Everything the British royal family does gets scrutinized by fans and critics around the world. From what they wear to where they travel, everything that each royal does sends a specific message. So it stands to reason that even the dogs that royals choose as pets — including the dogs owned by newcomer Meghan Markle — can have a hidden meaning.
Everybody knows that the queen loves Pembroke Welsh corgis. But what other dog breeds are fit — or unsuitable — for the royal family? Read on to get all the details from an etiquette expert.
1. The ‘finest’ dogs are Labrador retrievers and corgis
Etiquette expert William Hanson writes for The Daily Mail that the “finest” dogs are Labrador retrievers and Pembroke Welsh corgis. Both breeds are considered suitable for the royal family. But a dog isn’t just a dog in the queen’s household. Surprisingly enough, black Labradors have more cachet than yellow ones. And Corgis may be a relatively recent addition to the list of dog breeds suited to the royal family. In fact, it was Queen Elizabeth II’s father, King George VI, who first developed a penchant for the breed. And he’s the one who got a young Princess Elizabeth hooked on these adorable dogs.
Next: These dog breeds also seem right at home in upper-class households.
2. Jack Russells and other terriers are acceptable for the upper class
Hanson reports that Jack Russells and other terriers also number among the dog breeds that members of the royal family can own. He explains that upper-class Brits “traditionally felt it was preferable to have a ‘working’ dog (even if it doesn’t actually ‘work’) so maximum social brownie points if your dog is actually used for shoots and hunts.” The Daily Beast notes that Prince Charles owned a Jack Russell terrier named Tigga. And Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, also favors the breed and has owned two Jack Russells. One of her dogs is named Tosca and the other Rosie.
Next: Upper-class Brits can own these dog breeds, too.
3. King Charles spaniels and Springer spaniels are alright, too
Similarly, members of the royal family can own King Charles spaniels and Springer spaniels. Spaniels were bred as hunters’ companions, as the AKC notes. These dogs are skilled in finding, flushing, and fetching game. They go back to at least the 14th century, though their ancestry could be even older than that. The Daily Beast notes that formal portraits from the 17th century and onward show kings, queens, and their children posing with dogs, including King Charles spaniels, corgis, pugs, and greyhounds. And more recently, a young Prince Harry was caught on film socializing with two spaniels at Eton College during his studies there.
Next: These dog breeds are better suited for the upper middle class.
4. Dalmatians and English setters label you as upper middle class
Hanson reports that the Dalmatian and the English setter rank as upper-middle-class pets — and label their owners as such, too. The AKC characterizes Dalmatians as “coach dogs” who “have accompanied the horse-drawn rigs of nobles, gypsies, and firefighters.” And the organization describes the English setter as one of the “four British setters created to work on the distinctly different terrains of England, Ireland, and Scotland.”
Next: These dog breeds label you as upper middle class, as well.
5. Golden retrievers and Weimaraners are upper middle class, too
The golden retriever — a perennial American favorite — would label an English owner as upper middle class, according to Hanson. So would a Weimaraner. Express reports that Queen Elizabeth II has owned a golden retriever. The British royal family may not have owned any Weimaraners, at least in recent memory. But as W Magazine reports, another very famous royal — Grace Kelly — took her Weimaraner (plus her Great Dane and her poodle) with her when she relocated from Hollywood to become Princess of Monaco.
Next: Etiquette places this dog breed as an upper-middle-class pet.
6. Rottweilers also make acceptable pets for the upper middle class
Rottweilers also make Hanson’s list of the dog breeds associated with the upper middle class in the United Kingdom. That may surprise American fans of the British royal family, since we’ve become accustomed to seeing Rottweilers targeted with often-unfair breed-specific legislation and bans. The royal family could keep rottweilers if they wanted to. But Hanson warns that other breeds of dogs “will put you surprisingly low on the social scale.” In fact, there are some dog breeds that the royal family would never own — at least if they follow these traditional rules.
Next: These dog breeds are for the mainstream middle class.
7. Great Danes and wolfhounds are ‘mainstream’ middle class
Hanson goes on to report that a Great Dane or a wolfhound would label its owner as “mainstream middle class.” That doesn’t sound like an insult, but it certainly wouldn’t do for a member of the royal family. Both breeds are very large, with the Great Dane weighing up to 170 pounds and the Irish wolfhound up to 120 pounds. But despite their impressive stature and strength, both breeds are typically friendly and patient with children — a major plus for any family.
Next: Kate Middleton owns a dog that’s technically middle class.
8. Red setters and cocker spaniels also mean middle class
Dog breeds including red setters and cocker spaniels also mean “middle class.” Hanson writes that that association came about “largely due to the slightly pretty, more cuddly appearance and temperament” of these dog breeds. However, it’s worth noting that Prince William and Kate Middleton have a cocker spaniel named Lupo despite the middle-class connotations. Closer Weekly reports that Lupo’s mother is Ella, a dog owned by Kate’s parents. The queen reportedly doesn’t love the dog, but Kate and William seem to since he appeared in the first photos of the duke and duchess with firstborn Prince George.
Next: The lower middle class typically does this when considering a dog.
9. The lower middle class usually skips the dog, according to Hanson
Hanson reports that in the United Kingdom, “the lower middle class usually hate all dogs — so have none — on account of the smell.” We don’t entirely blame people who don’t want to deal with the shedding, the messes, or the smells that come along with a dog. But if it’s allergies that are the main concern, you can always consider a hypoallergenic breed for a chance at trouble-free dog ownership.
Next: The royal family wouldn’t own these dog breeds.
10. ‘New money’ often chooses small dogs like Yorkshire terriers
Hanson reports that people referred to as “new money,” whether famous or not, typically opt for small, low-maintenance dogs. That includes Yorkshire terriers, a breed that the royal family would never own. The breed’s history may or may not help you make the case that the royal family should give these adorable dogs a chance. As the AKC reports, these dogs may “seem like they have royal roots, but Yorkies have a rather unglamorous background of catching rats and other vermin in underground tunnels.”
Next: Few royals would choose this breed.
11. The royal family would never own a poodle
Another new money favorite that royals would never own, according to Hanson? Poodles. These dogs are better suited to new money than to royalty, according to the etiquette expert. But you don’t have to look too far back in British history to find at least one royal who owned one of these long-living dogs. As BarkPost reports, King Edward VII owned a poodle named Sammy when he was a child.
Next: The royal family also wouldn’t own this kind of dog.
12. They also wouldn’t have West Highland white terriers
The West Highland white terrier is another dog breed associated with new money and not the upper class, according to Hanson. The AKC characterizes these small dogs as “surprisingly strong and tough” despite their irresistible looks. “Alert and active, Westies exhibit traits of a plucky and self-reliant ratting terrier,” the organization continues. “They require no pampering, they will chase after anything that moves, and their independence can make training a challenge.”
Next: Most royals would skip this dog, too.
13. Royals would never choose Chihuahuas
Finally, Hanson reports that upper-class Brits like the royal family would never own Chihuahuas, another breed associated with new money. The AKC reports that Chihuahuas, the national symbol of Mexico, “possess loyalty, charm, and big-dog attitude.” They make great pets for city dwellers, but might not feel quite at home on the country estates frequented by the British royal family.
Next: The royal family can technically have this kind of dog.
14. Can the royal family have mutts?
Anyone who has owned a mixed-breed dog is probably wondering: Can the royal family — or other upper-class Brits — have mutts instead of pure-bred dogs? In The Daily Mail, Hanson writes that upper-class Brits, like the royal family, “will usually always prefer a pedigree specimen.” But that doesn’t mean that they can’t own mixed breed dogs. They just probably won’t admit that their dog is a mutt.
Next: Your dog’s name could give away a lot about you.
15. What’s in a name?
Hanson reports that even a dog’s name can reveal something about the social standing of his or her owners. “There are always exceptions but generally lower class houses will be fairly unimaginative with the names they give their dogs and opt for something that describes their appearance,” like Spot or Fluffy. And the lower middle class — if they have dogs — “will often try to upgrade their own social status by dubbing their dog something grand like Prince, Duke, Duchess, Venus, Rex.”
Middle-class dog owners “usually pick Victorian names which make their dog sound like an additional child: Victoria, Emma, Sophie, Albert, Jack.” Upper middle or upper-class owners “go for something simple but not obvious, like Belcher, Ranger, Rover (obvious but fine), Bertie.”
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