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Pets in Victorian England


From Victoriana

Because I picked up my Welsh Corgi puppy this week, I thought I’d post on dogs in Victorian England. Though somehow I think my day job would have something to say if I brought her to work everyday. They did enjoy her for the morning yesterday!

For a fashionable woman in Victorian England a pet miniature dog was as indispensable as an opera box or presentation at court.  She was nobody without her pet who accompanied her wherever she went, and was fed and housed, according to canine requirements, as daintily as the heir to the title and estates.  In spite of the devotion of mistresses to their dogs, however, it must be admitted that they were extremely fickle in their attachments, as the fashion in lapdogs changed as rapidly as that in gowns and bonnets. 

During one London season, the favorite miniature dog had been the small animal known as the Schipperke, mainly because its hair was short and black. Long-haired dogs in drawing-rooms and boudoirs were found to be incompatible because white hairs on furniture and gowns were absolutely distressing. Even a poodle was found to be a nuisance, and required its own valet or maid to keep it in condition.

 “Lapdog” was the old-fashioned name for the miniature dogs called toys, and quaintly indicated where the line was drawn between household animals. They were dogs small enough to be held in the lap, and they were emphatically pets for the parlor, requiring the care of the lady herself, or of a well-trained maid.

It goes on about which kind of dogs, but I’m sure Labs and German Shepards weren’t allowed. They were outside dogs, not yappers. So far my Corgi isn’t a yapper, but she’s still confused in her new home. I’ve posted pictures on my blog. And will probably post more soon.



  1. Makes sense they’d only want small dogs in their rooms. But I’ve always liked big, sloppy dogs. Our first dog was a boxer and the new one is a mix of boxer and pit bull. But although he’s getting big already at six months of age, he’s the sweetest thing.

    I’m sure your minature pooch is sweet too. She looks it. Don’t know if I could stand the yapping, though. Hopefully, she won’t be one.

  2. Isabel,
    Thanks for posting this blog.
    I had no idea “lapdogs” were trendy fashion statements in Victorian days. What would the poor dog think when he was told he was “too last year” and then given the boot? I believe dogs are the most sensitive and emotional creatures on the planet and only turn bad when they’ve been mistreated.
    Reading your post reminded of Paris Hilton, years back. She was always toting a tiny dog – and making sure he was caught by all the cameras around. (She appears to use her purses for other things now.)
    Anyway – I’m off to see the pics of your Corgi. Lucky puppy.

  3. Shelley says:

    Congratulations on your Corgi!

    As a non-Victorian writer, nonetheless I think I have the quintessential “Victorian” pet, don’t I? A Pom.

    But I bet the queen didn’t get hers at the pound.

  4. Isabel Roman says:

    I love my corgi! She’s so sweet (Emilia Snuggles). We’re learning boundaries (and when I have migraines not to bark!) and so far only a couple accidents. But honestly, I can’t see her as the good Victorian lapdog. Too energetic!

    Shelly, a Pom?! Oh, yeah, a very Victorian dog!

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