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The importance of a dog’s name

We have put together a quick guide on the importance of a dog’s name, how-to choose a good one, and some common dog naming mistakes.

The importance of a dog’s name

We’ve all done it: shouted a different name or word to see if our dog would come back to us. More often than not, they will. If our dog will respond to anything, what’s the point in spending all those hours pouring over which name to choose?

When we’ve tried to confuse our dog, we’ve intonated in exactly the same way and we’ve called a name that’s pretty similar to our dog’s existing name. Yes, our dog “Teej” (shortened from TJ) responded to Steve.

So, what’s in a dog’s name and why is it so important? We have put together a quick guide on the importance of a dog’s name, how-to choose a good one and some common naming mistakes.

Three Tips to Choosing a Good Name for a Dog

1. Make sure you are comfortable with the name. First, your dog’s name is essential for identification, much like humans.

When you take your dog to the veterinarians, groomers, day-care or kennels; they will be checked in by their first name. For that reason, the name you choose should be one that you are comfortable sharing with outside parties. And sometimes dog names can be too unique.

No-one in day-care is going to want to shout “baby cakes” in from playtime outside, we can see the eye-rolls from here!

Also, avoid names that sound like common commands. Examples: Rick will always wonder if you are shouting his name or asking him to sit; and who knows if Fay will choose to stay or come!

2. A dog’s name must command attention. David Woods from My Pet’s Name says that because a dog’s name will usually precede a command, it should be short and snappy.

Think about it: If they are running the risk of getting into danger, like running towards someone who doesn’t want to be approached, or even running towards a busy road, then it’s essential to have a short name. That last thing you want is to be shouting a dog’s name with four of five syllables before you are able to say a command.

3. Use the two-syllable rule. One or two syllable names are great for dogs. They are also easier to intonate (by this we mean, alter your pitch).

Puppies especially will respond to jovial and high-pitched requests. It creates the idea that whatever you are doing is so much more interesting than what they are doing, therefore they want to be involved in whatever you are doing.

Short and snappy names are more likely to get their attention. For example, “Belle, No!” is more attention-grabbing than, “Barcelona, No!”

Science Shows Dogs Love Their Own Name

Studies have recently shown that dogs show a preference for their own name, as opposed to any other. Even if their name is being said by someone unfamiliar to them, dogs will still pay more attention to their own name.

Dogs are even able to differentiate their name from other sounds in a distracting environment. So, if he’s choosing to ignore you, that is his intention.

Common Dog Naming Mistakes

Using a human name. Some people think that choosing a human name for a dog encourages owners to treat their dog more like a human, but this is individual choice. Be mindful if you decide to name your pup after a family member: If they have passed, will the name elicit an emotional response, or will it cause you to treat your pup differently? If they are alive, how do they feel about having a dog named after them?

Using ironic names. If you decide to name your dog after a celebrity are you prepared to discuss said celebrity wherever you go? The same goes for ironic names too: Snuffles the German Shepherd? Brutus the Chihuahua? Thor the Chiweenie? Or Bert the Bernedoodle?

Popular names are popular for a reason, they are short and snappy, easy to intonate, safe to shout in the back yard and need no explanation.


A dog’s name is necessary for identification, much like humans. Most importantly, it is a way to get their attention. Studies have shown that dogs show a preference to their name over any other names.

A dog’s name will often precede a command, and this sets them up to succeed in their training. When it’s short and snappy it gives us the best chance at avoiding a potentially disastrous situation, like running into a busy road. Choose one or two syllable names, that are easy to intonate and avoid names that sound like common commands.

Ultimately, what you choose to name your dog is up to you, but our top tips will give you a good place to start. 

John Woods is a member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers. He is a dog-parent to his two rescue dogs, Jeff and James. When he’s not looking after his dogs, or training clients’ dogs, he is an editor for a pet magazine.

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