Good Dogs

Strong Opinions on How to Name a Dog

As one G&G reader put it: “Be patient. The dog will tell you their name.”


Finn, a golden retriever from Fruit Cove, Florida.

In our Talk of the South newsletter last week, we put out a call: Send us your best tips for naming a dog. Below are just a few of the many helpful responses from G&G readers, ranging from…

…the practical:

Call out your list. Whichever one gets your hound off the porch is the winner. —Stephanie S. 

Years ago, a friend told me a dog’s name should be one syllable; that way there is no question in his or her mind who is being called (or scolded). —Bill F.

Two syllables ending in a vowel. —Dana W.

I stay away from names that begin with “s,” because so many basic commands start with the letter (sit, stay, stand). Avoids confusion during obedience training. —Kathy C. 

I recommend a single syllable name. It is easier to call. However, we have Jolene and Maxwell. So what do I know! —Darrel J.

…to the sentimental:

If you give them a bit of time, they will do something or remind you of someone. Then you have the perfect name. My female German Shepherd’s name is Pax—Latin for Peace. She came to me when I needed both—the pup and the peace. —Henriette H. 

Go with your heart. I named my Jack Russell “Hootie” after Hootie and the Blowfish. He was with me for seventeen years and was my BEST friend. —Jim M. 

Pick a name that means something to you. We got our second Lab mix (after eleven-year-old Loretta left us) a few weeks after our ruby anniversary, thus Ruby was a fitting name. Now, just a year and a half later, my husband is gone and Ruby is by my side, a constant comfort. —Angie B.

Your pup’s official name doesn’t matter one bit. Like anyone adored, you’ll have one million nicknames for that little tail-wagger before you know it. —Kelly O. 

…to the familial: 

Some of our best dogs have been named after feisty aunts in our family: Bonnie, Josie, Rosie. Somehow their personalities always seemed to fit. —Suzanne A.

Use that baby name for the third child you never got around to having. —Craig D.

My dad had a couple dogs that he named after himself. His name was Fred, and so was his first dog’s. A Jack Russell terrier was named Derf—Fred backward. The next dog was a German Shepherd, which he named Fritz. —Paul B.

Give her the family name your ex wouldn’t let you name your daughter. —Marcia W.

…to the historical:

Google names from the origin of the breed. —Ann F.

Before we got our golden retriever puppy, I started researching Scottish names since golden retrievers are originally from Scotland. Rhett was overwhelmingly my family’s choice for our new puppy, and it fits him perfectly. —Reniece W.

I named my dog Pearl because she was born on December 7. —Bob T. 

…to the thematic:

We have bird hunting dogs, so we always go with something related: Nelli after Benelli shotguns, Woody after the wood duck. I was sorely disappointed upon learning, after some major research, that the dog from Nintendo’s Duck Hunt game has no name. —Abby W.

Jethro, Cletus, and Stella. All three from The Beverly Hillbillies. First time in my life that I got doggies that get along. I do miss my couch though. —D.B.

I am currently working through the pantheon of country music. —Maria R.

All are named after favorite Broadway, TV, or movie characters, or bands. Hence, we have at this time Chauncey, Journey, Munch, Casper, Rizzo, Abigail, and Selma…bet no one can pick what all those characters are from? —Ella M.

…to the cautionary: 

I always apply the running-around-the-neighborhood test: Never name a dog something you’d be embarrassed to yell at the top of your voice while chasing the dog down the street. —Pamela D. 

Dog trainer once told me, “no one-syllable names,” because dogs can’t distinguish their name from “yes,” “no,” “fetch,” “stop,” etc. From me: No human names! Having a dog named Kevin or Jeffrey is ridiculous. —Chad E. 

If you live near or frequently visit the beach, do not name your dog Shark! —Pam C.

Dogs, like kids, will grow into their names. Choose carefully. —Mark C.

…to, of course, the wait-and-see method:

I’ve always waited, sometimes days, until it seems the dog will tell you his name. After that there is no time that she does not respond when called. —Margaret J.

Wait till you meet the dog and get to know him or her. You can’t choose the name before you get to know them and see their personalities. —Susan B. 

Be patient. The dog will tell you their name. Ours, in order: Xena, NikNak, Dogwood Blossom, Daisy Mae, Lady, Busy Bee, and Joe Tate. —Cheryl C.

Or, scrap all of that and take Cynthia D.’s advice: 

Pick out a name and go find a dog to match it. 

More on dog names: Read about Daniel Wallace’s lifelong quest to get it right