What’s in a Dog’s Name? Plenty!

Choosing a great name for your dog is essential for future success in training. I’ve put together 6 tips to help you pick out a name that rocks.

Labrador Retriever running and jumping
Buddy? By: garyt70

It doesn’t matter if your new dog is from a shelter, a rescue organization or a breeder — all dogs need a name!

Depending on the circumstances, your dog may have a name from a previous owner, a name given by the rescue or shelter, or no name whatsoever. If your pup already has a name, you always have the option of changing it to something you like or a name you think suits your pet’s personality better.

Here are a few tips for choosing a good name and helping your dog get accustomed to his new identity.

  1. Choosing a name for your dog is essential for future success in training. I have met clients whose dogs’ name is “Dog” or “Puppy.” Yes, these monikers are incredibly generic, but “Dog” learned to pay attention to his new name. When choosing your pet’s identity, avoid names that sound like obedience cues. For example, Bo sounds like “no,” and Ray can sound like “stay.” Obedience cues should be very recognizable and separate from your dog’s name. Bottom line: Choose something that doesn’t rhyme with a common command.
  2. Stay away from names that are the same as those of friends or people in your household. If you choose your husband’s name, your dog will get pretty confused when he is told to empty the dishwasher!
  3. Short, one- or two-syllable words are often easily recognizable by your dog. So if you want to speed up the time in which your dog learns his name, choose something simple.
  4. Consider the sound of the letters. Hard vowels (e, a, i , y) and consonants (d, t, k, b) are easier for your dog to hear than soft vowels and consonants. Therefore, Toby may be more recognizable than Florin.
  5. Choose a name you won’t mind saying in public. If you choose an inappropriate or embarrassing name for your dog, you may not want to say it in a crowd of people.
  6. Consider waiting a week or two before deciding on a name. For example, my dog’s name is Addisen, and she is a sweet, timid little princess. If I had decided early on to call her a more masculine name, it would not have suited her well.

Getting Your Dog Used to His New Name

If this the first time your dog has had a name, it may take a while for your pet to learn his identity.

Start by using the name in general situations, but don’t say it excessively. You can have your dog sit or stand in front of you and say his name; when he looks at you, give him a high-value reward like a good treat or toy immediately after he gives you his attention.

Changing Your Dog’s Name

People tell me all the time that they don’t like their dog’s name but they didn’t want to change it because he already knew it. I always say, “If you give me an M&M every time you call me Bob, guess how long it would take for me to respond to ‘Bob’?”

Never think it’s too late to change your dog’s name. To be successful at this name switch, begin by saying his new name right before his old one. When your dog focuses on you, remember to reward heavily because he is learning something new. After a couple of weeks, drop the old name and just say the new one. If you have been doing the exercise correctly, he should respond to his new name — reward graciously when he does.

Choosing a name for your dog can be fun. You typically get a lot of suggestions from your friends and family, but I say go with your gut. Chances are you are going to be living with this new member of your family for multiple years, so choose something you like.

If you are having trouble coming up with something, how about choosing a name of a character from a favorite TV show? My girl, Addisen, is named after Addison Montgomery from Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice.

Additional Resources

Clarissa Fallis

View posts by Clarissa Fallis
Clarissa Fallis is a canine behaviorist and trainer from Upstate New York. She has attended Bergin University of Canine Studies, State University of New York at Cobleskill and Animal Behavior College. She is competent in training all breeds and ages of dogs, though she prefers hounds because of the challenge they present.

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