“When you’re renaming a recently adopted dog or giving a puppy her very first name, you want to be sure you pick the perfect name for your pet. A name that your dog will respond to, and that you’ll enjoy saying. It sometimes seems like an impossible task to find a name that satisfies everyone in the family.”
According to Shelby Semel, senior trainer and founder of Shelby Semel Dog Training, there are no hard and fast rules for naming a dog, though a few expert tips can help you pick a name that will stick.
“As I child I begged my parents for a dog, and when they finally conceded, I declared that our fuzzy white puppy would be called “Mr. Fluffy.” (I was 7.) I asserted that Mr. Fluffy was the only name that truly captured the essence of my new friend.
My dad believed that our dog, like the pets he grew up with, should have a strong, masculine name like Buster, Moose or Scout, and under no circumstances would he walk down the street calling, “Mr. Fluffy, come here Mr. Fluffy!”
“Though those classic dog names can seem overplayed and old hat now, there is a secret logic behind the choice.”
“Many of these traditional dog names contain hard consonants such as B, K, T, and D, which, when paired with vowels, are easier for dogs to distinguish and more salient than soft consonants and vowels, according to some animal behaviorists.
Does this mean your dog has to be named Kiki or Fido? Thankfully, not.
“You should consider avoiding names that sound like commonly used words,” Shelby Semel tells The Dodo. “For example, a name like Noah would be confusing for the dog as it sounds too similar to the word ‘No.’” That goes for names that frequently make the “most popular” lists, such as Bo or Beau; Kit, which sounds like the command “sit” or Kay, which sounds like ‘stay.'”
“My mom posited that perhaps, at four syllables, “Mr. Fluffy” was too long a name for a dog. Like the sharp consonants, most people will advise you keep a pet’s name to one or two syllables so that it grabs the animal’s attention quickly. Names are also training tools, and when you need to communicate with your pet, you do not want to stumble over complex wording to do so.”
“Ideally, one or two syllables are best,” Semel notes. “I prefer two because most cues are a single syllable. I would avoid a three-syllable name as the dog won’t respond or you begin to call them by their shorter nickname, which can get confusing for them.”
“Happily, my mom had the perfect compromise. For our 10-pound bichon frise, we settled on the name Taco, after my favorite food. The name Taco had the hard consonants, the shortened syllables and an added ounce of fun and whimsy every time we said it. Since then, I have met many pups with similar monikers, including two pit bull mixes named Burrito and Tamale.”
“Naming pets have only gotten more difficult since those halcyon days of my youth. With dog social media handles to think of and a Google browser full of pet advice, it can be difficult to hit on the “perfect” name. The key? Don’t overthink it.”
If you are renaming a dog who already recognizes her current name, Semel recommends selecting a name that sounds similar to the one she is used to. It’s never too late to change a dog’s name, you just have to do it gradually.
“Add a new middle name along with their existing name for a short duration, while you phase out the old name,” Semel advises. “If your dog’s name is Maggie when adopted, and you would like to change the name to Rose, begin calling her Maggie Rose for a few weeks, then slowly phase out the name Maggie to eventually just calling her Rose.”
Adopted dogs are adjusting to a lot of changes, Semel warns, so try and avoid too many new things all at once.
The name you pick should inspire joy and it should be something that you feel good saying, and that your dog will be happy to hear. At the end of the day, a name is just a name. It’s your relationship with your dog that’s important — and that, oftentimes, transcends words.
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