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Meta: Picking dog names for your new pet can be stressful–with so many options, how can you be sure you’re choosing a name that will be effective for your new best friend? We’ve got some of the expert’s top recommendations when it comes to picking dog names, plus some questions that will help you brainstorm unique ideas.
Dogs are great to have around. In fact, science tells us that having a furry friend leads to decreased blood pressure and decreased levels of cholesterol–not to mention they help alleviate feelings of loneliness!
If you’re getting a new pet, you’ll have lots to do to get ready, and whether you’re adopting a fully-grown dog or bringing home a puppy, one of the most important things you’ll need to do is name your pet. Dog behavioral experts tell us this part of the pet adoption process, while it seems small, is extremely important.
Keep reading for our best tips on brainstorming dog names, plus all the dos and don’ts of choosing names. Spoiler alert: these are rules that are made to be broken!
Getting Off on the Right Paw
There’s a lot of research behind choosing a dog, and rightly so–it’s a relationship that will last a lifetime and can weather you through your relationships, new children, job changes, and moves.
A great furry companion can make all of the above more enjoyable, and doing your research helps you make sure your lifestyle is enjoyable for him, too–a happy dog is a happy owner and a happy owner is a happy dog.
You might, for example, exclude Saint Bernards from your short list because you think they’re too big to enjoy living in your small yard. If you took the time to research, though, you’d find these gentle giants don’t need the kind of exercise some large breeds do, and he’ll be perfectly happy taking daily walks with you.
On the flip side, you might spring for a Jack Russell Terrier because you think they’re adorable, but these feisty, intelligent little pups need a firm hand and love to be active, and if you work long hours, you might find your dog is miserable and acting out.
Finding the Right Name
Researching dog names are just as important; here are a few reasons why:
First, experts agree that dogs don’t respond to names the way that people do. That is, while our names give us identity, dogs learn to recognize their names because of what comes after–a belly rub or a treat, for example.
This doesn’t mean that dogs don’t understand things. To be honest, we don’t fully know how much they know, but as technology evolves, we’re gaining a better understanding of canine mental abilities.
Chaser, for example, is a border collie that researchers at Wofford College in South Carolina have trained to understand the names of more than a thousand different objects! Border collies are one of the smartest dog breeds, but still–that’s impressive!
Keep it Short
Whatever our beloved pets do or do not understand, it stands to reason that dog names should be easy for them to hear. Experts believe short, one-syllable names tend to very effective in getting dogs’ attention. Hard syllables, especially (c’s and k’s) are attention-grabbers, while long names with multiple syllables can cause dogs to lose interest–and you to get frustrated.
Think About the Future
Here’s something you should try: once you’ve rounded up a list of favorite dog names, stand outside in your backyard and practice calling with each of the names. If yelling “Mr. Puggle-Wuggle” in public makes you cringe–well, at least now you know before it’s too late!
Don’t forget, too, that trends come and go and (especially if your dog has a long lifespan), you might get tired of the name you’re choosing. Will you still love the name “Princess” when you’re yelling for your dog to get out of the hydrangeas in ten years?
A Calling Card
Just like with any other name, your dog’s name impacts what other people will think about him or her. A dog named “Fiend” or “Harbinger,” for example, might make people unconsciously nervous.
Names can also impact what you think of your pet. Some experts advise against choosing a person’s name for your pet, as this can cause you to project human characteristics onto your dog. If you think of “Jack” as calm and happy, for example, you might have a difficult time training him well.
It goes without saying, but since we’re taking the time to write this article, we’ll say it: don’t use any offensive names, such as racial slurs or anything that sounds crass or includes a curse word. What sounds funny on the weekend might not be hilarious when you take the dog home to visit your family!
What Does Your Dog Think?
Forgive us, but we think your dog or puppy might want to help you sift through your list of dog names! Try out a few by calling him across the room. How does he respond when you call “Peanut”? Does he tuck tail and run when you call “Marvin”? Or does he come running when you yell, “Tank”?
Can I Rename My Dog?
Many people worry about renaming a dog that they’ve adopted. Will this hurt the dog? Sometimes, however, people feel the name neither suits the dog nor suits the family and in these cases, most experts say go ahead and rename the dog!
A fresh start doesn’t usually bother a dog, as long as you’re clear about how it’s done. Make sure to provide lots of positive reinforcement to help your pup establish that good things happen when she hears her name. You can provide treats or just lots of love!
Don’t Confuse Him
Something else to be careful about, when you’re researching dog names, is to skip names that sound like commands. While the Obamas didn’t take this into consideration when naming their dog “Bo,” (sounds like “no!”) it might not turn out as well for you!
Other names that are similar to commands include “Fletch” (fetch), “Joe” (no), and “Shae” (stay).
How Popular is this Name?
You might have been the first person to name your child Eliana when she was born three years ago, but now you see little Elianas everywhere. Dog names work much the same way! While this isn’t a problem, per se, it can be difficult to call your dog at the dog park (“Max!”) and have five other dogs start racing towards you!
Don’t Break Up the Pair
If you’re getting and naming two dogs at the same time, it might be fun to name them a “pairs” name (“Abbott” and “Costello,” for example), but remember that your pups might not always be together. Will you still like Sugar’s name when Spice is no longer around?
Let’s Check With Aunt Sally First
Want to name your pet after a family member? You might think it’s funny–or might want to flatter your family member–but they might not be so amused! Save yourself a lot of potential headaches before you permanently attach your Aunt Sally’s name to your Yorkshire Terrier, check with Aunt Sally.
How to Come Up With Dog Names
It can seem daunting to choose a list of dog names, given all the do’s and don’ts we listed above, but don’t worry; we’ve got some great brainstorming suggestions for you!
Our favorite suggestion is to think about your favorites. Here are a few ideas:
- What are your favorite movies? Are there any characters you love? A Legally Blonde fan, for example, might name her new Chihuahua “Bruiser,” and a Hunger Games fan might name his new German Shepherd “Katniss.”
- What are your favorites bands or musicians? Do they have unique names you could borrow? Naming your Gold Retriever “Bob,” for example, might be your way of honoring Bob Dylan, while you might name your exuberant Pomeranian “Madonna.”
- What are your favorite books and stories? “Wilbur,” might be a nod to the children’s classic by E.B. White and the name of your new Pug, while “Moby” for your white German Shepherd might be a subtle, tongue-in-cheek reference to your favorite novel by Herman Melville.
- What are your favorite foods? Naming your pup “Stilton” or “Merlot” after your favorite cheese or wine can hilarious and a great conversation starter with fellow cheese fanatics.
- What are your favorite people names? Yes, we realize this is “breaking the rules,” but if you love the name Bailey, go for it!
Time to Break the Rules
It might sound silly at this point, given how much research you’ve already done, but at the end of the day, you should be willing to break the rules and name your puppy the name that you want to name it!
You and your dog will form a unique relationship that will cause the name to take on its own special meaning, no matter what the dog names experts say.