Naming Your Dog
By Honor Tarpenning, NextDayPets.com Staff
There’s more to naming a new dog than one might think. One must consider the different environments in which the dog will be spending time, the names of people who will be around the dog most often, the dog’s traits and your personality, the ease of use of a particular name; and if a rescue, what the dog’s name was before and what kind of circumstance he’s coming from. This article refers to a dog’s call name for the purposes of training and general use around the house; the name you use to get your dog’s attention. A dog’s registered name is another story since it is not something he will have to answer to.
Do you plan on taking your dog to the park regularly? Do you live in a neighborhood populated with many dogs? Then you don’t want to go for a too-common name. Picture yourself at the dog park calling for Max, Buddy, or Maggie. Do you really want ten or fifteen dogs running at you at the same time, thinking you’re calling them, and your dog running to half the people in the park because he keeps hearing his name? Consider originality when you’re naming your dog and you’ll have an easier time. However, if you live in a high rise apartment, you’re not a fan of dog parks, you don’t intend to spend much time socializing your dog with other dogs, and you’re completely set on the name Max, it’s certainly not the end of the world.
Family and Friend Names
It might be a fun idea to name your bulldog after your uncle because you think they look alike. But, besides the fact that your uncle might not be too amused, you have to ask yourself, does your uncle come over a lot? The thing is, teaching a dog his name is extremely important. You want your dog to always respond to his name right away and be immediately attentive. There can’t be any question in your dog’s mind as to whom you’re referring when he hears his name. So, if Uncle Buck comes over once a week, Buck might not be the perfect name for your bulldog. However, you can always ask Uncle Buck to not come around for a while, until little Buck responds to his name without any hesitation.
Your Dog’s Traits and You
Your dog’s name should suit you and the dog. Remember, you could have this dog for the next 10-15 years, so you’d better like it. Stay away from passing interests and phases, or inside jokes that will lose their novelty within a year. Also stay away from traits that your pooch might grow out of. I almost named my puppy Bruce because he had a marking like the Bat Signal, but before he was even weaned, the mark had stretched to a splotch, so the name no longer fit.
Also, think about what your dog is going to look like when he grows up. Your three month old Doberman Pinscher or Pit Bull might still be fuzzy and little enough to be named Killer for now, but when he’s full grown, you’re going to have a lot of explaining to do. You don’t want to have to defend your sweet and affectionate family dog constantly just because of his name.
Your dog’s name should reflect something about you, and be something you have no problem saying over and over again for years. Stinky, or Schnookems might seem adorable when your dog’s still a puppy, but imagine yelling it across the dog park, or calling those names down the street when your dog accidentally gets out of the yard.
Ease of Use and Understanding
Make sure the name you chose is easy to use and understand. So, despite your love for Mary Poppins, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious is not going to work. Your dog’s name should be short, one or two syllables. This will help your dog learn it faster, and it will be easy to discern from other words. Remember, your dog doesn’t speak English, it’s all just sounds. Dogs have the easiest time discerning hard consonants like T, K, and D.
Make sure the name you choose doesn’t sound like a common dog command like sit, stay, or down. Even if you intend to teach your dog to sit when you say “banana” he’ll still hear others telling him and other dogs to sit thousands of times for the rest of his life, so Kit isn’t a great name.
If the dog you brought home from a shelter already has a name, and you don’t like it, there’s no shame in changing it. Just like you can housetrain an untrained rescue dog, and a rescue dog can get used to a new home, he can learn a new name. You’ll be surprised at how fast he picks up his new name if you use one that is short and easy to understand.
In fact, in many circumstances it is a good idea to change a rescue dog’s name. Dogs often end up in shelters because they were unwanted, unloved, and sometimes abused. Many of these dogs have heard their current name in unfortunate circumstances enough times to associate it with bad things happening to or around them. If you chose a new name and always use it in good context, it will be a great marker the beginning of a new and happy life for your dog.
Teaching the Name
Teaching your dog his name is easy. All you have to do is use it regularly and reward your dog for answering to it. Look at your dog and say his name. When he reacts to it, shower him with praise. When you say your dog’s name, he should put his attention immediately on you, so get excited every time he responds to it. You’ll find this happens quite naturally because your dog will pick up a good name quickly and make you proud when he answers to it with growing consistency.