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How To Pick The Perfect Name For Your Dog

How To Pick The Perfect Name For Your Dog

What’s In A Name?

You’ve done your research and found a responsible breeder or reputable dog rescue. You’ve thought about and come up with an estimated budget on the costs of owning a dog. Your puppy is going to come home in a few weeks … but you still don’t have a name. How do you pick the perfect name for your dog?

What you name your dog is a personal thing. You want to pick something that is meaningful to you and also jives with the puppy’s personality. You’re trying to keep your 3 year old from naming the German Shepherd Jellybean.

There are a few things to keep in mind when picking your dog’s name that you may overlook. I want to bring those points up and also give you some resources for great dog names. Finally, I have a couple of brainstorming tricks to get your creativity flowing. 

Hopefully, by the end of this post you’ll have some inspiration about your new puppy’s perfect name.

How Quickly Do You Need A Name After Getting A Dog?

Before we jump all the way in, let me address the importance of naming your dog right away. In my opinion, you’re better off picking a name out of a hat at random than waiting even days to name your dog. Repeating your dog’s name will build the bond between you.

You want your dog to learn her name as soon as possible for training purposes, also. Let me give you a quick example.

I live with a cat named Julius. He was an adorable, easy going kitten that didn’t need much correction. Also, I spoiled him. He is super cuddly.

One day Julius started scratching one of my chairs and I yelled ‘no’ at him. No reaction. By the third time I yelled this, clearly making my way toward him, he shot me a look of total confusion. He’s a cat, so this could be coincidence. 

Just to make my point here we’re going to assume it isn’t coincidence and that Julius had no concept of what the word no means and why I was yelling my head off about it. Plugging your new puppy into this example, do you want to climb uphill when you start training your puppy and realize he has no idea what to do when you say his name?

As for Julius, he gets it now, but he’s not thrilled.

My point is, name your dog right away! Preferably before you even bring the puppy home. Use the name you’ve chosen when you visit the dog, and ask the breeder or rescue if they will do the same.

My Dog Already Had A Name At The Rescue

This is a tricky situation, but you really have two options. I’ll go through both of them.

Keeping The Name Your Dog Is Used To

This seems like the obvious choice because it feels consistent to refer to your dog by something he’s already comfortable with. In the case of asking your breeder to use the name you choose for your dog, you’re establishing familiarity. 

On the other hand, your dog doesn’t identify with his name the same way you do. We can’t be sure how a dog feels about his name, but it is logical that dogs interpret names as somewhat situational. They can’t name each other human names if left to their own devices, after all. Naming is a part of our culture, not necessarily the culture of dogs.

New Name – Fresh Start

Some people even believe that dogs from abusive backgrounds move on faster if their new forever family gives them a new name. If this is true, giving your dog a new name is kind of like making a promise that things are going to be different.

In dog terms, it probably feels like an opportunity to form new patterns or at least lack of a reminder of unpleasant circumstances.

While we can’t be certain of what a dog is thinking, there is no hard evidence that keeping your dog’s existing name is any better or worse than changing it. Absent any signs that your dog has anxiety when he hears his former name, this one is up to you. 

The Boring Stuff: What Do The Experts Say About Dog Names?

Lady Dutchess Precious Plaything, III may sound like the perfect name to you, but it fails the muster of usefulness. By the time you say all of that to your dog, she’s going to forget whatever the fuss is really about.

Your dog’s name signifies a command for attention. You’re directing, greeting, or commanding your dog when you use his name. It isn’t just a cute string of words for you and your friends to giggle over.

How does your dog’s name set up a successful line of communication between you? I’ve gathered some thoughts on that!


Pick A Person Name?

PetMD indicates that some members of the training community don’t agree with giving human names to dogs because it anthropomorphizes them.

to attribute human form or personality to things not human


PetMD doesn’t go into great detail about this statement, but I presume these trainers are worried the dog owners won’t train the dog appropriately and treat it like a child instead. If that’s the motivation behind this criticism, it’s one worth contemplating.

Your dog is intelligent and important to you, but it isn’t a child. You have to engage different techniques to communicate with your dog and having the correct mindset is key.

If you want to establish yourself as the ‘pack leader,’ you can’t baby talk or cajole your dog into behaviors. If you’re in an emergency situation, will your dog understand the urgency when you yell “Susan?”

So naming your Jack Russell Terrier Jack is just fine as long as you understand your role in the dog’s life, which is to be the benevolent dictator who is caring and understanding but doesn’t negotiate over behavior. Some people have problems remembering this, and if you feel that way, consider giving your dog a name that reminds you how to communicate effectively with him.

Friendly, Two Syllable Names Make Good Choices

Progressing on from human names for dogs, whatever name you pick is something you are going to say a lot. You want it to have a rhythm for both you and the dog.

For these reasons, names that are easy to say and are one or two syllables. Names like Luna, Lucky, Rocky, or Buddy fit the bill.

If you want your dog to have a long name, keep in mind you will shorten it eventually. Think about what nickname you’ll be using and consider teaching that to your dog from the get go.

This way, you can tell your friends about King George The Magnificent, but your puppy just knows you call him King.

Don’t Pick A Name That Sounds Like A Command

This is a very useful tip and something I think is easy to overlook. Don’t name your dog something that sounds like a command, for risk of confusing your dog. This is especially true for puppies.

In other words, names like Bo (Sorry, Obamas!), Joe, and Ro all sound a little like ‘No’ and they aren’t the best dog names. In the same vein, Mitt sounds like sit, so avoid it.

Remember that your puppy is only just learning the language you share together. Words like his name and common commands all sound a bit the same. Think back to when you learned French in high school. The words that stuck out to you at first were probably unusual or different from the others.

Sibilant Or Commanding Consonant

Leave it to the New York Times to bring up this high-brow concern about dog naming. In The Art of Naming A Dog, the author discusses sibilant and commanding consonants and how they come into the mix of what’s in a dog name.

Sure, I’m a writer who is into words, but I think this advice is good for everyone to keep in mind. Sibilant sounds are ‘s,’ ‘sh,’ or ‘zh’ sounds. Commanding or sharp consonant sounds include ‘k’ and hard ‘c’ sounds.

A sibilant sound can be soothing to dogs, but a sharp consonant sound is easy for them to hear. It stands out, which means your dog will remember it and is more likely to respond to it. Names like Loki, Kiki, or Mack are sharp consonant names. Something like Zsa Zsa, on the other hand, is soothing but may not command attention.

I grew up with a dog named Vixen, which would be a variation on the sharp consonant sound rule.

Long Vowel Names

Still other people who give advice on dog naming, such as trainers and vets, prefer names like Sonny, Bunny, or Dolly. These names involve long vowels which sure makes them fun to yell out the back door.

Your dog might enjoy a little sing song in their name too, and a two syllable name that ends in a ‘y’ or ‘ie’ sound gives a little lilt to a word you’ll be saying a lot. 

I happen to be looking after an adorable Shih Tzu puppy for a friend right now. Her name is Bella. I’m really considering calling her Belly after reading about this tip because it’s funny and cute! At least until her mom comes home.

Another way to choose a great dog name is to follow the trends. Some people are steadfast about picking a unique name for their dog while others don’t care as much about going against the grain.

If you don’t mind borrowing your inspiration, there are some lists out there with the most popular dog names in 2016.

Here are the top ten most popular dog names according to

  1. Bella
  2. Lucy
  3. Daisy
  4. Lola
  5. Luna
  6. Max
  7. Charlie
  8. Buddy
  9. Cooper
  10. Jack

I hope you can tell that many of these names follow the rules we’ve already talked about. Bella, for instance, is not only timely for me at the moment, it’s full of soft sounds and is two syllables. Lola and Luna are also soft, long vowel based names.

Jack and Max are hard consonant sounds that are likely to get a dog’s attention.

We can also clearly see from this list that not everyone follows the advice to shy away from human names. I think that rule is one of the ones you can ignore if you like, while the other rules we’ve discussed here are more important.

It really depends on what you value when it comes to naming your dog.

Get A Baby Book For Help Naming Your Dog

Why not name your dog the same way you’d name your real child? With a few modifications, of course. If you feel the ‘human name’ advice is expendable, go to the library and pick out a few baby name books.

This is a great way to hear names you’re less familiar with. It may also show you popular names from recent years. Some will even give the origin of names so that you can match your dog’s culture with its name.

You may also decide you want to match your dog’s name to your cultural background, or with a culture you’ve always found fascinating. There are no real rules to where your creativity takes you, as long as you keep in mind some of the advice we’ve already gone over.

Look To Mythology Or Origin Stories For Great Dog Names

I like to at least consider mythological names for pets. I went through a biblical naming phase as well. You can find some real gold through these methods and end up with a unique name that reflects something in your dog’s personality.

For instance, Midas could be a great name for a Goldendoodle. Diana is a great name for a hunting dog since she is the goddess of the hunt. I mentioned Loki earlier, and that has its roots in Norse mythology.

Moses is a witty choice for a herding dog, and so on. Nursery rhymes are fair game here too. Any iconic story or myth that expresses a moral or has archetypal characters that personify a trait you like or want your dog to have can be inspiration for choosing the perfect dog name.

Shakespeare, Dickens, and other authors you favor could have some ideas for you as well. There is absolutely no reason not to name your dog after your favorite storybook character or leading lady in a classic novel.

Hairless Puppy in Blanket

Food As Inspiration For Dog Names

Some people like to name their dogs after food. These names can be silly, so they may not suit a dignified dog. They’re lots of fun, though.

Pug named Pancake? Retriever called Duck? Italian Greyhound named Kit-Kat. These are all fun ways to express a little something different with your dog’s name.

I know a Weimaraner named Apple and it really suits her. It seemed a bit unusual to me at first, but now it fits like a glove.

Anyone who works in the food industry is a perfect fit for this dog naming trick.

Play Off Your Dog’s Breed

This idea is a little bit witty and a little bit about being authentic to the personality your dog is likely to have given its breed. I’m particularly thinking about a Greyhound named Chase, but any type of word play like this would do nicely.

My example of a retriever named Duck works with this tip also, since they are bird dogs by nature. If you have a husky that you don’t plan to actually train as a sled dog, Mush is an obvious choice. Wolfie would also work well. 

So this tip involves some creativity, but you can start brainstorming and come up with some ideas in no time.

Naming Older Dogs

If you are renaming a rescue dog or an adult dog you are adopting later in life, you have the benefit of learning about the dog’s personality before christening it with a name. That doesn’t preclude you from using any of the tips or inspirational ideas I’ve already gone over. It only adds to your likelihood for name perfection.

Some people like to choose a name that is phonetically similar to the dog’s previous name and some want a clean slate. The choice you make is up to you, but do consider what I mentioned earlier about the life your dog had before it came into yours.

If your dog had a happy life with an aging owner who couldn’t care for the dog anymore, keeping a similar name might be great. After all, your dog already has a positive association with it.

If your dog was in a neglectful or abusive situation, however, that clean slate is called for.

Have Fun!

The most important rule to follow when picking the perfect dog name is to have fun. You don’t have to follow anyone else’s rules. You can use them as a guideline to achieving ultimate name perfection, but you can also toss them out the window if you like.

Name your dog after your grandmother, your favorite teacher, or your childhood teddy bear. No matter how you pick the name, be consistent and use it frequently when you talk to your dog.

What is your favorite dog name? What are the names of the dogs that live with you now? If you share them with me, you might be just the inspiration someone is looking for, so get social in the comments section trading ideas.

I love dog names almost as much as dog pictures. You can really knock it out of the park by uploading a photo of your dog and telling us his or her name.

I can’t wait to see what you share!

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