Dog Care Terminology

If you’re new to the world of dogs, or maybe not even new but looking to learn more about a given topic, navigating all the terminology can be overwhelming. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with this guide to understanding terminology about dogs and caring for them. To help in your research, we’ve provided links under each term to articles where we have written about that term.


    • Adoption: Taking a dog into your home from a shelter or rescue organization.
    • Agility Training: A competitive dog sport that involves navigating a series of obstacles.
    • Allergies: Conditions where a dog reacts negatively to certain foods, environmental factors, or substances, causing symptoms like itching or digestive issues.
    • Alpha: The dominant individual in a pack or group of dogs.
    • Anal Glands: Small glands located near a dog’s anus, sometimes requiring manual expression by a vet or groomer for health reasons.
    • Anti-Anxiety Medication: Pharmaceuticals prescribed by a veterinarian to treat anxiety-related issues in dogs.
    • Automatic Feeder: A device that dispenses food at scheduled times.


    • Barking: Vocalization by a dog, often to communicate with humans or other animals.
    • Basic Commands: Basic instructions like “sit,” “stay,” and “come” are essential for a dog’s obedience and safety.
    • Bathing: The act of cleaning a dog’s coat with water and soap or shampoo.
    • Behavior Modification: Using various techniques to encourage desirable behavior in dogs.
    • Bloat: A life-threatening condition in which a dog’s stomach fills with gas, causing it to twist. Immediate veterinary attention is required.
    • Breed-Specific Legislation: Laws that target or ban specific dog breeds.


    • Calming Signals: Body language used by dogs to communicate stress or peaceful intentions.
    • Canine Parvovirus: A highly contagious viral disease that affects dogs, particularly puppies, causing severe gastrointestinal illness.
    • Car Safety: Measures taken to ensure a dog is safe while traveling in a car, such as using a harness or crate.
    • Chewing Toys: Items designed to be chewed by dogs for dental health and mental stimulation.
    • Clicker Training: A method of training using a clicker to mark desired behavior.
    • Collar: A band worn around a dog’s neck, often holding identification and used for leash attachment.
    • Crate Training: Using a crate as a secure environment to teach dogs boundaries and as a safe space.


    • Dental Care: The cleaning of a dog’s teeth to prevent dental disease.
    • Desensitization: A behavioral technique to gradually expose a dog to a stimulus that causes fear or stress.
    • Deworming: The process of administering medication to a dog to remove internal parasites like roundworms or tapeworms.
    • Distemper: A viral disease affecting dogs, often fatal if not vaccinated against.
    • Dog Park: A public park designed for dogs to run freely off-leash.
    • Doggy Daycare: A service where dogs are supervised and entertained while their owners are busy.
    • Dominance Theory: A largely debunked theory that suggests dogs act out of a desire to dominate their humans or other animals.


    • Ear Mites: Tiny parasites that live in the ears of dogs, causing itchiness and inflammation.
    • Enrichment: Activities or items that engage a dog’s mind and senses.
    • Euthanasia: The act of humanely putting a dog to sleep to end suffering, usually due to terminal illness.
    • Exercise Pen: A portable fence used to create a secure area for a dog to play.
    • Exercise: Physical activity to keep a dog fit, stimulated, and healthy, ranging from walks to playtime.portable fence used to create a secure area for a dog to play.


    • Fecal Exam: A test that checks for parasites in a dog’s stool.
    • Fetch: A game where a dog retrieves a thrown object OR, as is often the case, a game where the dog has trained the human to go get the object thrown and bring it back to the dog (to try again)
    • Flea Prevention: Methods and products to prevent fleas from infesting a dog.
    • Foster: To temporarily care for a dog until a permanent home can be found.
    • Fur Brushing: The act of grooming a dog’s coat to remove loose hair, and dirt, and to prevent matting.
    • Furminator: A specialized brush used for removing loose fur.


    • Gait: The pattern of movement of a dog’s limbs.
    • Gestation Period: The period during which a female dog is pregnant.
    • Giardia: A protozoal infection that affects a dog’s intestinal tract, often contracted from contaminated water.
    • Grooming Table: A table used to elevate a dog during grooming procedures.
    • Grooming: The overall care for a dog’s hygiene, including brushing, bathing, and nail trimming.
    • Guarding Behavior: Defensive actions taken by a dog to protect food, toys, or territory.


    • Hairball: A clump of hair ingested by a dog, generally passed or vomited.
    • Harness: A piece of equipment worn around a dog’s torso, used instead of or in addition to a collar for better control.
    • Heartworm: A parasite transmitted through mosquito bites, which can cause serious illness in dogs if not prevented or treated.
    • Heat Cycle: The period during which a female dog can conceive.
    • Hip Dysplasia: A genetic condition where the ball and socket of the hip joint do not fit well together, leading to arthritis over time.
    • Holistic Care: Treating a dog’s overall well-being, including emotional and mental health.


    • ID Tag: A small metal or plastic tag attached to a dog’s collar that includes contact information for the owner.
    • Immunizations: Vaccinations given to protect dogs from various diseases such as rabies, distemper, and parvovirus.
    • Inbreeding: The mating of closely related dogs, often leading to health issues.
    • Infectious Diseases: Diseases that are contagious and can spread from dog to dog.
    • Intact: A dog that has not been spayed or neutered.


    • Jogging Harness: A specialized harness designed for safely jogging with a dog.
    • Joint Health: The well-being of a dog’s joints, often managed with exercise and supplements.
    • Joint Supplements: Nutritional supplements designed to support joint health, particularly for older dogs or breeds prone to joint issues.
    • Jumpers: Dogs who have a tendency to jump on people or objects.
    • Jumping: An undesirable behavior where a dog leaps up, often on people, which can be corrected through training.


    • K9: Phonetic spelling of “canine,” often used in the context of police or service dogs.
    • Kennel Club: An organization that registers dogs and sets breed standards.
    • Kennel Cough: An airborne bacterial infection that causes a persistent cough in dogs.
    • Kennel: A facility where dogs are temporarily housed when their owners are away; also refers to a dog’s crate or enclosure.
    • Kibble: Dry, processed dog food usually sold in bags.
    • Kong Toy: A brand of dog toy designed for stuffing with treats to entertain a dog.


    • Latchkey Dog: A dog that is left alone for periods of time during the day.
    • Leash Training: The process of teaching a dog to walk calmly on a leash.
    • Litter: A group of puppies born to the same mother at the same time.
    • Liver Treats: A type of dog treat made from dehydrated or cooked liver, often used for training.
    • Lyme Disease: A tick-borne disease that can affect dogs.


    • Mange: A skin disease caused by various types of mites.
    • Matted Fur: Tangled fur that can cause discomfort or skin issues.
    • Microchip Scanner: A device used to read a microchip implanted under a dog’s skin.
    • Microchipping: The practice of implanting a small microchip under a dog’s skin for identification purposes.
    • Mutt: A dog of mixed breed.
    • Muzzle: A device placed over a dog’s snout to prevent biting or eating undesirable objects.


    • Nail Trimming: The act of cutting a dog’s nails to keep them at a healthy length.
    • Neuter: The act of surgically removing a male dog’s testicles to prevent reproduction.
    • Neutering/Spaying: Surgical procedures to sterilize male and female dogs, preventing them from reproducing.
    • Nose Leather: The soft, often wet, part of a dog’s nose.
    • Nose Work: A type of dog sport that mimics professional scent detection tasks.
    • Nutritional Supplements: Extra nutrients provided in addition to regular dog food.


    • Obedience Training: Structured training to teach dogs to respond to commands and behave appropriately.
    • Obedience Trial: A dog sport in which dogs must perfectly execute a predefined set of tasks when commanded to do so by their handler.
    • Olfactory Sense: A dog’s sense of smell, which is far more developed than that of humans.
    • Oral Hygiene: Dental care for dogs, including teeth brushing and dental treats.
    • Overbite: When a dog’s upper jaw extends significantly beyond the lower jaw.


    • Parasite Control: Methods and products used to prevent and treat internal and external parasites like fleas, ticks, and worms.
    • Paw Pad: The cushioned area at the bottom of a dog’s paw.
    • Positive Punishment: The addition of an aversive stimulus to decrease a behavior.
    • Positive Reinforcement: Rewarding desired behaviors to encourage them in the future.
    • Prebiotics: Non-digestible food ingredients that stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut.
    • Puppy Socialization: The critical period during puppyhood where exposure to various experiences helps shape a well-adjusted adult dog.


    • Quality of Life: A measure of a dog’s well-being, including health, comfort, and happiness.
    • Quality Time: Spending focused, uninterrupted time interacting with your dog.
    • Quarantine: Isolation of a dog to prevent the spread of diseases.
    • Quick Release Collar: A collar that can be easily and quickly removed, often used for safety.
    • Quick: The blood vessels inside a dog’s nail which can cause bleeding if cut during nail trimming.


    • Rabies: A deadly viral infection that affects the nervous system, preventable through vaccination.
    • Raw Diet: Feeding dogs uncooked meats and vegetables, often as an alternative to commercial dog food.
    • Recall Training: Training a dog to come when called.
    • Recall: The act of a dog returning to their owner when called; also refers to the “come” command.
    • Rescue Dog: A dog adopted from a rescue organization or shelter.
    • Retractable Leash: A leash that extends and retracts, allowing a dog more freedom to roam.


    • Scent Marking: The act of marking territory with urine.
    • Scent Trail: The path left by a dog’s personal scent.
    • Separation Anxiety: Emotional distress experienced by some dogs when separated from their owners.
    • Shedding: The process of losing dead fur.
    • Socialization: The process of exposing a dog to new experiences, people, and other animals to help them adapt.
    • Smart Collar: A high-tech collar equipped with GPS tracking, activity monitoring, and often additional features like temperature sensing or health alerts.
    • Spay/Neuter: Terms referring to the surgical sterilization of female (spay) and male (neuter) dogs.
    • Submissive Urination: Involuntary urination due to submissive or anxious behavior.


    • Tapeworm: A type of parasitic worm that can infect a dog’s digestive tract.
    • Teething: The process in which puppies lose their baby teeth and grow adult teeth, often accompanied by chewing behaviors.
    • Temperament: A dog’s natural disposition or personality.
    • Ticks: Parasites that attach themselves to a dog’s skin, potentially transmitting diseases like Lyme disease.
    • Titer Test: A blood test that measures the presence and amount of antibodies to disease in the blood.
    • TPLO (Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy): A surgical procedure commonly performed on dogs to stabilize the stifle joint after a torn cranial cruciate ligament (CCL), similar to the ACL in humans
    • Tug Toy: A type of toy designed for tug-of-war games between a dog and a human.


    • Undercoat: The layer of fur beneath the topcoat, providing insulation and often shed seasonally.
    • Underweight: Weighing less than the ideal body weight for a given dog breed or size.
    • Upset Stomach: Gastrointestinal discomfort often signaled by vomiting or diarrhea in dogs.
    • Urinary Tract Infection (UTI): An infection affecting a dog’s urinary system, requiring veterinary treatment.
    • Uveitis: Inflammation of the uvea, the middle layer of the eye, which can lead to blindness if not treated.


    • Vaccination Schedule: A timetable for a puppy or dog’s vaccinations, usually recommended by a veterinarian.
    • Vaccination: Administering a vaccine to protect a dog from certain diseases.
    • Vestibular Disease: A disorder affecting a dog’s balance system, often causing dizziness or loss of coordination.
    • Vet Check-Up: A routine examination by a veterinarian to assess a dog’s overall health.
    • Veterinary Behaviorist: A vet who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of behavioral issues in animals.


    • Weaning: The process of transitioning a puppy from its mother’s milk to solid food.
    • Whelping Box: A confined area where a female dog can safely give birth.
    • Whiskers: Sensory hairs on a dog’s face, which help them navigate their environment.
    • Worming Schedule: A timetable for administering anti-parasitic medications to prevent worm infections.
    • Worms: Intestinal parasites that can infect dogs, requiring treatment.


    • X-Ray Imaging: The use of X-rays to visualize internal structures for diagnostic purposes.
    • X-Ray: An imaging test often used in veterinary medicine to diagnose conditions like fractures or internal issues.
    • Xenophobia: Fear or aggression displayed towards unfamiliar people or animals.
    • Xylitol / Xylitol Poisoning: The ingestion of xylitol, a sugar substitute toxic to dogs, which can cause rapid insulin release and hypoglycemia.


    • Yard Safety: Precautions taken to ensure a yard is safe for dogs, such as secure fencing and removal of toxic plants.
    • Yawn: An action often interpreted as a calming signal or sign of stress in dogs.
    • Yearly Check-Up: An annual vet visit for general health assessment and vaccinations.
    • Yeast Infection: A fungal infection commonly affecting a dog’s ears or skin, requiring treatment.
    • Yellow Dog Project: An initiative where a yellow ribbon tied to a dog’s leash indicates that the dog needs space and should not be approached.


    • Zinc Deficiency: A lack of zinc in a dog’s diet, leading to symptoms like poor coat condition and skin lesions.
    • Zoom Lens Trick: A training technique that shifts a dog’s focus from a distraction to the handler by zooming the dog in and out on a leash.
    • Zoomies: Sudden bursts of energy where a dog runs around rapidly, often in circles.
    • Zoonoses: Diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans, such as rabies or leptospirosis.
    • Zoonotic Disease: Diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans, such as rabies.