What’s in a Name?

When you get a new puppy, you will inevitably spend a considerable amount of time pondering that most vital of all questions – what should you call them? Names are really important, not simply because of the meaning that we give them, but also because they act as a cue for your dog in training. Dogs may not understand their names in quite the same way we do, but they can be taught to recognise their name very easily, and once they do it opens the way for teaching a wide range of behaviour.

There are, of course, some traditional names for dogs and some which are perennially popular – but if you’re not keen on adding yet another Rover or Fido to your vet’s registration list, you can use almost anything as a dog’s name.

Now, if that opens up a range of options far too wide to consider, here are a few things to think about when you make your choice…

1. What’s it going to sound like shouted across a park?

Of course your dog will be far too well trained to go chasing deer in Richmond Park… but just in case, it’s worth considering!

2. How quickly can you say it?

One thing that you’ll notice at pedigree events like Crufts is that every dog – no matter how elaborate their pedigree name – has a shorter name that they’re called at home. There are countless situations where you might need to get your dog’s attention quickly (as Fenton’s owner above no doubt realises) so a long name, however adorable, may not be the most practical.

3. Do any of your family or friends have a similar name?

If you name your dog after somebody you see frequently, this can cause confusion for the poor pup – they won’t be able to tell who you’re talking to! It’s also a good idea to steer away from names that are too similar – a dog won’t be able to tell the difference, for example, between Carrie and Gary.

4. How common is it?

If you choose a name for your dog that’s very traditional, or even one that comes from current pop culture, there’s a chance that you’ll bump into other dogs with the same name – which, of course, could be confusing. According to a recent survey, Max and Bella are the most common dog names of the year – so if you want something unique, you may need to get a little creative.

5. Will it become dated?

Dogs have an average life expectancy of about eleven or twelve years, depending on their breed, so if you choose an obvious pop culture reference (Bella, we’re looking at you) then you should probably take a moment to consider whether you’ll still be happy with it another ten years down the line. Tastes do change, after all, but you can’t change your dog’s name on a whim!

6. Does it suit them?

Obviously it can be difficult to tell exactly what your puppy is going to be like when they grow up, but you can get a good idea fairly quickly. Some names can be based on the dog’s appearance – so most people would avoid names like “Fluffy” for a smooth-haired breed like a pointer. Some people also say that pets grow up to suit their names, so you might prefer to consider names that imply good behaviour!


Whatever name you choose, teaching your dog to recognise it is just the first step towards a lifetime of good behaviour. Here at Dog School, we offer comprehensive dog training in Surrey to help your pup grow up to be a really good dog. For more information, contact us on 07734 447 812.