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Naming your dog

As published in Canadian Dogs Annual
Naming your dog

Naming your new dog is part of the excitement when he arrives home. Names are typically matched to a dog’s breed, ancestry and personality. A stately Rottweiler may be aptly named Otto while the fun-loving Irish Setter happily responds to Clancy.

Many people use a favourite make of car, a famous actor, or as in Twinkie’s case, a much loved treat, to choose a name. One man’s love of sports cars prompted him to name his Greyhound, Porsche. A spunky, energetic Boston Terrier got his moniker “Pesci” from the famous “two youts” star of My Cousin Vinny. The soulful eyes and gentle, kind disposition of a Golden Labrador earned her the name Bella, meaning “beautiful” in Italian.

A name can also shed light on the personality and sense of humour of the owner.
Commanding grins at the dog park are Tank, a tiny Maltese, and a Yorkshire Terrier named Hercules. Laughter abounds when the call for Snowball produces the appearance of a strapping white Great Pyrenees. While these names may seem amusing at first, consider how your dog reacts when people guffaw every time he answers to his name.

Beware of Pop culture names

Your dog may own his name for up to 15 years or more so keep that in mind if you’re choosing a name from current pop culture. If you’re young and single, what may be funny or seem cool now, may be somewhat embarrassing later on. Your new husband might not appreciate calling for “Gaga” across the park, just as your young kids may raise eyebrows when someone asks them your dog’s name and they reply “Smirnoff ”. Some names may also result in a less than favourable reputation for your dog. If you want to be able to travel with your dog, “Puddles” or “Sir Poops Alot” are best kept as home-bound nicknames.

Learning his name

Teaching a dog his name is the first real bonding exercise between dog and owner. Getting a dog used to his name requires repetition with upbeat conviction and positive reinforcement. Start by saying the name over and over. When the dog responds in any way to the name, immediately reward and praise him. Perform this exercise several times daily. Never use his name in a negative or causal manner. The result could be that he stops paying attention. A name is not just his identity, but it will help with teaching him commands and keep him safe. The general consensus of trainers is that the choice of a name matters quite a bit when teaching commands. A two-syllable name starting with a hard first letter such as “P” or “B” and ending with a vowel such as “A” or “O” is ideal. It makes the name distinct and is easier for the dog to recognize.

The name itself sets the tone for the dog to pay attention. The use of two syllables gives the dog time to hear his name over other sounds, and the second syllable allows the owner to instill the emotion of what a subsequent command will entail. Ensure a name isn’t similar to a basic command such as “sit”, “stay” or “come”. The name “Stacey” could sound too much like “stay” and be confusing.

Naming your dog should take careful consideration, promote his personality and be something both you, your family and your dog can easily manage for many years to come.



Tessa Kimmel has over 25 years' experience in animal care and own MedPet & Cozy Critters Pet Care Services, a Toronto business specializing in care for animals with medical conditions and special needs. She also works part time as a veterinary technician and shares her home with an assortment of special needs kitties. Tessa enjoys writing on pet care for a number of publications, including Animal Wellness Magazine.


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