Dog Names: Tips, Ideas, & Guidance

It’s time to welcome your new fur-baby into the family! This is a beautiful time for you and your new canine companion. All you need now is the perfect name to solidify your dog’s identity in your household. Yet, there are so many options, how in the world do you choose? 

The easiest way to name a dog is to base their title on their coat color, leading to names like “Spot” and “Red.” For more meaningful names, you can draw inspiration from your dog’s personality, your culture, or departed family members. For all, use hard consonants and stay under three syllables to ensure your dog doesn’t get confused.

There is a lot to think about when it comes to giving your dog its new title, especially if you’re adopting an already-named pup from a shelter. See the guide below to help ease the process of considering all the ins and outs of dog names and determining which is best for your pup. 

Dog Names
Dog Names

How Do I Pick a Good Dog Name?

Picking a good dog name is all about you, your pet, and the relationship you are building together. For example, someone whose dog is only meant to function as a personal companion might settle for a more casual or sentimental name. In these cases, naming your dog after someone or something that means a lot to you can strengthen your affection for your pet. 

Another common practice for naming a personal pet is selecting a name representing the reason you got your pet. For instance, imagine that adopting a dog is part of a significant life transition for you. In a sense, it is the start of a “new life.” In this case, you might want to go with a name that encompasses that meaning, such as “Zoey” (Greek), “Chaya” (Hebrew), or “Vivaan” (Hindi). (Source: Nameberry)

Using this strategy will remind you what your dog means to you and solidify its place in your life as a companion in this new chapter and your future. Still, you might not want your dog’s name to be a symbol of what it means to you, but it encompasses their character instead. If this is the case for you, it’s best to spend some time with your pet first before committing to a specific name. 

Your new canine companion might show signs of dominance. In that case, you’ll want a powerful, bold name – perhaps one with a rich history, such as a storied warrior or the leader of a revolution that changed the world. Tips on picking up on these personality quirks and how to name your dog based on these character traits are discussed below. 

How to Name Your Dog Based on Its Personality

You don’t want to take too long to name your new dog, especially if it’s a puppy. Although it doesn’t typically take more than a week or two for the pup to catch onto its new title, it’s quite difficult to live with your pet for a while without a dedicated name. 

Think about it: What are you going to do when you need to get your pet’s attention? Without a specific name, you’ll likely just be kissing at it or making other strange noises to draw its interest. If this isn’t the case, the most common strategy is to just call your pet by a bunch of nicknames that you don’t intend to keep over the years. 

If you go with the latter option, things could quickly get confusing. Calling your new pup “puppy,” “baby,” “little one,” and similarly generalized titles can be easy for you to brush off when it’s time for their real name to take center stage. Yet, for your pet, it’ll be like getting renamed after they’ve already gotten used to answering to these things. Here are some tips to avoid this confusion: 

  • If you’re adopting a dog from a shelter, try to spend time with it before welcoming it home. Your time together will clue you into major personality traits you can base their new name on. 
  • What if you’re buying a puppy from a breeder? Reputable breeders should allow you to visit the litter in the weeks before you bring your new puppy home. The quality time you spend with the puppy, its siblings, and parents should be enough to inform you of your new pet’s character traits. With that information, you can decide on a suitable name. 
  • Whether you’ve been able to spend time with your puppy before welcoming it home or not, it is best to commit to a name within the first week of bringing it home. As mentioned earlier, this is the amount of time it takes for a specific name to “stick” with your pet. Any substitute nicknames that go on too long could cause issues with naming in the future. 

Dog Name Suggestions According to Personality Type

Imagine that you’ve spent some time with your new puppy, perhaps in hour-long visits here and there. You’ve gotten to know it a little better and noticed that they’re either very energetic or the shy one of their litter. Now, it’s great that you’ve got a clear picture of who your pet is, but now what? How do you decide on a name that’s suitable for both you and your pup? 

You don’t want to go with a name that’s too complicated to say based on your language and where you live. For instance, someone who lives in the U.S. might be inclined to name their dog something rooted in a West African language. As beautiful an idea as that might be, it could potentially cause issues at the vet when no one can pronounce or spell your pup’s name during the clinical visit. 

Further, it’s not the best idea to go with a name that has too many syllables. Otherwise, you’ll get exhausted (even aggravated) during training, as you’ll likely have to call your pet repeatedly as they learn new commands. To ease the burden of picking a practical yet meaningful name, consider these suggestions:

Personality TraitHow to Spot This TraitBreed ExamplesSuggested Names
DominantIf your pup plays with others by gnawing on their necks, pinning them down on the floor, and other “pushy” behaviors, they are probably dominant.German shepherd AkitaChow chowGriffinDrewMatilda
PlayfulJust toss a ball or squeeze a squeaky toy and see whether you get your dog’s attention. If so, you’ve got a playful pup! Labrador retrieverBoxerAny type of SetterPiperLokiChase
Shy or ReservedThe pup that would rather nap than play chase with the whole group is definitely shy. They might enjoy sitting in your lap, but they prefer quiet one-on-one time to large group sessions.Basset houndGreyhoundChihuahua (some of them)KevinPaxonIdina
SocialDogs that want everyone’s attention – whether it be from a human or another animal – are very social. They’ll never say no to a game or some belly scratches!Golden retrieverPoodleAny type of DoodleDakotaAlvinBuddy
EnergeticDogs that can’t seem to be still are likely very energetic. Walking around with no particular destination or being constantly ready for a walk or play are clear signs of high energy levels.Any type of ShepherdAny type of TerrierBorder collieChipperSpiritRascal

Using Cultural Inspiration for Your Dog’s Name

Drawing inspiration from one’s culture is another highly popular method of choosing a new dog name. Whether you live in your home country or have journeyed elsewhere, naming your pet something that is representative of your cultural or ethnic heritage can be immensely rewarding. 

Your dog’s name can serve as a reminder of who you are, where you come from, and connect your dog to deeper parts of your life and values. Choosing to name your dog this way can also function as a celebration of your people’s history. 

For example, someone who is from Mexico might buy a Xoloitzcuintli. This is a significant breed in Mexican culture and history, revered for its role in guiding deceased individuals to the Underworld. Given this dog’s influence on their life and heritage, this person might be inspired to name their dogs culturally relevant names, like Alma, Querida, or Risa. (Source: National GeographicOpens in a new tab.)

If you’ve decided to name your dog based on your culture, consider what your primary goal is. Is the dog’s name a celebration of your heritage? Consider basing it on holidays or traditions passed down from elders. Is the name a sentimental token to remind you of the home you’ve left behind? Think about drawing inspiration from your tribe, village, or another specific part of your background. 

Choosing a Dog Name Based on Looks

This is perhaps the easiest method of choosing a dog name. All you’ve got to do is look at your pup, and voila! You’ve got their title already. This is the beauty of naming dogs: You’re not obligated to assign a profound meaning to your pup’s name, although that route is preferable to some dog owners. Heck, if you wanted, you could name your dog a letter of the alphabet, like “X” or “V.” (Yes, people do that.)

Still, the dog’s coat or other unique features can be the main inspiration behind their given name. For instance, a Dalmatian’s or Beagle’s name could easily be “Spot.” Anyone you introduce your dog to would know right away how and why they got their name. 

Another cute one is “Socks,” popular for dogs with patches of fur on their feet that are different from the rest of their legs, appearing as “socks.” A common alternative to this is “Boots.” You might even end up naming your dog after another animal based on their coat pattern. For example, the name “Tiger” works perfectly for dogs with brindle coats. 

Your dog’s overall coat color is also a good starting point for your chosen name. “Red” is a great, simple name for any breed with a rich red coat, such as Golden Retriever variants and Vizslas. “Sterling” is also a wonderful, regal name for dogs with grey or silvery coats, like Italian Greyhounds. 

Dog Names Puppy
Dog Names Puppy

Naming Your Dog as a Breeder or Show Participant

Dog breeders have a much different process of naming their dogs than casual pet owners. If you’ve watched or participated in a dog show before, you may have noticed that some dogs’ names are so long that they seem like sentences! This is a deliberate choice made by the breeder to distinguish their pup from the rest. 

These long, complex titles are combinations of the “kennel name” and “registered name.” “Title” is the best way to refer to them, as the breeders don’t necessarily call the dog by the whole phrase. Instead, they use something known as their “calling name,” which can be just a small portion of the full kennel name. 

So, suppose you’ve recently purchased a purebred dog and are interested in showing the pup in competitions. In that case, you might want to learn the process of selecting a kennel and calling name for your pup. The American Kennel Club (AKC) spoke with reputable breeders to collect insight into their processes to make these decisions. Here are some of the answers the AKC received (Source: AKCOpens in a new tab.):

  • Tracy Van Niel, representing Aardehond Border Terriers: Van Niel’s kennel name reflects their Dutch heritage and primary breed. The dogs’ registered names start with the kennel name, Aardehond, and come from a preselected set of names inspired by a theme, assigned to each litter. 
  • Gail Boyd, representing Albeaim Whippets: The kennel name is required to be a part of the dog’s registered name, and the new owner is allowed to help. The owner must choose a name that starts with a specific letter according to that litter’s theme. Once everyone gives their approval, the name is registered with AKC. 
  • Mary Bryant, representing Crosswood Shetland Sheepdogs: Bryant requires that the kennel name is included at the front of the dog’s name. Anything after that can be decided by the new pet parent. This is so Bryant can look up the dogs in the AKC registry and keep up with their achievements after sending them off to their new families. 
  • Linda Moran, representing Kasomor Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers: Moran only asks that the kennel name, Kasomor, is the first word in the registered name. Other than that, the new owners can have at it with the rest! 

What Should You Not Name Your Dog?

Of course, there are some things you’ll want to avoid when naming your new dog. As mentioned previously, it’s best to steer clear of names that have an excessive number of syllables. Of course, “excessive” is subjective and will be determined by your native language and how you’re comfortable speaking. 

Although you should consider how easy or challenging it might be for others to pronounce your dog’s name (especially vets, trainers, and other figures that will play a key role in your dog’s health and wellbeing), it’s best to prioritize your own comfort. It’s much easier to say “Spot! Spot! Spot!” than “Zariah! Zariah! Zariah!” when you’re trying to get your pup’s attention around the house. 

More importantly, you should do your best to avoid naming your dog anything that resembles a command. This is the most confusing thing you could ever do to your pup, and it will surely cause it immense stress as it’s trying to learn the basics of obedience or tricks. 

Of course, this means that you shouldn’t give your dog a name like “Sit,” “Down,” or “Stay.” That part is relatively obvious. The trickier part is to avoid names that sound like commands. For example, you probably shouldn’t name your pup “Fay.” You’ll probably be confused when they refuse to move after you call them since the dog thought it heard you say, “Stay.” 

Can You Rename a Dog That You Adopted?

Renaming a dog that you’ve recently adopted is a difficult process. The challenge might not necessarily lie in selecting the name, but your dog’s ability to learn and accept the new title. Young puppies are more impressionable than adults, so you might have an easier time with a new name if you’ve adopted a youngster. 

Still, this does not mean that adult dogs are a lost cause. After all, people give their dogs random nicknames all the time, and it doesn’t exactly stop just because the dog is maturing. Dogs have great memories, so regardless of how many nicknames they collect over the years, they’ll eventually learn to answer to all of them. 

Still, you’ve got to solidify their “real” name first to avoid uncertainty. To rename your dog, it’s best to continue using their original name while slowly transitioning them to the new one. A great technique is to get your dog’s attention by calling them by their original name, then offering treats, pets, and other rewards while saying their new name. 

Over time, they will start to form positive associations with that name, and start answering to that instead. The development of positive connotations with a new title is just one of the many reasons why you should consider renaming a newly adopted dog. Other reasons include (Source: Orvis NewsOpens in a new tab.):

  • Your dog only had a “shelter” name. Some shelters assign names to their available pets, and others give numbers. In either case, they don’t always use these names to interact with the pup. If this is the case for your new dog, it’s the perfect opportunity to introduce a new title in their forever home. 
  • Your new dog has past trauma associated with its original name. Sadly, many dogs that wind up in shelters were rescued from abusive or neglectful owners. Often, their names carry immense emotional trauma that you can start to chip away at with a new name. In situations like these, you can think of the dog’s new name as a clean slate. 
  • Your dog no longer answers to their name. After spending time in a shelter, some dogs just decide to stop responding to their given name. This can happen for various reasons, but it’s dangerous in all cases, as you won’t be able to get your dog’s attention when it truly matters. At this point, it’s best to consider giving them a new name altogether. 

What is the #1 Dog Name?

The most popular dog names change according to the year, season, demographic, and many other factors. If you’re looking for pop culture influence when choosing your dog’s name, you first need to determine the scale you want to draw inspiration from. 

For instance, do you want to name your dog a common American name? If so, then you need to research trending dog names in the United States. The AKC publishes an occasional list that fits this criteria and lists names including, but not limited to (Source: AKCOpens in a new tab.):

  • Hudson
  • Finn
  • Kai
  • Charlie
  • Ivy

You might want to keep your dog’s name to a more local scope and only follow unique trends in your region. If so, look up popular names in your city or state. New York has a neat webpage where officials publish the most common dog names in the area, illustrating their occurrence by bubble size. Leading names like “Bella” (1,195 dogs with this name) and “Max” (1,153) have the largest bubbles. (Source: New York City HealthOpens in a new tab.)

Do Dogs Respond Better to Certain Names?

Although there are no hard rules about how you should name your dog, there are some advantages and drawbacks to selecting specific names over others. As mentioned above, it’s crucial to avoid names with too many syllables or sound like commands. Those are sure to confuse both you and your pup whenever you try to get its attention. 

More detailed guidance on the appropriate number of syllables for your dog’s name usually instructs that you keep the number down to three at most. This is why names such as “Spike” and “Fido” work so well. They are quick and easy to say, so you can get your dog’s attention much more quickly. Plus, anything more than three syllables can be difficult for your dog to catch onto. (Source: PetMDOpens in a new tab.)

Your dog might still have some hang-ups about their name even if you follow these guidelines. If that’s so, the problem might not be how long the name is or what it might rhyme with, but its sound. Pet experts recommend using hard consonants, as the sharp sound can grab their attention more quickly than a soft “S” or “G,” in some cases. Names like “Kai” work well for this reason. (Source: The New York TimesOpens in a new tab.)

You can test which names work best for your pup by narrowing your selection down to three options. Call your dog by each of the three alternatives and see which one they respond to swiftly and energetically. Whichever gets the fastest, most positive response for your pup is the one you should go with.

Is It Rude to Name a Dog After Someone?

Generally, it’s not rude to name your dog after someone you love or look up to. Some people feel honored to have a dog named after them (especially if they already identify as a “dog lover!”). In fact, some individuals will request to give a dog their namesake, as many consider pets to be just as important to their families and lives as human children.

To have any living thing named after you is a massive honor. It is a gesture of profound respect and admiration, and in some cases, a cherished practice of continuing someone’s memory and legacy after they’ve passed. 

This is especially true in cases where a person has inherited a pet from their parent. For instance, if an individual’s dad passed away before he could name his puppy, that person might name the puppy after their departed father. 

If you do wish to name your dog after someone in your life, it is best to ask for permission beforehand. Never surprise someone with the fact that you’ve named an animal after them. There might not be serious repercussions for this mistake; however, that person may be offended due to traumatic memories associated with that breed or other similar reasons. 

In Conclusion

Naming a new dog is a fun yet challenging task. There are so many ways to do it and there’s no “wrong” way to go about it, making pet-naming one of the best avenues for personal expression and creativity. You can choose to name your dog according to any of the following inspirations:

  • Its personality
  • Your cultural heritage
  • The dog’s physical appearance
  • Current trends in your area
  • The name of someone you love or look up to

No matter what, please remember to keep it relatively simple to avoid confusion during training or vet care. If others are constantly messing up the pronunciation, your dog might be puzzled when someone calls them. On that note, steer clear of names that rhyme with commands, and keep them to three syllables maximum with hard consonants, as dogs respond best to names with these criteria.

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