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What's in a Name? How to choose Dog Names

Choosing dog names may not be a science, but it sure is an art! You can take months pondering dog names for your new pup (and isn't that such fun!), or you can have a flash of genius and choose the perfect name in an instant.

And when you've chosen a dog name, what does this tell us about you? There's more to choosing a dog name than meets the eye!

The first thing to consider is the breed or type of your dog. There's nothing to stop you calling your Maltese Terrier "Butch", or your Great Dane "Cuteypie", but do you really want everyone laughing at your dog? After a few years the joke will be wearing thin, and your dog will be quite demoralised.

The colour and texture of your dog can have a bearing on the dog names you consider. "Honey" suggests a honey-coloured bitch (popular name amongst the Golden Retriever fraternity) and Jet would seem to be a black dog - although he may just be a very fast agility dog!

You're going to need a name that's easy to use. This may seem obvious, but in an emergency, or over a long distance, it's easier to call "Tip" than "Twinkletoes". I knew a splendid beagle once, called "Nathaniel Nutmeg", but as he was a beagle it was usually expedient just to yell "Nat!"

Dog Names in Dog Training

Another very practical point which is often overlooked when choosing dog names is that the dog mustn't be confused by his name.

At the higher levels of obedience competition your dog will be on the ball and can easily anticipate your commands - especially if he's a Border Collie! So if you say "Sssam ... down," you may find that Sssam has sssat instead and you've just lost five marks.

If you're getting a dog with a view to competition obedience, you'd better check the usual commands with an experienced handler. You can't change dog names mid-dog!

The Most Popular Dog Names

Here's a list of some of the most popular dog names over the last few years:

Murphy for the dogs,

Suzie for the bitches, and

and Spot for either.

But you don't need to follow the herd (.. unless you're a sheepdog!). You can choose a theme and name your dogs according to that theme.

Gundogs for instance, have a great range of dog names which can be borrowed from their sport - Teal, for example, and Grouse are good gundog names, so are Bracken, Fern and Heather.

Border Collies have a whole range of traditional collie dog names. Normally one syllable, to give the collie a better chance of hearing it up a mountainside, with the initial letter often a "hard" one, here are some popular Border Collie names:

Spot (yes!)

Guarding dogs are another group which tend to certain dog names - many's the German Shepherd Dog called Duke or Prince or Kaiser, and following the German theme I know Rottweilers called Heidi and Helga.

Many people like to keep a uniformity in the dog names in their "own" family. I know a Fly, Flash and Fleet combo, there's Kyle and Kelly, and Sam and Ben fit together well.

Brainstorm a Theme

When I kept pedigree sheep, I named them all after biblical characters, so we had Mrs. Noah and Lot's Wife, Jezebel, Susannah and Tirzah, amongst others. Similarly my dairy goats were herbal in their names - Sage, Saffron, Nutmeg, Marigold, Bluebell and Busy Lizzie, for instance. I even had guinea pigs named after ancient Romans - Germanicus and Claudius come to mind ...

And as for the chickens, at one stage we had hens named after characters in "Thomas the Tank Engine" (don't ask). Toby, Thomas and James laid lovely eggs!

So if you're stuck for a name and you want something a bit different from the ususal dog names, you could follow that idea and see where it leads you. Bear in mind that what you call your dog can have a reflection on you and what you expect from your dog. You may be telling the world more than you want to when you call your dog in the Park!

About the Author - Beverley Courtney, Great Malvern, UK

After years of training her own and others' dogs for home and competition, Beverley Courtney decided to make her knowledge more widely available through, where you can find lots more about naming dogs. Beverley's warmth, humour, and love of dogs shines through the many articles about every aspect of Living with Dogs.