Things to Keep in Mind When Choosing Your Dog’s Name


Around 38% of all households in the U.S. own a dog, according to data from the American Veterinary Medical Association. That means that there are literally millions of dogs bearing funny, endearing, or sometimes downright strange names, which are usually chosen by their humans to reflect the character of their four-pawed friend. If you have decided to adopt a dog and you are excited about giving him a brand new name, the following considerations may help you narrow down your choice.

Keeping it Short and Sweet

While long show-style names like ‘McHill's His Royal Highness Prince Gizmo House of Gremlin’ may look impressive if you are showing your dog, short, snappy names are best for everyday use— unless, of course, you want your dog to get lost in the myriad of vowel and consonant sounds every time you call him. Go for two-syllable names if possible, since the first syllable will serve as a warm-up for the second. Animal behavioralists and trainers often recommend that you use sharp-sounding consonants in a name (think D, K, and P), since these make a sound that is a bit like a ‘clicker’ and dogs are therefore very responsive to them.

Make Sure Your Chosen Name Does Not Sound Like a Command

Think of the commands you are most likely to teach your dog. Your list might include ‘sit’, ‘stand’, ‘down’, ‘come’, ‘heel’, and similar. Your dog’s name should not sound too similar to these words—otherwise, they could get confused and simply not perform a command when you ask them to. Examples of names that sounds like commands are: ‘Tidbit’ or ‘Mitt’ (which can sound like ‘sit’), ‘Neil’ or ‘Steal’ (which are similar to ‘heal’), and ‘Kay’, ‘Jay’, or ‘Leigh’ (which sound like ‘stay’).

Is it OK to Use People’s Names?

In the past, dogs’ names were strictly associated with canine companions. Traditional names include Rex, Spot, Lucky, Mopsy, Patch, Pepper, Pip, Ginger, and of course, Sparky. Nowadays, the gates are definitely open when it comes to choosing a name people can identify with. One trend that is taking over both baby and puppy names is the use of surnames. Just a few names you may already be familiar with that were once exclusively surnames include Buddy, Quinn, Reagan, Ryan, Harper, Rowan, Cassidy, Peyton, Bailey, Addison, and Arden. The name Luna (with origins in Rome, Italy) is actually a very popular name for pets in European countries like Spain as it means ‘moon’—a lovely image indeed to associate with a dog.

Avoid Names with Negative Connotations

It might seem like a good idea to call a dog a name with a negative connotation, but you will probably regret it in the long run if you choose to go this route. This is because you often have to call your dog’s name out loud in places like dog parks, behavior classes, or at the veterinarian’s. Moreover, calling a dog a negative name can lead to mocking and laughter, which may make your dog uncomfortable.

If you are one of the millions of Americans with a dog in your home and he still doesn’t have a name, take your time to make a decision, since a name is for life and will appear on the dog's documentation. Opt for short, two-syllable names with sharp consonants that sound like a click if possible. Feel free to play with names that are not associated with canines; simply keep it positive to ensure your dog is respected in every possible way.

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