Finding the Pawfect Name: 10 Tips on How to Choose a Dog Name

choose a dog name

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So, you’ve just welcomed a beautiful new fur baby into your family and are desperately trying to find the right name. It needs to sound right and feel right coming out of your mouth. The name should represent you and your new dog. You don’t want it to feel mundane, but you don’t want it to be overly complicated. So, how do you choose a dog name? Let’s dive in!

It can be very overwhelming, but it can also be enjoyable. As you dive deep into the dog naming process, we’ve compiled a few tips to help you pick the perfect name for your precious pup.

10 Tips on How to Choose a Dog Name

choose a dog name

1 – Keep it short.

According to Rover and veterinary behaviorist Christopher Pachel, short names that are quick to say lead to quick responses. Names like “Huck” or “Finn” are easier for your dog to hear and recognize than long names with soothing names like “Huckleberry” or “William.”

The trick is to keep their name to one or two syllables. If you want to give them a longer, more creative name, then you might want to consider a short nickname that you use daily. Using the examples above, you could name your new pup “Huckleberry Finn” and then call him “Huck” or “Finn.”

2 – Avoid names that sound similar to commands.

Trust us; you will avoid abundant frustration and confusion for you and your dog during training if you stay away from names similar to commands. A name like “Bo,” which sounds like “no,” or “Clay,” which sounds like “stay,” can lead to a lot of seemingly disobedient behavior that is, in fact, just a misunderstanding.

3 – Test it out!

If you are struggling to find the right name for your puppy, then we have some good news. It takes time for them to learn a new name, so you have time to test out a few of your favorites to see what feels the best. You might even notice that your dog starts to respond to one more than others, which will help you make your final decision.

4 – Reference your interests.

Try looking at some of your interests when looking for dog name inspiration. Do you have a favorite book or movie character? Maybe you have a favorite musician you want to honor or an athlete you admire. You could also look to some of your personal heroes for name inspiration.

Some great examples would be “Harry Potter,” “Chewbacca,” “Frodo,” “Jon Snow,” “Obama,” or “Jon Lennon.”

You could also choose a dog name that references one of your favorite activities. The husband of one of our writers has been skateboarding for over half his life, so when it came time to name their new puppy, they chose “Ollie” as a reference to a popular skateboard trick.

5 – Draw inspiration from their unique traits.

One of the best sources of dog name inspiration is your dog themselves. Every dog is unique, so it’s ideal to choose a dog name that references their special features.

You could do a punny dog name referencing their breed, like “Pugzilla.” You could choose a cultural icon or fictional character that shares their physical or personality traits, like “Khaleesi” for a white-haired female dog.

If they have notable personality traits, you could also use those to inspire your name choice. Are they playful or a little shy? Are they super gentle or maybe protective?

You could either name them something that fits their obvious personality traits perfectly, or you could go the opposite direction and choose a dog name that contradicts those traits. There’s a lot of fun to be had.

6 – Look up the meanings of dog names.

If you like the idea of your dog’s name carrying meaning, then try searching for various names and their meanings. This could be overwhelming, but there are a few ways to trim down the number of names you have to sort through.

First: You could pick an origin like Latin, British English, Scandinavian, or German and then skim a long list of names to find one with a meaning you like.

Second: You could search for all names with a specific meaning and then skim through that list to find one that sounds good for your unique pup.

Third: You could combine the first and second options to create an even shorter list of names.

7 – Avoid re-naming adult dogs.

Are you familiar with the saying “you can’t teach old dogs new tricks?” Well, it exists for a reason. The optimal time to train your dog is during the puppy stage.

After their first birthday, training becomes increasingly difficult. This applies to teaching them their name as well.

Additionally, when you foster or adopt an adult dog, the adjustment can be difficult. Retaining their old name will help provide a sense of normalcy to a potentially stressful situation. They have a lot of adjusting to do, don’t add their name to the list!

8 – Use hard consonants and end with vowel sounds.

According to the New York Times, incorporating hard consonants like “k,” “p,” or “b” help your dog recognize their name. The sharp sound of the letters makes it easier for them to identify their name no matter how much noise is around them. It’s even better if their name ends with a vowel sound like “ay” or “ee.”

A few examples of names that would be easy for dogs to hear in crowded spaces are “Kiki,” “Buddy,” or “Lucky.”

9 – Make it sentimental or personal.

Name your dog after a friend or loved one you want to honor or a beloved dog that came before them. One of our writers named one of her dogs after her childhood dog, who passed away when she was younger.

There are a million ways you can personalize your name choice, all of which are good.

10 – Have fun!

Play around and experiment with different names. Get creative with some fun references or playful dog-name puns. This doesn’t need to be a stressful process. Just have fun!

How to be creative when you choose a dog name:

choose a dog name

There is no one way to be creative when choosing your dog’s name. You simply need to sniff outside the box. That might mean putting a unique twist on a popular dog name. Rather than “buddy,” you could go with “amigo” or “lad.”

If you like the idea of giving your dog a human name, you could search for name origins and meanings. For example, “William” means resolute protector, which would be an excellent choice for a protective breed like a German Shepherd.

If you enjoy learning languages, you could take it further by searching for popular names in other languages and their meanings. “Bjorn” is a popular Scandinavian name that means bear. That would be an appropriate name for an extra-large breed like an English Mastiff or a hilarious name for a little breed like a Chihuahua.

How to choose a dog name that reflects their personality and/or breed:

Your dog is the best source of inspiration when crafting their name. Ask yourself, what is unique about my pup? If they are noticeably calm and even-tempered, you could choose something like “Zen” or “Gandhi.”

If they are rowdy and playful, you could choose something like “Dynamite” or “Zippy.” If they are a lovey-dovey pup, you could choose a dog name like “Mila,” a Russian name meaning dear one, or “Amor,” the Spanish word for love.

There are also plenty of fun names related to your dog’s breed. You could play with their size by choosing something like “tiny” for a big dog or “bear” for a little one. You could find a fun dog name pun referencing their breed, like “Dumble-doodle.”

If your dog’s breed has a national origin like German or Australian, you could use that to inspire your name search. For example, you could choose “Hugh” after famous Australian actor Hugh Jackman if you have an Australian Shepherd.

The dos and don’ts of naming your dog.

We touched on this above, but a few key dos and don’ts when naming your dog are worth highlighting. These are not necessarily hard-and-fast rules; instead, they are excellent guidelines.

The Dos

  1. Keep the name you call them to one or two syllables.
    Dogs respond better to short names. It’s also much easier for you to say when you are trying to get their attention or during training.
  2. Test it out!
    Relax; it takes a lot of repetition for your dog to learn their name. Don’t be afraid to test a few to see if they fit.
  3. Be consistent and cheerful when teaching your dog their name.
    Once you’ve chosen a name, it’s time to teach it to your pup. The key to teaching your dog their new name is consistency and positivity. Dogs listen to our tone, and a positive association will form if you have a happy, loving tone. Hearing it frequently directed at them will help them develop the appropriate connection. Don’t forget the positive reinforcement, either.

The Don’ts

  1. Choose a dog name that sounds like common commands.
    Dogs don’t understand our language; they only really understand our tone, so if the sounds coming out of your mouth when you give them a command sounds much like their name, they will be very confused. A few examples are names like “Bo,” “Joe,” “Clay,” or “Fitz.”
  2. Choose a dog name like someone else in the house.
    Choosing a name that sounds similar to someone else in the house, human or animal, is another surefire way to be ignored and create confusion. If your dog can’t tell who you are talking to, they are likely to just ignore you.
  3. Try to rename an adult dog.
    You can try to rename an adult dog, but your likelihood of succeeding is very low. That saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” exists for a reason. Once a dog knows something, it’s stuck.

In our experience

choose a dog name

Finding the perfect name for your new dog is more of an art than a science. It doesn’t need to be perfect; it just needs to be a good fit for you and your pup.

Take your time experimenting and exploring different options, but don’t overthink it. Once one feels right, go with it. All our tips above are just that, tips. They are meant to guide you, not restrain you.

For a little extra help, try out this super fun Dog Name Generator.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this article may be affiliate links, which can provide compensation to Dog Life Mag at no cost to you if you decide to purchase the product or service. You can read our full affiliate disclosure in our privacy policyThis site is not intended to provide financial advice or replace your veterinarian’s recommendations and is for entertainment only. Please check with your veterinarian first before giving your pet any medication, treatment, or new foods and we recommend following your veterinarian’s recommendations. 

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