What you name your dog matters. The right choice can even make training easier. Check out these tips and tricks for naming a dog.

By Victoria Lynn Arnold
August 24, 2020
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So you’ve done the research, weighed all your options, and found the doggo that’s right for your family. Congrats! Now that this adorable furbaby is yours to bring home, it’s time to figure out how to name a dog.

You don’t want to pick a dog name that’s not a good fit, confuses other pets, or is a challenge to call out at the park. So before you choose a name for your dog, think through some of these helpful tips to find a name that makes the most sense for you and your new addition. 

Keep it Simple

Like the straightforward, one syllable commands (sit! stay! come!) used in obedience training, most dog parents will tell you short names tend to be easiest for dogs to recognize. But more importantly, a shorter name will be easier for you to spit out when it’s time to call him in. If you have something fancy in mind—like Parsifal Di Casa Netzer, the schnauzer who took home the title at the 1999 Westminster Dog Show—perhaps you should save that for his official paperwork and plan to use an easy-to-understand nickname for everyday use (and that won’t embarrass you in public).

Choose a Dog Name That’s Unique

Remember sitting in class and hearing the teacher take attendance, only to hear three or four iterations of the same popular name in your class? “Nick B., Nick C., Nicky G.…” It’s just as confusing and frustrating for dogs. 

To avoid this type of confusion when you’re out in public in places like the dog park, try to pick a name that’s more unique. That way, your dog will know the difference between his name versus the other dogs around. Find some inspiration with this list of more than 150 unique names for dogs. Or search for options that work with his individual characteristics, like these name ideas for black dogs or ones that play up his funny personality.

The Sound of Your Dog’s Name Matters

When deciding how to pick a dog name, think through the sounds of common commands for dogs. If your dog’s name sounds too much like a command, that could complicate your training routine. Some animal behaviorists say names with hard consonant sounds make it easier for dogs to recognize the sound of their name and distinguish it from surrounding noise. Remember, the easier you make training for your dog, the easier it will be on you too.

And believe it or not, it may be that dogs respond better to names that end in a vowel. Not only does this lend itself to a lot of adorable names for dogs—like Bella, Dixie, or Bobbie—but it actually helps dogs hear their name better. This is because the frequency in your tone changes when you speak a dog’s name that ends in a vowel.

Your dog doesn’t think of his name the way we humans interpret it. To dogs, their name is a sound to be interpreted as a command. With practice and training, your dog learns to react to the sound of his name accordingly—with his attention and a response.

Repetition is Key

Helping your dog learn his or her name is just like learning any other trick, command, or rhythm. It takes time and repetition (and maybe even a few treats as an incentive). The more you say your dog’s new name, the more likely they are to learn it. Keep it fun and positive while teaching him his new name, and avoid using corrective terms—you don’t want to associate his name with a negative reaction. Teaching your dog his new name can be fun and a good opportunity to bond together. 

Choosing the Right Name

Whichever name you pick, the most important thing is that you like it, since you’ll be using it to train and communicate with your new BFF for years to come. The best dog names are the ones that are meaningful, or depict a part of your dog’s personality. Is he a darling little ball of fluff? Check out this list of 150 of the cutest names for your adorable pup for some truly endearing options. Or make it a family activity and come up with a name together, like a Disney-inspired dog name or ones that are trending in pop culture

Remember, you and your family will be using this name for many years to come. But that probably doesn’t mean it’ll be the only moniker for your pup—the nicknames will pile up over time, too. Choose something you love and can easily communicate for your dog’s given name, and the rest will fall into place.