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Naming Your Dog or Puppy

Dog Name Do’s and Don’ts

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Boston Terrier Puppy - Picture of Boston Terrier Puppy Madison Photo © Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Finding just the right name for your new dog or puppy can be tough. If you have reached the naming step, that probably means you have a new dog. Congratulations! Choosing the right dog is not always easy, but here you are. Now it's time to pick the perfect name for your new canine companion. These tips can help you navigate through the thousands of potential dog names out there and narrow down your choices. First, here's what to do and what NOT to do:

DO:

  • Choose a name that you like. You will be using it all the time, so you should enjoy the sound of it.
  • Pick a one or two syllable name. Longer names can be difficult for your dog to understand and a pain for you to say over and over.
  • Try out the new name for a few days and see how your dog responds.

DON’T:

  • Use a name that sounds like a command you plan to teach your dog. It would be confusing to teach “Fletch” to fetch or to train the stay command to “Shae.”
  • Name your dog something that others may find offensive or embarrassing. This includes potential racial or cultural slurs, general insults, crass slang terms, and anything that has a curse word in it. Do you really want to call out to your dog “Poophead” and have the whole neighborhood hear it? What will your vet’s office call your dog if you name him “Fartface?”
  • Pick a complicated name like Sir Fluffy Von Wagglestein unless you plan to actually use a simplified call name like “Sir” or “Fluffy.”
  • Change an adult dog’s name unless absolutely necessary. If you must change the name, choose one that sounds similar. “Bailey” can be changed to “Hailey” or “Kaylee,” and “Charlie” can easily become “Harley” or “Farley.”

Dog Naming Tips and Considerations

Unless you are especially attached to a certain dog name, avoid choosing one of the most popular names. You will run into other dogs with your dog’s name and it could lead to some confusion at the dog park or vet’s office. The names Bella, Bailey, Max, Molly, Buddy and Lucy are just a few of the most popular names as of 2010. This is sure to change over time, so do some research before you settle on a name.

Some people like to get multiple dogs together and name them after famous duos or trios like “Abbott and Costello” or “Moe, Larry and Curly.” Others use phrases like “Sugar and Spice” or "Peanut Butter and Jelly.” While these can be cute and funny, you also need to consider how you like each name separately. The two dogs might not always be together.

If you wish to give your dog a name that also belongs to a human family member or friend, you should ask that person how they feel about it first. Uncle Herbert might be amused that you wish to name your Basset Hound after him, but Cousin Annabelle might be offended if you choose her name for your Maltese.

Dog Naming Ideas

Consider your dog’s appearance and personality. You can choose a descriptive name like “Dottie” for a Dalmatian, “Shorty” for a Dachshund, or “Happy” for a jovial mutt, but this has been done many times before. On the other hand, it can be cute to pick a name that describes the opposite of your dog, such as “Tiny” for a Mastiff or “Attila” for a little Yorkie.

You might get the idea for a name because reminds you of a certain place, incident or item. For instance, a dog found as a stray puppy at The Home Depot might be named “Depot.” A dog born or adopted in the spring can be called “Petal” or “Blossom.” I once knew a dog named “Converse” because a Converse shoe was the first thing the puppy chewed up.

Some people like to name their dogs after famous celebrities or historical figures. For instance, a classical music lover might name a dog Brahms or Mozart. Sports fans might pick the first or last names of their favorite players. Literature enthusiasts might name a dog after a favorite author. I have met dogs named after famous actors or the memorable characters they played.

Another fun idea, if you like the idea of a theme, is to name your dog (or dogs) after something you enjoy. Wine enthusiasts might consider something like “Merlot” or “Riesling.” Scientists could name their dogs after chemical elements. A former client I knew was really into cheeses. She had dogs named Roquefort, Stilton and Limburger.

No matter what you name your dog, make it a name that you like and one that your dog responds well to. As long as you are pleased with the name, who really cares if it’s highly unusual or incredibly popular? After all, your dog doesn’t know the difference.

For dog name ideas, there are dozens of books and websites that list names and their meanings. The following websites are just a few places to begin:

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