The Ultimate Guide To Naming A Dog

Colin Strachan

PupNames.com Founder

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Some people have a cute and unique dog name in mind long before taking their puppy home. But others can’t think of a name for their dog even when it’s looking up at them from the kitchen floor.

That’s why we curated such a huge list of male and female dog name ideas at PupNames.com.

But browsing our list of dog names or using our dog name generator will only get you so far.

Naming a puppy is both an art and a science. You need to know what names are good for dogs, and then get inspired to find the best name.

Dog name inspiration comes from many places. Your puppy’s breed, appearance and personality can all play a part.

But picking a dog name also requires you to know yourself. What is beautiful about the world to you? What does having a dog mean to you? And how do you imagine your relationship developing with your puppy?

Now that we’ve got your mind turning, let’s look at everything you need to know about naming a dog.

We’ll also look at tips for renaming a dog after adoption. Because you certainly can change a dog’s name – and doing so can actually strengthen your bond with a dog.

Contents

  1. Dog name science. What makes a good name for a dog, and why?
  2. Dog name inspiration. How to find a dog name that fits your personality.
  3. Changing a dog's name. Tips for successfully renaming a dog.
Dog Name Guide

Part 1: SCIENCE

What names are good for dogs? Here’s what science says.

Being creative and having fun are important when choosing dog names. But you should be aware that dogs don’t perceive their name in the same way that people do.

Your new relationship with your dog starts with training. And thus, your dog’s name quickly becomes more of a “cue” word than a personal identifier.

It’s not known for sure if a dog understands that its name is a name. But veterinary experts and dog behaviourists believe it’s more likely that dogs simply associate hearing their name with something happening next. That’s what makes their name so important for training.

Here are some science-backed tips for choosing a dog name, according to experts.

Dogs prefer shorter names.

The best dog names prompt dogs to respond quickly. Therefore, a good name for a dog needs to be:

  • Short enough to register quickly in the dog’s mind;
  • Distinctive enough for the dog to recognize it over other sounds.

This is why experts agree that two-syllable dog names are the best. They are short enough for the dog to identify quickly, but diverse enough in tone to stand out above other sounds.

Some dog trainers recommend two-syllable names because the first syllable acts as a “primer” for the second.

Think of it this way. Imagine having to call your dog in a room full of people talking, or in strong winds. The name “Skip” could easily be gobbled up by the surrounding noise. But “Skippy” gives the dog two shots at hearing you.

TWO-SYLLABLE DOG NAMES
Beautiful in french
A game in which numbered balls are drawn at random and players cover the corresponding numbers on their cards
Rose Flower
A Fortress, Camp
Queen of sheba.
One who works with stone

Longer dog names, on the other hand, are considered to be delivered too slowly to get a dog to respond quickly. And if you name your dog something like “Mister Fuzzy Wuzzy”, you’re probably just going to end up shortening it anyway.

If you don’t find a two-syllable dog name that takes your fancy, one-syllable dog names are the next best thing. Shouting the name “Skye” is guaranteed to elicit a faster response from a puppy than shouting “Copernicus”. And those few milliseconds could save your dog’s life from a peril like an oncoming car.

Remember that dog training requires you to be precise in how and when you reward a dog. It’s easier to be precise with a short name than it is with a longer one, which the dog has to listen to in its entirety before associating it with the reward. So dogs tend to learn shorter names faster than longer ones.

ONE-SYLLABLE DOG NAMES
Noble
From The Isle Of Skye
Clear, fair or white
Bo
To live
May
Goddess Maia Or Family Of Matthew
Potato

So, should you go for a one-syllable or two-syllable dog name? Or more?

One-syllable Two-syllable Three or more syllables
  • Precise, elicits a fast response
  • Easier to hear in noisy conditions
  • Flexible; you can say the name multiple ways
  • Takes longer for the dog to recognize
  • Cumbersome for you to say

Sharp consonants are more recognizable.

Experts agree that certain consonants (like k, p, and d) can slice through other frequencies more easily to get a dog’s attention.

These sounds are believed to activate a dog’s acoustic receptor neurons in the brain more effectively than softer consonants and vowels. As such, your dog responds to them in the same way it responds to a clicker. And that means they pay attention almost instantly.

It’s best to think “short and choppy”, and avoid names that are too elegant. Short, sharp dog names just seem to provoke movement in a dog more successfully.

'SHARP' DOG NAMES
Destiny.
Delicious dark beer
From The South In The U.S.
Right-handed, skilled
Tri-color or calico
Treasurer

End the name on a vowel.

Thanks to their predatory heritage, dogs are much more sensitive to high-pitched sounds than we are. That’s why many dog trainers recommend ending the name with a long vowel, particularly an “e”.

Because longer, high-pitched sounds are especially powerful to dogs, their recall will tend to be better with names that utilize them.

VOWEL-ENDING NAMES
Ivy
Climbing Vine Plant
Inspired by rocky balboa.
God Is My Oath
Son Of My Right Hand
Small files that hold a modest amount of data specific to a particular client and website.

Make space for inflection.

The best dog names are versatile. Another benefit of a two-syllable name over a one-syllable name is that you can say the name in different ways.

Changing your inflection on each syllable allows you to convey mood and emotion more easily than you can with a one-syllable name. This helps the dog to distinguish between praise and scorn.

Any way to improve the understanding you have with your dog is worth pursuing.

Avoid dog names that sound like commands.

If you name your dog “Kit” or “Ray”, it might get confused with commands like “sit” and “stay”.

It’s particularly important not to include any negative sounds in your dog’s name. Experts recommend avoiding the word “no”, for example, because you risk your dog developing a negative association with its name.

This is actually a shame, because “Nova” is a very beautiful name for a dog. If you are disciplined enough not to use the word “no” when correcting your dog’s behaviour, you can probably get away with using a name like that.

Here are some dog names that sound dangerously close to common commands:

Names Command
Kit, Britt, Tidbit Sit
Jay, Ray, May, Kay Stay
Clown, Brown, Crown Down
Plumb, Crumb Come
Teal, Steel, Neal Heel

Don’t use similar names to your other dogs.

This one might sound obvious. But owning two chihuahuas and naming them Pixie and Dixie is actually quite appealing to some people. As cute as it might seem, you are setting yourself up for a lot of problems by giving your multiple dogs similar names.

Always choose a name that can be distinguished easily over others. This is actually a case for not using a very common name like Max or Bella. Because when you call out your dog’s name at a crowded dog park, you might see a parade of dogs heading your way.

Choose a dog name that’s easy to pronounce.

Many people wouldn’t think about this. But the world is becoming ever more multicultural. And if you live in a city full of people from different origins and backgrounds, it’s a good idea to name your dog something that’s easy to pronounce.

Dogs are more sensitive to specific sounds than humans are. And you might notice that your dog simply doesn’t respond to its name when it’s called by somebody else who pronounces it differently.

One syllable or two: does it really matter that much?

Science can be stressful. And if reading this made you feel bad about the dog name you’ve set your heart upon, try not to worry about it. The choice is still yours. Dogs are generally smart, and they will adopt any name that you give them.

That said, remember that dogs don’t attach meaning to their names in the way that humans do. It certainly won’t be embarrassed or upset with any name that you give to it. But it might be happier with a name that its canine brain can tune into more easily. And you might decide that choosing a name your dog responds well to is worth sacrificing the witty masterpiece you’ve been thinking about since you were a kid.

Part 2: INSPIRATION

How to pick a meaningful dog name

Now that you know the science behind dog names, it’s time to get creative.

Picking a name can be fun or utterly stressful – it depends how you look at it.

The goal of this section is to help you to find the perfect name for your pup by following a step-by-step process. We’ll start by discussing the psychology of naming a dog. Then we’ll show you how to narrow down to a name that suits your personality.

Think long-term.

Unless you’ve adopted a senior dog, you’re probably facing a commitment of 10 years or more. So if you’ve got a few dog name ideas already in mind, ask yourself if you’ll still love them years from now. Just because you’re obsessed with Harry Potter or Star Wars today doesn’t mean you won’t regret calling your dog Hagrid five years from now.

Your puppy will also grow up – faster than you’re ready for. So it’s important to choose an enduring dog name that will be as fitting as an adult, not just a puppy.

We strongly recommend not letting your children pick the dog’s name. This seems like a nice treat, but they, too, will quickly grow out of the name.

Choosing a name also depends on your pup’s size and breed. Smaller dog breeds, and ‘toy’ breeds, can pull off cutesy names for the duration of their lives. But if you let your kids name your German shepherd puppy Snuggles, you are bound to regret this later.

Should I choose a unique or common dog name?

One of the decisions you’ll probably be able to make right away is whether to give your dog a classic or unique name. You’re either someone who appreciates tradition, or someone who prefers to live outside-of-the-box. There’s no right answer, and it all depends on your personality.

Common dog names are popular for a reason – because their beauty has stood the test of time. Dog names like Max and Bella just seem to fit like a glove for countless breeds. And there’s absolutely no shame in choosing a top dog name that’s well-used worldwide.

Common names have well-established meanings. They are rooted in tradition and ancestry. That’s why so many people still call their children James or Emma, even though there are many others with those names already.

That said, looking for a unique name is becoming more popular. That’s because many people believe that uncommon names make their dog seem more special. And as the world starts to feel increasingly larger, with more people crossing paths all the time, it’s easy to see why some people yearn to stand out from the pack.

Why are human names such popular dog names?

Giving human names to dogs is a growing trend that reveals a lot about the psychology of naming pets. Why people give their dogs people’s names really comes down to two factors.

  • The connection between humans and their pets is getting stronger. Our society is changing in such a way that people tend to start a family later in life. Many couples get a dog almost as a “try out” for having a kid. There’s also a growing number of people who choose not to have children at all. And by giving your dog a human moniker, it feels more like a child, or at least “part of the family”. People see their dogs as true companions more so now than ever.
  • Popular culture is on the rise. As the world becomes more connected by the internet, popular culture is more important in people’s lives. Many people choose to name their dog with a person’s name as a tribute to a famous person or fictional character.

So, are human names cool or stupid? It’s really up to you, and how you define your connection with your dog. Human names tend to be short, or at least able to be shortened, so in that respect they make good dog names in many cases.

How to find a traditional or classic dog name

Picking a time-honoured classic for a dog is certainly the easier option. But there are still few decisions to be made.

You can start by browsing a list of traditional dog names on PupNames.com, and saving the ones you like. Here you’re going to find old-school names like Rover and Fido. You’ll also find the most popular dog names, like Max for a boy dog, and Bella for a girl dog. Bella is the most popular dog name in New York City, according to the NYC Dog Name Database.

But there are several other categories that might interest you if you’re looking for a traditional dog name.

  • Old Fashioned Dog Names. This list includes old-fashioned people’s names, like Arthur and Pearl. If giving your dog a person’s name is something that interests you, then this list might be for you.
  • Famous Dog Names. If you’re looking for an iconic dog name or you’re a fan of pop culture, try this list. It includes names like Balto, the famous Siberian husky that led a team of 150 sled dogs almost 700 miles across Alaska to save the small town of Nome from a developing epidemic. You’ll also find Lassie and Beethoven, classic movie star dogs from your childhood.
  • Posh Dog Names. If you want something that’s as refined and elegant as it is traditional, try these classy dog names. It includes Princess, which is the most popular name in Los Angeles, according to the LA Times.

You should also check out PupNames.com’s breed-specific names, to find traditional names that suit your dog’s breed.

How to find a unique name for your dog

Finding a unique name for your dog takes a bit more work. It’s all about your personality, and how you perceive your relationship with your dog. Once you’ve figured that out, you really just have to see enough names to come across the one that makes you fall in love.

To make it easier to narrow it down, here are a few suggestions for dog name styles based on how you think about your dog.

What is your dog to you? Dog name ideas
My dog is part of my style or identity.
My dog is a free spirit.
My dog is a member of our family and/or part of our kids’ childhood.
My dog brings joy and entertainment to me and everyone else.

Choosing a dog name to match your personality

Picking the right dog name also depends on your personality. To help you choose, here are some categories that match different personality types.

Dog names by personality

If you already have your pup, you can also name him or her after their own personality. Of course, if their personality isn’t clear to you yet, you can think about what’s typical of the breed.

A few examples include:

Considering dog names by origin

You can also choose a dog name based on your ancestry, or a certain world culture that just appeals to you.

Here are a few examples:

Take your time to find the right name for your puppy.

The key is not to rush. With so many names at your disposal on PupNames.com, you can take your time to browse each category. And we’re confident that you’ll find a name that will stick for years to come.

To recap, here’s what you need to consider when choosing a name for your puppy or rescue dog:

  • Consider the science. Pick a short name if you can; preferably two syllables, but one is the next best thing.
  • Think long-term. Adapt your mindset for the long-term. Set out to choose an enduring name that you know you’ll still love five years from now.
  • Use your personality and creativity. The perfect name comes from you. Just connecting with who you are and how you perceive your relationship with your dog will lead you to the right name.

Part 3: RENAMING

Can you rename a dog?

Although it’s not advised to change your dog’s name like you change underwear, a dog can certainly learn a new name very easily. This is great news if you’ve just adopted a dog that used to be called something else. A dog of any age can readily adapt to a new name, even if it’s not remotely like its last one.

That said, there is an argument for delaying changing your dog’s previous name if it was surrendered by its owner. Hearing the name it’s used to can provide a dog with feelings of stability and help it to settle into its new home. So even if you want to change a dog’s name right after adopting it, it might be wise to be patient. You can still change the name later down the line, whenever you feel the time is right.

A new name can be a fresh start for a dog.

Changing a dog’s name can be powerfully beneficial if it was abused by its previous owner. It helps the dog to let go of negative associations with its past, and to start fresh. That’s why renaming an adopted dog is actually recommended, especially if you don’t know much about its past.

Many shelters will also give new names to dogs if they didn’t know its previous name. Even if they do know the dog’s previous name, they sometimes choose a different one that makes the dog more “marketable”. So, unless your dog has been at the shelter for a while, it probably hasn’t developed a strong attachment to its current name in any case.

Renaming a dog can also be useful when your dog has learned to ignore its name. This is a rare and quite sad case, but it sometimes happens. If your dog has not been correctly trained and is particularly disobedient, it might not enjoy hearing its name. Over time, it will have learned to just ignore it in order to feel happier. If your dog stubbornly refuses to come when you call its name, it’s probably time for a fresh start. After all, calling your dog is important to protect it in certain cases. And if it’s ignoring your calls completely, then that can become a great liability.

How to teach a dog a new name

Our article on how to teach a dog its name gives you everything you need to know about renaming a dog.

But there are a few basic tips for renaming a dog successfully.

  • Find out as much as you can about your new dog’s history.Ideally you should know what your dog’s previous name was, or at least what it was being called at the shelter. If you know that the dog was abused, feel free to start training the dog with its new name right away. Otherwise...
  • Take your time. You don’t have to challenge your new dog with learning a new name right away. Give it time to settle into its new home first before you introduce its new name. You might even change your mind about what name to give the dog once you get to know him or her.
  • Reward your dog’s response with treats. Just like with any dog training, reinforce your dog’s positive response to hearing its name by giving it treats. Soon enough, it will start to connect with the new name.

And, of course, consider the same advice we gave earlier in this article about what makes a good dog name. That’ll help you to set your pup up for success in their new home!

What if I just want to change my dog’s name?

As you can see, changing a dog’s name is pretty uncomplicated. However, just bear in mind that it does take a bit of time for a dog’s name to stick. If you’re changing the name every few weeks, you’re only halting your dog’s development by changing it.

We hope this all helps. Good luck choosing a name for your dog, and please let us know if you have any questions!