Does changing a dog’s name confuse it?

I am an avid watched of Animal Precinct on Animal Planet. I always see cases where a dog has to be taken in by the ASPCA from the owner and the dog ends up being put up for adoption. The ASPCA many times changes the dog’s name. I watched a show last night where a dog came in after being abused by its owner. She had the name of Sheba for 7 years. The ASPCA changed her name to Helen. This was for about 2 weeks. Then she was adopted and the lady changed her name again to Clara. But they never show the dog responding to the new names or anything. How long does it take for a dog to get used to her new name? Does it cause confusion? In no way am I looking to change my Tiffy’s name. Her name says everything about her and it fits her to a “T”. Just curious.

Asked by ♥Tiffy♥ on Dec 11th 2008 Tagged namechange in Other Adoption & Rescue
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I love that show as well.
I at times think it is best to change a dogs name, especially in circumstances where the dog has been abused. A dog associates his name with something about to happen, a command or an action. If his experience is bad, the name his abusers called him will make him think something bad is going to happen to him and always cause him to feel scared. So if you change it and only offer positive things he'd never miss his old name and prefer the new one. I think they adjust to their new name quickly and without much confusion. Have a good one.

♥ DEOGIE ♥ answered on Dec 11th.

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It depends on the dog. Just like learning a new trick, learning a new name can take time. It can be confusing at first. But most experts agree that a dog really doesn't know its name, not like humans do. They know that when it is said you expect something from them. And when you say it differently, firm or soft or whatever, what you want them to do changes. 'They' say it is just another word to them, like sit or stay or no, they learn to respond to it.

Dexter answered on 12/11/08. Helpful? Yes/Helpful: No 0 Report this answer

Zackintosh CJ

I think its just another word for them to learn, If you want to change your dogs name, just do this a few times a day: Take your dog to a quiet, distraction free place (Inside the house, boring backyard, etc.) take some high value treats with you (Chicken, Liver, something she dosn't get everyday). And get her attention, then say her old name then new name and give her a treat (Example: Tiffy, Fluffy, give the treat,) Then after a while just say the new name (Fluffy! give treat.) Then after she responds well to that, when you talk to her use her new name. She should make the trasition after a while! My dog, Zack, used to be named Wally at his Shelter. He was only named for a couple of days so I had no problem changing it. I just spoke to him using his new name. I don't think it matters if the dogs name "fits" her, if you don't like it, then change it! It dosn't matter what other people think about your dogs name! And of course your dog won't care at all. Good luck!

Zackintosh CJ answered on 12/11/08. Helpful? Yes/Helpful: No 0 Report this answer


It's just a cue to them - names don't hold a special meaning or attachment like they do for people. Most dogs will pick up a name change quickly, as long as you are actively training them to it. My dog Guster's previous name was Mozart... he learned the new name in about 3 days. Kolbe was a stray, the shelter called her Cinnamon and she was there for 5 months... only took her a few days to pick up on Kolbe. Guster will still answer to "Mozart" if you call him that, but Kolbe doesn't respond to anything else.

Kolbe answered on 12/11/08. Helpful? Yes/Helpful: No 0 Report this answer


I have wondered that many times as well. We found one of our dogs and in his case since he had been neglected and abused I realized we knew nothing about his past only that some horrible person hurt him teribly so I wasn't worried about changing his name. I didn't know what it was but I would have changed it because I realized he needed a fresh start so even if I had known I would have changed it and he did fine with that. He still has severe emotional scars but he learned his new name with in a week or so and seemed happy with it.

Bailey answered on 12/11/08. Helpful? Yes/Helpful: No 0 Report this answer


While I'm sure there must be SOME confusion involved, as with any new situation, I've heard dog rescuers and rehabilitators talk about a new name helping with a transition. The new name can help the dog focus in a new situation and differentiate between past and present.

I'm not sure if that isn't prescribing an awful lot of articulated human emotion onto a dog. While they certainly feel and are smart and have emotions, we think very differently from them.

I think, ultimately, as with anything else involved in human/dog interaction, a new name is something that takes getting used to and probably takes a few days to a few weeks for a dog to pick up, depending on the dog and the situation.

Jack answered on 12/11/08. Helpful? Yes/Helpful: No 0 Report this answer