Help me clarify the unwritten rules about naming dogs
August 17, 2019 5:46 PM   Subscribe

Hi. I don't own a dog yet, but I might in a year or so, and I don't want to screw up her name. What are the unwritten rules about naming dogs? I've only had cats, and I know those rules. Dogs are a mystery. Please help me understand dog naming.

I've had it explained to me that the names Karen or Diane are too "hard" for dogs, that they need to be named something "softer". But that apparently doesn't mean people names are out; I know dogs named Zoe and Abby, and no one gets their knickers in a twist about it. Do dog names need to have the "-ee" sound at the end? Is that only applicable to girl dogs? How does this work with boy dogs (Who are sometimes named Rex, right? There's no harder name than Rex.) What is the influence of the possibility that I might one day be wandering through the neighborhood calling for my dog?

Also interested in historical perspectives, naming boy dogs, naming dogs in languages that aren't English, and naming dogs with creative names (my cats had super weird names, and no one ever blinked an eye. But cats aren't expected to come when you call, and therefore I feel that their names can be fairly arbitrary)

This question courtesy of a long discussion after seeing this article about dogs named after Taco Bell menu items.
posted by Vatnesine to Pets & Animals (57 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
The one solid rule of dog names: choose a name that won't make you feel embarrassed when you inevitably have to yell it in front of strangers. (My dog's nickname is Little Butt. I lost my last shreds of dignity long ago when my childhood dog ate it, so that's okay.)

I prefer names that are easy to say in the Happy Voice - the same kind of enthusiastic encouraging voice that you use on very small kids, or that Disney employees use when herding crowds. Two syllables with a vowel at the end are good for that, but not mandatory.

Look at what other people have named their dogs. Make notes of names you like. It'll come to you once you meet your dog.
posted by cmyk at 5:56 PM on August 17, 2019 [12 favorites]


You can name a dog anything you want! I mean, don’t name your dog a slur or something reasonable people would find offensive, but other than that you can do whatever you want. I’ve never met a dog named Karen or Diane - it would be an unusual choice - but there’s nothing wrong with naming your dog Karen or Diane.
posted by insectosaurus at 6:01 PM on August 17, 2019 [24 favorites]


Try not to use the "oh" sound, particularly in the first syllable, and definitely if only using one syllable. You don't want their name to sometimes sound like "No!"

Otherwise whatever sounds good! And won't offend anyone. Sometimes you will spend a little time with the dog and their name will be obvious. Oh, you are a Walter. Or, definitely an Emily. (I have never heard that thing about names like "Diane" but I am not an expert.)

As for the -ee sound at the end - it doesn't matter what you name your dog. Eventually one of its names will include the -ee sound at the end.
posted by Glinn at 6:02 PM on August 17, 2019 [13 favorites]


I am not a dog name expert, but I recall hearing the advice to use a name with an "S" sound because the dog will hear the "S" as a whistle sound when you call him/her. Maybe Sharon instead of Karen? Shamus if you get a police dog?
posted by Cranberry at 6:05 PM on August 17, 2019


I found it odd that you asked the rules for naming dogs and then linked to an article that vehemently states there are no rules for naming dogs. You can indeed name your dog literally anything! But cmyk’s rule is a good one.

Another thing to keep in mind is that dog names evolve. I once had a puggle we named Olive. She was small so we started calling her Smallive. Then we shortened that to Smalls. Then we started calling her Biggie Smalls. My brother had a dog named Samson, but within a few years they were calling him Weasel, then the Wheeze.

Name your dog whatever you like; eventually you’ll be calling them by some nickname that suits their personality more than their real name anyway.
posted by ejs at 6:06 PM on August 17, 2019 [8 favorites]


The unwritten rule of dog names is that no matter what you name your dog, you will inevitably call them something completely unrelated, and then your family lore will include the etymology of their weird nickname. My dog is named Helo, which became Helo Monster (get it, like gila monster?), then Monster, Mr. Monster, and sometimes HM or Mr. M.

(upon preview, what ejs said)
posted by radioamy at 6:07 PM on August 17, 2019 [12 favorites]


I don’t think there are any real rules—just pick a name that is shoutable, and resign yourself to the fact that your dog will accumulate at least one nickname. Also—a name that lends itself to being inserted into various song lyrics is always a plus.
posted by bookmammal at 6:08 PM on August 17, 2019 [8 favorites]


We rescued a dog named Congaree and we’re nowhere near the Congaree river; nobody here has really heard of it. Every time I introduce her to someone new, they get either “Hungary” or “Concrete”. So maybe a name that is familiar?

On the other hand I love people names for dogs and would name a pair of dogs Jack and Diane in a heartbeat, so there you go.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 6:18 PM on August 17, 2019 [3 favorites]


(Also FYI you can change your dog’s name! But it didn’t occur to us.)
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 6:18 PM on August 17, 2019


Oh and if you plan to maybe have kids, and you name a dog, consider whether it would be weird to name a kid the name a dog had! That’s how Max and Lucy were knocked off the list, as well as Buster and Spankypants.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 6:20 PM on August 17, 2019 [8 favorites]


I think dogs with people names are hilarious. Mainly because there do seem to be some unwritten "rules" about what makes a good dog name, and it's funny to break them. I would love to meet a dog named Diane or Karen or Jeff or Dave. A dog with a peopl-y sounding name would likely be perceived as having more human qualities than your average Rex or Rover.

My brother has a dog named Penny which is our mother's name but he claims it's not named after her. My cousin named her childhood dog Samantha then gave the same name to her child years later (Samantha the First was long gone by then.) She just really liked the name.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 6:24 PM on August 17, 2019 [10 favorites]


My SO had a dog named Stanley. Her father is also named Stanley. She swears it’s unrelated. I believe her, and it confuses me.
posted by ejs at 6:34 PM on August 17, 2019 [8 favorites]


I've often heard the theory that 2-3 syllable names might work better because the extra syllables give the dog more to grip onto to recognize their name, but I'm not buying it as my dog has no trouble at all recognizing her favorite single-syllable words like WALK and GO and CHEESE and FOOD and TREAT and OUT.

My dog has a two-syllable-ending-in-eeeee, people-esque name (Annie) but lately I just call her Butt, and that seems to work just as well.
posted by mochapickle at 6:36 PM on August 17, 2019 [1 favorite]


I’ve heard dog breeders say it’s good to have a clear/hard consonant at the start of the name to help the dog pick up on it. So maybe Camelia is better than Amelie in that regard. But also —no rules; do whatever you want.

I had an uncle with a dog named Dammit just so he could yell ‘come here, Dammit’! And everyone rolled their eyes but Dammit was a good dog, dammit.
posted by SaltySalticid at 6:37 PM on August 17, 2019 [12 favorites]


I kinda hate to drag out the old MeFi trope that you're overthinking a plate of beans, but I happen to know an awesome ~70 lb. mutt named Beans and she's very happy with her name.

Also reiterating what ejs and radioamy said. Proper names are only used when going to the vet or the trainer or meeting neighbors. Otherwise, nicknames take over. I called my late/previous dog (Coya - which is Incan-based and was kind of a pain to explain to people, but I'd just shrug and say I worked with a lot of dogs so needed something unique and was a history nerd) "boogs" like 95% of the time, short for boogiepants/boogiebutt/boogerbutt. Current/new dog is Paisley (based off of the Paisley Underground with a slight tip of the hat to Prince. I already had it in mind, but her foster name also began with a P, so that just confirmed it), but I mostly call her Goober or simply P. She'll get more nicknames in due time (it's been just over 5 months).

Anecdotally, other dog names in my circle include: Pumpkin, Henry, Jackson, Silas, Jameson, Herschel, Frankie, Truman, Willie, Madeline/Maddie, Oliver, Kochi, Truman, and Lady.
posted by Ufez Jones at 6:40 PM on August 17, 2019 [3 favorites]


I'm curious -- what's the rule about cats?

The only "rule" I have ever heard with dog (not show dog, just regular dog) names is that it should be easily pronounceable by humans and distinctive enough for your dog to understand that this word being spoken requires their attention.

My dog and cat both have two syllable names starting with a consonant and ending in "ah" and they both know their names.
posted by sm1tten at 6:41 PM on August 17, 2019 [4 favorites]


I think one syllable names for dogs are best but that’s not a hard-and-fast rule.

My dog’s name is “Hank” which never ceases to amuse people.
posted by Automocar at 6:42 PM on August 17, 2019 [2 favorites]


My dog's name is Indiana Bones, but Indy for short. I introduce her as Indiana Bones to people and let them know that I call her Indy because a. It's funny and b. Half the time they think her name is Andy instead of Indy.

I thought Indy was a unique name at the time, but it turned out that naming a dog was like naming a baby- they turn five and show up to kindergarten (or, you know, the dog park) and everyone else is named Indy too!

So if you want a unique name, make it REALLY unique. And something that can't easily be mispronounced, like other people have said!
posted by mollywas at 7:02 PM on August 17, 2019 [7 favorites]


Ha! I was just about to say that our dog is named Indy but I call her Indiana Bones then I loaded the “1 new comment.” Also thought we were being unique. Same thing happened when we named our son Henry.
posted by amro at 7:05 PM on August 17, 2019 [14 favorites]


(And yes, it’s because, “We named the dog Indiana!”)
posted by amro at 7:06 PM on August 17, 2019 [10 favorites]


I’ve noticed a lot of overlap between currently-popular people names for dogs and currently-popular people names for kids - lots of Sadies, Bellas, Charlies, etc. That may be why names like Karen and Diane seemed odd - they’re names that hit peak popularity a few decades ago and are associated with a lot of real ordinary people. “Karen” is snappy and easy to yell at the dog park, but Karen is also the kind of name your boss would have, know what I mean?

I kind of love these kinds of names for pets - names that are relatively common among adults but would sound out of place in a preschool today. Like Larry or Tricia or Jennifer.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:19 PM on August 17, 2019 [4 favorites]


We need more Jennifers and Britneys in the dog park.
Have we reach Peak Chris yet? Or is that just in the Marvel Universe?
posted by TrishaU at 7:25 PM on August 17, 2019 [3 favorites]


I know a dog named Chris, nice guy.

Also wanted to point out your dog can have a middle name and last name if you want, and you don’t have to have the same last name, just like with human family. You can even have a Niles Jr. or Winston Benton Rumsley III.
posted by SaltySalticid at 7:32 PM on August 17, 2019 [3 favorites]


The pet’s name is all about the owner. Free your ideas from societal strictures.

Our (last) cat was Pig. RIP. The best dog name I heard was my buddy Jim’s shepard Boron. The name just rolled off the tongue and always easy to shout when he ran off after some bitch. My grand dog is Mac; natch - he’s a ridiculously smart border collie. I’m scheming how to steal him from my son, but a name change is not part of the plan.
posted by sudogeek at 7:55 PM on August 17, 2019 [1 favorite]


The only rule I know is that you have to give the dog extra good scritches while using the name. My favorite dogs are named Maggie, Boomer, Spatula, and Cheese.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:48 PM on August 17, 2019 [1 favorite]


It's nice if the name fits the dog's personality. Also nice if it's easy to pronounce or spell (for introducing the dog to others and for trips to the vet and groomer, who often call out your dog's name instead of your name).

(Then again, recently I saw a cat named Small Mammal, which I thought was hilarious. You do you.)
posted by Red Desk at 8:50 PM on August 17, 2019 [2 favorites]


Name your dog something you'll be comfortable yelling repeatedly in the middle of your street at three am, wearing a bathrobe and shaking a can of kibble. Oedipus Rex is probably out.
posted by jenkinsEar at 8:53 PM on August 17, 2019 [7 favorites]


when I worked at a dog training school my boss told me that border collies and other herding dogs should have one syllable names with a hard consonant in them because it’s easy to shout (and for the dog to understand) quickly across a field. I don’t know how standard that is but many border collies I’ve known have had names like Brick, Mac, Tag, Kane, etc.

There really aren’t any rules and your dog will learn their name soon enough so
name them whatever feels right and isn’t too embarrassing to shout across a field.

And please, tell us about these rules for cat names! I’ve never heard any.
posted by adastra at 8:57 PM on August 17, 2019


https://www.bailyshuntingdirectory.com/hound-name-selector/

Some names of dogs I know: Alana, Lobster, Sydney, Sky (aka Scoobs), Hope, Darlene, Virgil, Polo, Harriet, Gertie, Hoagie, many Franks, Remington, Chase, Gulliver (he's short), November. If there are rules, I have no idea what they are.
posted by sepviva at 9:04 PM on August 17, 2019


They can be ajectives! I have a cat named Sketchy, because it seemed sketchy as to whether he was ever gonna come out from under the bed once I moved him to Utah, when he was a kitten. I think Oops would be a good name, or Sweetness, or even Whoa!
posted by Oyéah at 9:36 PM on August 17, 2019


I feel like if you named the dog Karen or Diane a lot of 50 something women would turn around every time you yelled.

That said I think they'd make perfectly good dog names. I am all about people names for pets.

Not Noah though, I think that that would confuse the dog.

Would love to know the cat name rules too. I'm sure I've broken them.
posted by kitten magic at 9:58 PM on August 17, 2019 [2 favorites]


I just brought home a puppy on Tuesday. I've named her Alicia Pequeña (Alice Little).

Of course the name sounds wrong to native Spanish speakers (as a description it would be Pequeña Alicia) and frankly Alicia is getting a little tedious to sound out so I think we're headed in the direction of "Ali" (pronounced "alley").

Her name will always be Alicia Pequeña but as others have said what she is actually called will develop organically as time goes on.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:17 PM on August 17, 2019


This is solely to do with official American Kennel Club naming, but I have to link this thread delving into why the AKC will take only 37 dogs with the same name.
posted by batter_my_heart at 10:24 PM on August 17, 2019 [3 favorites]


My unwritten rule is that all dogs are named "Buddy". But I am Canadian.
posted by Meatbomb at 10:30 PM on August 17, 2019 [8 favorites]


We’ve gone for the “rule” (not a rule at all) that day to day dog names should be two syllables ending in eee, but I know so many great dogs whose names don’t fit that pattern. The only important thing is what was said above, pick a name or nickname you aren’t embarrassed to yell in public.
posted by Dip Flash at 11:28 PM on August 17, 2019


One consideration - that others have alluded to - applies if you happen to have a dog that you expect to be rigorously trained - as would apply to working dogs, police dogs, etc. Such animals need a name that is short (so that no time is wasted giving instructions) and distinct (so not easily confused with other animals, other commands or frequently used words in the language). Such dogs also need to respond unquestioningly to their name. Trainers will often change an adopted dog's name from whatever it was before, if the dog has learned that it does not always need to be responsive to it.

If your dog is going to be frequently meeting people who speak other languages - and if you know what those languages are - then it can help to choose something that is pronounceable and non-stupid sounding to them.

Some people like to name all their dogs - or pets - along the lines of a theme. I have a relative who has lifetime of naming them after Scottish rivers, for example. Having a theme can make choosing a name a little quicker.
posted by rongorongo at 12:38 AM on August 18, 2019 [2 favorites]


Well, we named all of ours with meaning. One is Obie (actually Oberon) for Oberon, King of the Fairies - because his ears were so big when we got him. Another one is named Harvey after the big rabbit in the Jimmy Stewart movie. The third one is named Cranford. He is named after the area he was found in. We didn't like the name of the actual location, so we picked one that sounded better. Cranford fits him perfectly.

One other dog was named after a Shakespeare character. (I found the name hilarious after watching a painfully horrible off-Broadway performance of Macbeth.) Four previous dogs came with their names, but they fit their personalities, so we kept them. Obie's name wasn't Obie when we got him, but he didn't have a problem relearning his name. I have no idea what Crannie's name was - he was abandoned.

We already have a name picked out for the next one assuming we can get the color we want. It's kind of a small addiction... ;)
posted by dancinglamb at 1:25 AM on August 18, 2019 [1 favorite]




I named my dog after my favorite baseball player, Munson. I also called him Thurman, Thurm and 15. He answered to all of them but if you called him, Fisk, he would growl.

Call the dog whatever you want.
posted by AugustWest at 2:02 AM on August 18, 2019 [3 favorites]


I'm with meatbomb. Half the people in my neighborhood think my dog is legit named Buddy. The other half think it's Bud. All are wrong!
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 4:12 AM on August 18, 2019 [1 favorite]


We've had a Bozo, a Ronin and a Pudreaux which all have the o in no, but none of them seemed to mind and they were all very good boys. My mom now owns a dog named Pandora.

Nobody ever told us we named our dogs wrong for the record.
posted by AlexiaSky at 5:06 AM on August 18, 2019


The only rule I know of is if they are brown and hairy, they should be named Chewbarka.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 5:40 AM on August 18, 2019 [2 favorites]


Ok, so first off, you're not nuts. There are absolutely social norms and customs about naming dogs. Like most customs, they aren't absolute, they're fuzzy, unspoken, and unofficial, and there's no real punishment for violating them other than being considered funny or odd. But they definitely do exist.

(One way you can tell they exist is that parents-to-be choosing a name for their kid will sometimes say things like "Oh, we can't name him Toby, that's a dog name." Which, if we didn't have customs around dog naming, would be a nonsensical thing to say — every name would be equally human-y and equally dog-y! And of course, there isn't a rule against making kids Toby either, otherwise literally nobody would do it, and not everyone has the gut sense that it's a Dog Name. But it's still a more customary name for dogs than for humans, at least right now, and if you look at lists of names by popularity they will back that up.)

So like, yeah, do what you want, like everyone else is saying. But if what you want is to name your dog something maximally normal and custom-following, so that people who hear it think "Wow, what a nice traditional dog name" and not "Huh, never met a dog named that before," take a look at the Top 100 male and female dog names that you get to if you scroll down this page. That'll give you a feel for what people currently find normal.
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:49 AM on August 18, 2019 [3 favorites]


If your dog has any mileage already, you might have to test out a few names to see what they respond to. Our rescue was just a few months old but we went through a few names until we found one that she instantly responded to. Of course I keep adding different nicknames that convey just how adorable she is, but I don’t usually yell those in public.
posted by Neekee at 6:50 AM on August 18, 2019


There are two rules:

1. Dog names should be two-syllables, the second a breathy or open vowel that carries well across the dog park. “Asss-tuhhh” “Lass-eeee” “Dough-dee”.

2. It should be a name you won’t be embarrassed to yell at the top of your voice at the dog park.
posted by notyou at 6:50 AM on August 18, 2019 [2 favorites]


Dogs that are in my life at the moment include Mackenzie, Tyler, Cheeks, Picasso, Charlie and Seymour.

I'm sure there are rules being broken there.

they are all Good Dogs.
posted by gaspode at 7:46 AM on August 18, 2019 [3 favorites]


I don't know about rules, but for a time it seemed all the dogs I knew were named after beers or food. Guiness, Molson, Heineken. I know a dog named Lawry after the spice. Peanut and Butternut. Etc.

The only rule I would use in picking a dog name is to pick one 100 other dogs at the dog park won't answer too. But it's really up to you.
posted by Crystal Fox at 8:20 AM on August 18, 2019 [1 favorite]


I was kidding about the rules for cat names! I don't acknowledge that there are any legitimate rules about naming cats. There are so many human rules that don't apply to cats, naming is one of them. But dogs are more human-like, insofar as they care about you and you have to bring them out into the human world to interact so much more than you have to do with cats, so there are some rules about naming them.

Lots of good practical ideas in this thread. I've only ever had cats, so I wasn't thinking about naming in terms of having an easy-to-recognize name. Cats don't bother recognizing their name. Very interesting.
posted by Vatnesine at 9:50 AM on August 18, 2019 [1 favorite]


When I am out and about, and I encounter dogs, I make up a name for them. Spots. Chipper. Fred. Whatever seems to suit them. After doing this for a little while you discover that every dog (every animal, actually, including humans) has a name that is perfectly suited to them (which may not be their actual name), ready and waiting.

I'm a big fan of spontaneously naming animals. They've always seemed pretty pleased with my choices. It only takes a little practice, is all.
posted by Admiral Viceroy at 11:28 AM on August 18, 2019 [1 favorite]


Everywhere I've been involved, naming a dog up for adoption is a major undertaking because you want an instantly appealing name that accurately represents what you know of the dog's personality but is also somewhat unique yet familiar enough to be easily remembered so a person can search for that dog's page the next day when they realize they do want to get that dog.

For your own pet, honestly I never even thought about thinking about it.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 12:40 PM on August 18, 2019


Pick a name with lots of potential nicknames. Our pups name is Mishka. Aka... Mish, Mishers, Mishy, Mishcolada, MishMish, Mishkagrams.... You get it.

Also know that you will forever be referred to as "Mishka's dad/mom". So in a way you're picking your own new name.
posted by KMoney at 3:03 PM on August 18, 2019


When I was born, many decades ago, my parents had a dog whom they had named "Tiny Alice B. Toklas in Wonderland." She died before I was two, so I don't remember her, other than from pictures, and knew of her only as "Alice" until I was almost out of college. That's the first time I remember my Dad mentioning her full name for the first time. I was taken with it because it's clever in a way that suggests my parents were once at least somewhat cooler, more interesting, possibly even more subversive people than they have seemed to be for most of the time I can remember. (Whether that's true or wishful thinking on my part I may never know, though there are a few other tantalizing hints that it could be).

Whatever the case, having their first child (me) apparently snuffed most of that out, if indeed it ever existed. Consider that their second dog, obtained when I was six months old, ended up named "Charlie." The explanation was that they hadn't thought of a name yet when they had a visit from friend who, the story goes, called everybody Charlie, and that was that. (They had both dogs for about a year before Alice died. Charlie, who was a lab/golden mix, went on to live almost 16 years, and I was thoroughly devastated by his demise).

Fast forward to January, 2005, when I was newly married, and my wife and I decided to adopt a black male Chihuahua; now almost 15, and mostly gray instead of black, he is sitting in my lap at this very moment, vibrating in his characteristicaly neurotic fashion. After all of the backstory, this is the dog I'm really posting about, because he has SO many names.

When we got him, I had an ambition to think up a name that would be sort of an homage to the name of my parents' first dog, but, obviously a male variant. So "officially" his name is "Little Richard P. Feynman the Lionhearted." Unfortunately, it's not as good as Tiny Alice B. Toklas in Wonderland, and even the miniscule number of people aware of the reference never seemed to like it that much. It also has the downside that, unlike with "Alice," it doesn't offer an inviting short version that makes a good name for a dog. In fact, what we call him day-to-day has nothing to do with that name. As far as almost everyone knows, he's always been "Drumstick." (This is because I play the drums, and because I thought it sounded cute, though people always think he's named after a poultry leg and don't even think of the musical instrument. In fact, observing as much to a friend once led to an absurd disagreement in which he strenuously denied that the name of the food had anything to do with the fact it resembles something with which you'd hit a drum--he insisted it does not--and he was adamant that the shared name was "coincidental.")

Given the dog's unfortunate personality (supercharged hyperactive ravenously pathetic desperate neediness, bascially), my wife belatedly proposed "Chagrin Tin Tin," but by then Drumstick was well-established. Many people have difficulty remembering this name, for some reason. When Drumstick was about six months old, one of my oldest friends vistited me and the first thing he said upon meeting the dog for the second time was, "what's your dog's name again? Flapjack? Palmtree?" After that, any two syllable compound word of that sort would be considered acceptable in lieu of the correct one. Some of the more enduringly popular are things like Flimflam, Slapdash, Slipshod, Riprap, Drunktank, Niptuck, Speedbump, Dogstack, Hotmess, Trackmark, Stinkbomb, Crackpipe, etc. and that's just scratching the surface, as you might imagine. Ocassionally someone learning about this becomes fixated on thinking up as many as she can, and I'll be getting text messages for weeks or months afterwards everytime she thinks of another good one.

Having written all of this, I am confronted with the liklihood that none of this is any help to you at all and that you're looking for advice about what normal people name their dogs, of which I clearly know nothing. But having spent the time typing it, I expect I'll post it anyway. I hope that doesn't make me seem super self-indulgent.
posted by davewagon at 9:14 PM on August 18, 2019 [6 favorites]


I've had it explained to me that the names Karen or Diane are too "hard" for dogs, that they need to be named something "softer".

Frankly, that's idiotic. You can name a dog whatever you wish. However, I suggest avoiding human names as eventually it will be confusing (and annoying) to people with those names. I have a well known but uncommon first name, yet there are multiple dogs in my 'hood with that name. One is in my own dog's pack in the park. It's a pain in the ass whenever people call the dog or talk about the dog.

That said, here are my own "rules" for dog-naming:

- don't name the dog before you get it. the name needs to suit the dog. I had my current dog for a month before settling on her name. it fits her perfectly and I now cringe at some of the other names I tried which only lasted a day.
- two syllables, which easily differentiates it from 99% of dog commands, which are one syllable
- spend a day or two in a dog park and listen to the names. you'd be surprised how many dogs have what you would think are "unique" names. for instance, I know six Junos, two Mojos, two Karas, three Reubens, four Henrys, two Bourbons, three Lunas, two Ursas, ... etc. Having the same name can be problematic at the dog park. Try and find something unique.

Here's a registry of dog names in NY. Try punching something in. (There is 1 Karen and 2 Dianes. Hell, there are two dogs in New York named F!) Unique names are hard.

Personally, I prefer names that aren't names at all. My guiding star when choosing a new dog name is racehorse names. I don't steal them -- I just use their uniqueness as inspiration. Keep in mind this advice is coming from someone with a dog named Shakedown...

My favorite dog names that weren't chosen by me and are of dogs I actually know are Capone, Meatloaf (called "Loaf"), Grapes, Sooner, Phaelen, and Zipper.

Lastly, I would strongly advise you to learn to whistle. Having a particular whistle/tune for your dog is 1000% more effective than any name you're going to come up with. Done right it'll also carry a farther distance and cut through all the voices calling their dogs during a park situation.
posted by dobbs at 10:06 PM on August 18, 2019 [3 favorites]


I was kidding about the rules for cat names!
posted by Vatnesine

* This is me giving you my best "head tilted, ears perked up" look. Plus tail wag.
** On the Green no one knows you're a dog.
posted by TrishaU at 2:55 AM on August 19, 2019 [1 favorite]


IANYV, but IAAV so I've seen a heckin boatload of dog names. Here are what I (personally) would consider my baseline rules/guidelines for dog naming:

-nothing racist, sexist, or crude (I once had a client who named his dog Turdhead. I would only call it T.H. in the exam room)

-nothing you've previously named a dog, with "II" added afterwards (for crying out loud people, they're not interchangeable widgets)

-try to avoid cliche: you're not the only "clever" person to think of Cocoa or Hershey for a chocolate lab, or Cheddar or Marmalade for a ginger cat. This isn't a hanging offense but it's...WAAAAAAY overdone. No dog with wiry hair should be named Scruffy. Just stop.

-go for the two-syllable names that can be called out in a bit of a sing-song voice

-avoid names of famous dogs of the same breed (Lassie, Benji, etc.)

-under no circumstances should small children be allowed to choose pet names unsupervised; this rule is absolute

But in the end if you are a good dog owner any and all of the above can be forgiven!
posted by SinAesthetic at 6:14 AM on August 19, 2019 [2 favorites]


I don't know what name my dog started with. The shelter called him Hobble ('cause only 3 legs) which I found a bit rude, so I jokingly called him Swag (thinking that "swagger" is like a positive connotation version.) This stuck for about five minutes when my husband just called him "Buddy" all the time, which morphed into "Buddy butt" and "buddy boodle" and "boodle" and "butt dog" and my personal favorite that I use all the time, "bood."

The only rule, I suppose, is that whatever you start with, you'll probably end up somewhere else.
posted by gloriouslyincandescent at 8:27 PM on August 19, 2019 [2 favorites]


> I just brought home a puppy on Tuesday. I've named her Alicia Pequeña (Alice Little).

> When I was born, many decades ago, my parents had a dog whom they had named "Tiny Alice B. Toklas in Wonderland."

Well there's your answer OP. Conforming dog names must include Lewis Carroll references.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:15 AM on August 20, 2019


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