Congratulations, you have a new dog! It is a such a wonderful feeling to have a sweet, new addition to the family, but now you have to think about dog names. There is a lot to consider beyond their personality and your own preferences when picking a name. The way a dog interprets their name, and how it sounds to others, are both very important. Our advice is to think about it carefully, and take suggestions from everyone in the family. I’m sure you will all soon settle on the perfect dog name.
What’s in a Doggie Name?
The first thing you probably want to think about is what you want the name to say about them, but before you even take that step, you should probably try to understand what having a name means to your dog. We humans respond to our name as our identity, and we can understand when it is being used to identify someone else or as a greeting or to preface a request.
Dogs have a much more simplistic understanding of their name. Like all the other words they respond to, they are really just hearing sounds that they have learned to respond a certain way to. Their name is synonymous with ‘stop’, ‘come here’ and other commands. Essentially, use of their name just tells them that it is time for your attention to be on them, rather than on your work or another pet.
This is why many dog behaviorists have concerns about the use of human names for dogs. They worry that owners are viewing their dogs as humans, and may be expecting too much from them. As babies turn to children and then adults, they become independent. Puppies learn extensively as they become dogs, but they will always need you to give them constant attention and care. Casual use of their name will just confuse them, such as ‘Rex, you’re in the way of the tv’. They hear ‘Rex’ and think ‘it is attention time!’, but then nothing comes from it.
While your dog is not going to have an understanding of the meaning behind their name, or even the concept of names, names still having meaning to you. Feel free to explore these names, including human names if you wish, but remember to think long-term. Many dogs grow out of their puppy names. Will your dog still be ‘Sir Cutiekins’ when they are a tired, old Labrador?
Dog Name Advice
There is a lot of practical advice you should also consider, especially if you want training to go as smoothly as possible. The sound, length and popularity of your dog’s name will impact how effective it is. Whether you are looking for female dog names or male dog names, here is some vital advice to follow.
- Avoid long names
Long names are a problem for dogs. Remember that they are only responding to sounds. If these sounds are multiple syllables, they may get confused, and if it is difficult to pronounce and remember, other humans in their life may struggle to chastise and control them. It might seem fun to call your dog ‘Algernon Earnest Moncrieff the third’ or ‘Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen’, but it is a bit of a mouthful and they will not respond to it easily.
If you want, you can give your dog a long and complex ‘birth name’ alongside a nickname, like ‘Algie’ or ‘Dany’. Just make sure to use the nickname for training and addressing your dog. You can always refer to them by their full name when talking about them to others. This has the added benefit of not confusing them when you are just referring to them within earshot.
- Having a distinguishable name
Similarly, the sounds you choose have some importance. The best dog names will begin with a K, S or C as they help to cut through a noisy environment. Similarly, ending your dog’s name with a vowel helps them to distinguish the name because it holds for longer. Good doggie names that adhere to this advice include, ‘Koko’, ‘Sparkey’ , and ‘Celia’.
If your dog’s name is not easily heard, you may struggle to train them. You must also think about how the sound could become confused with other command words you plan to teach them. ‘Rover’ for example, sounds like ‘roll over’. You may be able to avoid this confusion by using different command words, such as ‘turn over’, but if you already have other dogs that respond to certain command words, make sure your new puppy won’t have a name that will confuse the whole pack.
- The problem with common names
It can be tempting to search the internet for the most popular dog names, and use this to help you to decide. However, using a popular name is not always a good idea. Shouting ‘Fluffy’ at a busy dog park is likely to cause a fair amount of chaos. You may also be risking confusion with other professionals. I wonder how many Pomeranians called ‘Fluffy’ a vet has to see in a year, and how many minor paperwork mistakes may have happened because of it!
- Remember you have to use it around other people
Some names seem funny at the time, but are actually pretty embarrassing. Rude, offensive, and overly cute dog names are probably a bad idea. Even if you are happy with the name, spare a thought for anyone else who has to care for the dog. Your teenage son might not want to be seen running after ‘Princess Snookie Pookie’.
Similarly, think twice about namesakes, or using common human names. Sophia is a beautiful name, but shouting ‘Sophia, don’t sniff that sheep dog’s butt’ in front of your beloved Great Aunt Sophia, might be a little awkward. At the very least, make sure you have permission. What can seem flattering to one person, is uncomfortable for another.