How to choose your dog’s name?

How to choose a name for your dog.
When choosing a dog’s name, consider his character. Does he look like a Woody? ©Braydon Anderson. Unsplash

Puppy or dog, bred, bought, or adopted, either way he or she is new to you. You’ve made the easy decision to welcome a dog into your life, but now here’s the hard part: how to choose your dog’s name?

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Unless inspiration strikes immediately, the search can be hard and long. You start to find a problem with every option, until you finally settle on a solid sounding name. And then it doesn’t seem to match him. You need a strategy to take the pain out of choosing a dog’s name.

First, ask your dog

Even if you already have a great dog name in mind before you meet your new dog, it makes sense to take a good long look at him before you make it official.

Some dogs just seem to have a name already. You see him and you know he’s a Patch. Or something more original. Think about his colour and markings. And his behaviour. What is he trying to tell you? Is he Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, Bashful..?

A double-barrelled doggo

If you’re new to the world of dogs, you might not realise that the naming process has an official element to it.

A pedigree dog must be named by its breeders when it is registered. This name has to include two or more words, should be unique to its breed, and mustn’t include any words related to dogs. Nor can you use your own surname! (Looks like Doggo Cole is out of the question, then).

This is why, when you buy a pedigree dog, you will find he or she already has a name on their birth certificate. And it usually looks and sounds something like a racing horse’s name. For example, “Bright Star.”

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But unless you’re royalty, you’re probably going to want something shorter to call your dog around the house. A street name, if you will.

So how to approach this challenge?

Keep your dog’s name short, but not too short

Give your dog a long name, and before you’ve finished shouting it at him he’ll already be out of earshot. But experts reckon that a two-syllable name has its advantages.

““I like two (or more) syllable names that can be spoken either ascending (rising in pitch) or descending to convey differences in urgency,” notes Alexandra Horowitz, canine researcher and dog cognition expert.

Try addressing your dog like this when he has a one-syllable name just makes you sound like you’re singing. Use distinctive syllables that are easy to understand.

Don’t try to be funny

Sorry, but even the best jokes get old. Give your dog a funny name, and it will get tired. Name him after the current number-one pop star and you’ll instantly date him. Unless Abba are at Number One (read my bio down below for more details).

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Calling him Biscuit or Killer are two different ways of inviting trouble. And giving him a human name is going to embarrass everyone when you meet a friend who just named her baby the same thing.

If your dog has history

If you chose a rescue dog, it’s possible that the home didn’t know his original name, and have already given him a new one. While you may be keen to come up with your own name, think twice.

Your rescue dog has already been through a lot. Getting him used to yet another new name may just add stress to an already difficult period. Unless his given name is unbearable, try to make it work.

So we’ve seen some do’s and don’t of naming a dog. It’s time to take responsibility and make a decision. What’s it going to be?

Read AlsoMeghan Markle and Prince Harry name their new dog at last… and it’s very easy to spell

John is a filmmaker and freelance writer. Specialising in leadership, digital media and personal growth, his passions include world cinema and biscuits. He grew up with a golden Labrador named Abba (both of them were children of the '70s) and is nicknamed "G-Dog" for his dogly approach to life. He lives in London but is always on the move.