How to choose your dog's name
Naming your dog is one of the most important aspects of welcoming him into your family, writes Karen Bush.
Deciding on a name for a new dog can be fun, but not always easy — and it can say as much about you as it does about your dog.
How to choose a name
Agree on a single name for your new puppy or dog with all other family members. If possible, choose a name before he arrives home, as temporary nicknames have a habit of sticking! A short name is easier for your dog to learn, and for you to call.
- Two-syllable names work well and are easy to give a happy-sounding inflection.
- Avoid names that sound like cue words you’re likely to use when training.
- Don’t pick a name similar to those of other pets and family members, as this could also lead to confusion.
Changing a name
If your new puppy or dog already has a name, but you don’t like it, it is fine to change it — there are no unlucky superstitions attached to doing so, as there are with horses!
If you are taking on a rescue dog with an unknown history, or who is suspected of having been abused, a change of name may even be a good idea. As well as reflecting a fresh start, a new name will not be associated with any punishment, fear, or trauma he may have experienced previously.
Most dogs, of any age, can learn a new name easily — simply follow the steps right.
When not to use your dog’s name
It’s important to create positive associations with your dog’s name, so don’t use it in a cross or exasperated voice, or in connection with anything he views as unpleasant, such as calling him to you to be given medication. Don’t continually call his name just for the sake of it either, or he will start to ignore it.
Teaching your dog his name
Having decided on the perfect name, you then need to teach it to your dog. Along with toilet training, this is pretty well the first part of any formal training you do with him — and if you have more than one dog, it will help in differentiating between verbal cues given to each.
Whether taking on a puppy or an older rescue dog, the process is the same:
- Say his name in a bright, cheery voice. If he looks at you, praise him, and give him a treat, so he learns that whenever he hears his name, good stuff happens. You will be paving the way for future success, as this is also the first essential step in achieving a really good recall later on.
- Repeat his name just before you put his lead on, make a fuss of him, give him his tea, invite him to play a game, or do anything else that he thinks is fun or enjoyable.
- Ask everyone else in the household to occasionally call the dog’s new name and give him a treat too.
- Have lots of these sessions throughout the day. Practise in lots of places: different rooms in the house, outside in the garden, and outdoors away from home.
- Once he has learned his name, you can use it to gain his attention before asking him to do something. There is no need to use his name if he is already looking at you and paying attention.
- Don’t stop! Continue reinforcing your dog’s name in a positive way throughout his life with praise, petting, and occasional treats.
The oldest known dog name known is the tongue-twisting Abuwtiyuw (pronounced ‘Ah-boo-tee-oo’), which loosely translates as Pointy Ears.
Belonging to a royal servant in ancient Egypt 4,500 years ago, this sight hound was given an impressive funeral, with his name engraved on a limestone slab. The inscription also relates how it was ordered that he be given a coffin from the royal treasury, fine linen in great quantity, incense, perfumed ointment, and a specially built tomb.
Other ancient Egyptian dog names have been found on excavated collars, monuments, and carvings. They include names such as Reliable, Brave One, Good Herder, North Wind, Antelope, and even Useless — although hopefully meant in an affectionate way!
Stuck for a name? Inspiration can be found all around you: there are books of doggy names, and many online sites are stuffed with suggestions. With recent years seeing an increase in human names, reflecting the way in which dogs are often regarded as fully fledged members of the family, you’ll also find plenty of choices in baby-naming lists too.
Alternatively, you might choose from characters in favourite books, films, or TV shows — Sherlock, Watson, Frodo, and Arya are apparently all gaining in popularity. But not all heroes to name your dog after need be fictional: Dogs Trust Manchester named two homeless hounds after gold medal-winning Team GB cyclists, Laura Trott and Jason Kenny.
Fido, Rex, and Rover
Although Fido, Rex, and Rover are rarely used these days, they remain a generic ‘everydog’ name, like Joe Bloggs or John Doe for humans.
Fido is Latin for ‘faithful’, and probably dates back to ancient times. Abraham Lincoln owned a dog called Fido. As the first presidential dog to be photographed, his name became popular in the USA as a result of his fame.
Another famous Fido was an injured stray Italian dog, adopted during the Second World War by factory worker, Carlo Soriani. After being nursed back to health, Fido lived up to his name by accompanying his owner to the bus stop every morning, and waiting there to greet him on his return each evening. One day, Carlo failed to arrive, having been killed during a bomb attack, but Fido continued to wait for him every evening for the next 14 years, right up to the day of his death.
Rover was a common name for hunting dogs in both Britain and the USA during the 18th century. Undeterred by the male nature of the name, George Washington allegedly had a dog called Lady Rover. In Britain, the name was further popularised among pet dogs by a 1905 short film, ‘Rescued by Rover’. Six-and-a-half minutes long, it was the first film to star a dog.
Rex is another Latin name, meaning ‘King’: Rex the Wonder Dog appeared in a 1950s comic strip, while another Rex was a famous canine actor in the 1920s.
Kennel Club names
Over 250,000 dogs are registered with the Kennel Club each year, but you don’t need to have a pedigree to boast of an impressive-sounding official name. As well as a Breed Register, the Kennel Club also holds an Activity Register, and if you want to enter KC-licensed events, such as agility, flyball, obedience, heelwork to music, and cani-cross, you’ll need to register your dog’s special show name here.
This is where your imagination can run wild — although it must consist of more than one word but not be more than 24 letters long. If those sort of classes don’t appeal, there is always the Companion Dog Register to sign up to. Find more details at www.kennelclub.org.uk
Did you know?
While many breeds are named after their place of origin, sometimes an individual makes such an impression that the reverse happens. Situated in the Snowdonia area of Wales is the village of Beddgelert (‘Gelert’s Grave’). According to popular local legend, the village takes its name from a heroic hound who is buried there. Gelert saved his master’s infant son, only to then be slain in a case of mistaken identity.
Most popular name
Trends in dog names come and go. According to animal charity, Blue Cross, the names currently in vogue are:
However, determining the most popular name depends on whose lists you consult: the RSPCA’s top spots were taken by Ben for males, and Poppy for females.
This article was first published in the September 2017 issue of Your Dog Magazine.