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Top Dog Names: What to Name Your New Dog

Coming up with what to call your new-to-you dog can be more complicated than you think. Rover.com just came out with it of its top dog names of 2019 list (see below) and it reminded me how much a dog’s name could influence his whole life.

Melissa L. Kauffman  |  Dec 13th 2019


My husband and I could not agree on a name for our new puppy. As he looked like a small Pharaoh Hound, I wanted to name him something Egyptian, likes Ramses. My husband completely disagreed and wanted to name him after a favorite thing — namely his favorite NFL football team. We flipped a coin, and unfortunately my husband won. Our dog is named Tampa Bay, and we call him Tampa for short. Unfortunately, everyone who meets him thinks he is a girl dog and that we named him that because we were from Tampa Bay, Florida.

Justice came to us from the shelter as “Jeremy.” We kept the J sound but changed his name to something we liked. © Melissa L. Kauffman

When it came time to name our next dog, he already had a name that the shelter had given him — Jeremy. He’d been in the shelter a long time, so we didn’t want to just abruptly change his name to something completely different. So we stuck with two-syllable “J” names so that the transition would be easier. I picked Jedi, because … Star Wars. Scott picked Justice after his favorite TV show at the time, Justified. Another coin toss. My husband won again. We changed Jeremy to Justice, and he transitioned to the new name quickly.

Deciding on a name for your new-to-you dog should take a little more thought than just choosing a name you like best. Take a look at these naming points:

What are you trying to convey with that dog name?

Researchers have conducted many studies throughout the years on the effects of names. Names tell people a little about your dog — it’s called name signaling — whether you intended it to or not. And this can then influence how people treat your dog or make associations and judgments about your dog. For example, because Tampa ends in an “a” like many female names (Tanya, Sandra, etc.), people just assume Tampa is a girl dog.

Don’t give your dog a name with negative connotations like Killer or people will expect him to be vicious and treat him accordingly. Courtesy Rover.com

This is why you don’t want to name your dog something with a negative connotation. If you think it’s hilarious or cool to name your dog Killer — I’m telling you it’s not. Even if your dog is a 5-pound Chihuahua. Your trainer will be against the name, your vet will be against the name, your Home Owner’s insurance may not even cover your dog. And absolutely never give a big dog an aggressive name. They already have a strike against them for being large, don’t add to their fear factor by naming them Killer, Thunder, Lucifer, Dracula or Godzilla.

Choose a positive dog name

Certified Professional Dog Trainer from Rover.com Nicole Ellis advises, “You want to get that warm, fuzzy feeling every time you say your dog’s name, just like you want your dog to respond to her name with joy – if it makes you happy to say it, you’ve found the right choice.”

Nicole says that you should have your dog’s name represent their personality. “An aggressive name might feel intimidating for others,” she says. “You can bet if you name your dog Cujo people are might be scared or worried to meet your goofy loving pup and that’s not really what you want to be dealing with your dog’s whole life, he deserves all the belly rubs possible!”

Name your dog with training in mind

“Creativity and personal expression are important when it comes to giving your fur friend an identity,” says Nicole, “but training should also be top of mind when thinking of a name.”

Nicole prefers two syllable pet names for her own dogs as she finds them easy to accentuate when needed. “I pick names that often end in a vowel and change tone while being called — dogs can distinguish frequency ranges that we cannot and hence these names catch their attention quickly like Rossi and Oakley. Often names with way more syllables are so long it becomes difficult to use the name quickly when needed and it becomes a nickname shortly after. So, it might be better to use “Huck” versus “Huckleberry Finn” as that could be a mouthful to get out quick.

Don’t use dog names that are too long or sound like commands

Nicole wants her dog’s name to mean “look at me for what I ask you to do” and not a recall behavior. “To put this into perspective,” she says, “let’s say we are in a park and there’s something dangerous near me, I want to go to my dog and put his leash on him and ask him not to move I can say say ‘Rossi’, he looks at me, then ‘stay’. And he listens. To me this gives me more control and helps get my dogs attention when needed, no matter how quickly I need him to pay attention it always works. But that always means I often say more than one word, so I don’t want a super long name.

Avoid names like Ray or Jay as they sounds like the cues Stay or Lay. Photography ©shorrocks | Getty Images

Avoid names that sounds too much like cues/commands. “Ray might sound like stay,” Nicole says. “Kit could be confused with sit and Juno might sound like the negative word no.”

Choose a name with staying power

Naming your dog after a famous person may not work out so well in the long run. You don’t know this person, and the next big scandal could be theirs. Also, if you think naming your dog after your favorite alcohol is the thing to do in your 20s, believe me you won’t like the name so much in your 30s. Or if you are a huge lover of a certain food and then find yourself with a food sensitivity down the road, shunning that food item like its poison. People change, trends change, but your dog’s name needs to last more than a decade.

Don’t get fancy on the spelling

Your dog doesn’t care if he is name Spot, Spotte or Sphot. He just hears Spot. You can’t impress your dog with a unique spelling. Everyone else, like your veterinarian, groomer, family, friends, etc. doesn’t need to struggle with spelling your dog’s name. So do everyone a favor and keep the spelling simple.

The dog name should be simple and easy for your dog to understand

Keeping to a one or two-syllable name is best. Pick one you hear clearly from across the dog park. You’ll be calling out this name your whole dog’s life. Making it something like Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious is just not going to cut it. Also, your dog’s name has to fit on his I.D. tag.

Dog names on trend for 2019 with Rover.com

Black dog

Rover.com’s top names for 2019 include Bella, Luna, Max and Charlie. Photography ©Radoslav Radev | Alamy Stock Photo

According to Rover.com’s (which is the network of pet sitters and dog walkers that my own dog sitter works for) annual pet name survey, this year’s trends “are a true reflection of what we care most about, from the food we eat to the celebrities we love.” After surveying 1500 pet owners, here’s the list of most popular names. For female dogs, it is Bella, Luna, Lucy and Daisy. For males, it is Max, Charlie, Cooper and Buddy.

With all the news about CBD and Cannabis, Rover.com found that marijuana-inspired names were on the rise: Budder, Dank, Doobie, Blaze and Kush. Royalty and celebrity baby names found their way on the trend list: Meghan, Crew, Stormi and Saint. Food and drink item names like Rosé, Cake, Croissant, Mocha, Kona, Latte, Chia, Boba and Cupcake also increased.

Still not sure what to name your dog?

Nicole says to try standing at your back door of the house and shout out your potential name choices. “Which one rolls off your tongue more easily?” she asks. “Which one feels most natural? Is one least likely to embarrass you at the dog park? Is there one that makes you go, yup that’s him.

She says another fun thing to do is say the names and see your dog’s reaction. “You might be surprises that she or he may be a fan of one name quite a bit!”

Thumbnail image: Rover.com’s dog trainer Nicole Ellis and her dog Maggie give us tips on naming your dog. Courtesy Rover.com

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