Dog Name Basics

What's in a Dog Name?

"What's in a dog name? Quite a lot actually!" Pug poster

Dogs are amazing aren't they? Loyal companions, fearless defenders, tireless workers, faithful followers. Not to mention goof-ball buddies who pick us up when we're feeling down.

They give so much and ask for so little in return.

I can honestly say that my life would be so much poorer without the wonderful dogs I've been privileged to share it with.

When it comes to naming dogs, you have a unique opportunity to give back to your canine friend by choosing the perfect name.

But let's stop for a moment to consider what your dog's name represents. At the most basic level, a name gives you the ability to attract your dog's attention, to say, "Hey, I'm talking to you!"

But dog names are so much more than that - they are an expression of affection, of companionship, and togetherness. They define the unique bond you have with your dog.

So, pick a name that suits the dog, but also one that you are comfortable with, that has meaning for you. I, myself, tend towards shorter names - one or two syllables - and while they are best for calling and training, don't feel you have to restrict yourself.

You can be creative and still come up with great dog names. My brother, a music lover, has Boxers named, Lennon, Sting and Mercury. What's your particular interest and how can you use it to come up with a great dog name for your four-legged friend?

Using Your Dog's Name

Whatever name you end up choosing, be sure to use it appropriately!

If you've ever watched a dog's reaction when his name is called you'll have seen him lift his head, prick up his ears, maybe wag his tail, and almost always come trotting over.

But too often we confuse our dogs by inappropriate or confusing use of the dog's name.

We teach the dog to come when called and give him attention when he responds. But one day, he does something naughty, we call him, and he responds expecting a treat, a game or a head-scratch, but instead he is punished.

Now, the dog is confused. He has always associated his name with pleasant experiences, but now it can also mean something unpleasant. Next time we call he approaches apprehensively, or chooses not to respond at all.

Never associate your dog's name with any form of punishment.

Also be careful when using the dog's name in training, particularly with a younger dog.

People often use the dog's name with every command, "Max, sit", "Max stay", "Max heel". The dog learns that the word "Max" is part of the command. He associates it with a particular action, or body position rather than as an entity on its own.

Now when you call "Max", he becomes confused, because the command is incomplete, he doesn't know whether to sit, stay or heel.

If you are going to use your dog's name in training, always leave a pause between the name and the instruction.

So it becomes "Max", to gain his attention, then "sit" (or stay, or heel), after a short pause.

In time your dog will learn from your body language and tone of voice that his name means, "pay attention, I am talking specifically to you".

Until then, help him out by using his name in the right context.

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