Sophie Jackson is a dog lover and trainer living in the UK. She competes in agility and obedience with her four dogs.
You've got your new puppy or dog and you are trying to decide on the perfect name . . . the name that you will use for this little fellow for the next 10 to 15 years, day-in and day-out . . . the name you will call in the park or at training class.
Now, dogs don't care about what name they receive, as long their name is called with affection by someone they love. But if you get that name wrong, you could spend the next 10 to 15 years explaining it or apologising for it. So, before you settle on a name, here are few of the worst and why you should avoid them.
1. Names That Are Too Long
'Rumpelstiltskin! Rumpelstiltskin!' Yes, you are in the park and calling your dog. Your dog happens to have a very long, multi-syllable name. It seemed a good idea when that ball of fluff came into your life, but repeating it daily starts to take on the appearance of a tongue-twister competition and, let's face it, before the first month is out, you are shortening that name to make it more convenient.
'Rum! Here, Rum!' That solves a problem in the park, but what about at the vet? At the doggy daycare? On the insurance forms? Now you are repeating that extremely long name over the phone, or in person, and being asked to spell it. Worse, someone may try to say the name back to you, only to stumble over it and mispronounce it.
What started out as a seemingly sophisticated name becomes a regular headache and the dog ends up being called something shorter and easier to say.
2. Name Puns
So, you have a Great Dane, and doesn't it seem like the coolest idea to call him Tiny? Or Mouse? Or some other ironic name? Perhaps you have a Chihuahua called T-Rex or Giant. Name puns often elicit a giggle the first time they are heard. They even seem clever at the start, but after a while, they just seem a bit, well, lame.
Puns are amusing when they are used sparingly, but when you hear them all the time, they start to lose their humour. You also may find you have to start explaining the pun to people who don't get the joke, and a pun is never funny when you have to explain it. Don't use a pun name, just don't.
3. Aggressive Names
Most pet owners avoid this one already, but occasionally people give their dog a fierce sounding name to make their pet seem more intimidating, or because they think it would suit the breed. These names can backfire as they can give your dog an undeserved reputation. When someone hears you yelling 'Fighter!' at your pit bull, it can give the wrong impression about the dog's nature. This can lead to people treating you and your dog differently, or even suspecting your dog is dangerous.
Names can be a very powerful way of influencing how a person thinks about a dog, especially when they are of a breed that many people are scared of. Don't give them the extra ammunition to accuse your dog of being a risk to them.
4. Pop Culture Names
It is always tempting to name your new pup after a sports personality or celebrity who is in the spotlight at the time they are born. This could be to celebrate a victory —a gold medal at the Olympics or winning the Super Bowl. It could be that you picked your pup at a time when there was a great movie on and you name your pup after a character or actor.
Children and teens especially like to name a pup after people they admire or who are currently in vogue, such as cartoon characters or pop stars. This can seem fine at the time, but in a few years when that famous person or character has disappeared from public circulation, you could find yourself having to explain over and over your dog's name. Worse still, if a celebrity falls from grace, whether that be through misbehaviour, addiction or committing a crime, you could be left with a very embarrassing pet name.
5. Offensive Names
There is the famous story of the black Labrador who was owned by one of the airmen involved in the Dam Dambusters' raid who had a politically incorrect name—a name used in the 1940s and racially offensive.
Some people think such names are funny, but they are not. Naming a German Shepherd 'Hitler', for instance, is crude and disrespectful. Any name that could be considered derogatory in a racial, sexual or religious way should be avoided. We don't need more hate and antagonism in this world.
6. Names That Accidentally Rhyme With Rude Words
You are walking through the park, shouting out your dog's name and suddenly, as you hear the words coming from your mouth, it dawns on you—your dog's name, if misheard, could sound like a curse word, or something similarly rude.
It is that awful moment when you wonder how you are ever going to call your dog's name again without feeling embarrassed and fearing someone will upbraid you for it. And it can be innocently done: Traditional English names such as Willy and Fanny, are also slang terms for genitalia. Words that in one culture are perfectly acceptable can be deemed rude in another, and some words are too close to sounding like something your mother would not like to hear you say, for comfort.
Sometimes, the realisation comes too late, and then all you can do is aim to adjust your dog's name to something less risky and hope for the best.
7. Names That Are Difficult to Pronounce
I know of a dog with a Welsh name, and when I first saw the name spelled out, I had no idea how to pronounce it. I do now, as I have heard it spoken, but it was certainly not obvious.
Sometimes, those unique names we think sound amazing and mean something poetic in another language, are simply impossible for most people to get right first time. You end up with people pausing or stuttering over the name. They may even get it muddled up. I knew someone who called their dog Albus, after Albus Dumbledore. However, hearing them call their dog it sounded like Elvis. Since more people know who Elvis was than Albus Dumbledore, she spent a lot of time explaining her dog's name.
If the name you chose for your dog is unusual and difficult to pronounce, you need to be prepared to hear it spoken incorrectly a lot of the time.
8. Overly Descriptive Names
These are the names that are a little too obvious and suggest the owner either lacks imagination or was trying to be ironic. A Dalmation called Spots, for instance, or a Corgi called Corgi.
Sometimes people pick a descriptive name because it seems to suit their puppy, like Fluffy or Poopy. As the pup grows up, they may outgrow the name or it may no longer sound so amusing.
There are also descriptive names that can give people the wrong idea. A dog called Cuddles, might actually hate being touched, but the name could imply he was very friendly. Descriptive names can be fun but need to be chosen wisely.
9. Christmas Names
'Noel', 'Elf', 'Jingles' . . . when a puppy is born around Christmas, it is very tempting to give them a suitably festive name. Some might work, others can be awkward at other times of the year, such as in the middle of summer. The trouble is finding a balance . . . if the name is too discreet, such as Merry (as in Merry Christmas), then no one will appreciate the significance of the name. If it is too obvious, such as Santa, then it can sound odd outside November and December.
Of course, if you don't mind people wondering why you are walking around on a summer's day in shorts yelling 'Santa, come here! Santa, where are you?' Then go ahead and enjoy your festive names, after all, at least once a year they will be very appropriate.
10. Names That Come With Expectations
You've just picked up your new puppy and he is going to be the best dog ever. You are going to do dog sports with him and he is going to be fast, accurate and obedient. Why not give him a name that expresses those expectations?
'Swift', 'Bullet', 'Einstein', 'Champ'—this could work extremely well, especially when you are stood on a podium picking up a trophy, but sometimes those 'expectation names' fall flat. What if Champ never wins a title? What if Swift is a little slow? What if Einstein doesn't know his sit from his down?
Now you have an ironic name, which could be fun in itself, unless you are not great at being laughed at when Bullet proves less of a speedy, dynamic force and more of a couch potato. Just remember, names with expectations can have a sting in their tail!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Sophie Jackson
Sophie Jackson (author) from England on March 23, 2020:
Thank you :-)
Shambhavi Maurya from Chandigarh on March 21, 2020:
Dogs are cute but their names are seriously worst but I loved your article