogs. Western travelers noted that Hidatsa (Mandan) women were very affectionate with their dogs, which were called by a name that translates to horse of the woman. And favored dogs slept inside with the family.
Photo: University of Washington

In the Pacific northwest, Puget Sound Tribe women kept medium sized long-haired dogs and used their fur for blanket weaving. Women would swing their dogs through the air in circles prior to sheering them, apparently to make them more compliant during the grooming session.  (If you try this, let me know how it works.)  
Photo: University of Washington
In the 19th century, dog exhibitions provided an opportunity for women to prove their stuff. Women couldn't compete with men on the playing field, but the dog sport was different. The London Times reported, "Woman can view with men and show what they can do in dog-raising." He added, "Bench shows ... and good taste have brought women, not only to admire dogs of race, but to own and breed them and to contend for recognition as successful breeders at exhibitions all over the county... their interest in dogs is not a fad but earnest and to last."

"[Dogs] known to be excellently well adapted for being the companion of the gentler sex" included the Blenheim Spaniel, the Pomeranian, the Maltese Terrier, and the Poodle. In particular the black Poodle which was "coming very much into fashion." 

Photo: Library of Congress

Women were told, "As you should cut your coat according to your cloth, so should you choose a dog." Newspaper society columnists urged ladies to pass up the Mastiff and Chow Chow.

But isn't this a face only a mother could love?
Photo: Library of Congress
Georgia O'Keeffe wasn't known to be a crowd-follower.  She had six Chows in her lifetime. You can see more photos of her dogs at Dog Art Today.
Photo: By John Leongard, Georgia O'Keeffe Museum
And heaven forbid if you fancied a Yorkshire Terrier,  King Charles Spaniel or Pug.  One fashionista wrote, "I believe there cannot be an uglier, more selfish little beast of a dog in creation than a mongrel or badly bred Pug." (See more vintage photos of the horribly adorable Pug) Apparently this woman didn't read the advice column. The photo is from the Cabinet Card Gallery.  Click dogs on their menu to see a marvelous collection of vintage dog photos.
Photo: Cabinet Card Gallery
"Disregard fads ... the dwarfs and midgets and "unhappy toys" of China, Mexico and Japan." If pictures tell a story, then very few women listed to the etiquette counselors. This dog-lover is holding two Japanese Spaniels named Ping-Pong and Fiko.

Photo: Library of Congress

Women were encouraged to consider  the Highland Collie, as this was the Queen's favorite, (See my Collie history post) or the elegant Landseer Newfoundland.
Photo: Leighton's Book of the Dog 1907
There is no end to old photos, but I'll finish my too lengthy post with these. Annie Oakley toured the country with her English Setter, Dave.

Helen Keller was a true dog lover and had many, though none were guide dogs.  Here she is with Fizz.
Photo: Library of Congress

Eleanor Roosevelt with Scotty, Fala
Photo: Wikipedia

And here's a favorite from my collection. All girls school, 1908, with their little black mascot dog sitting in the front row. I hope he got to go to class.


  1. What a fun post and interesting facts about dogs and woman. I really enjoyed the facts and the photos.


  2. I too really enjoyed the pix and this post. Have a fantastic Friday.
    Best wishes Molly