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A Dog by Any Other Name
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Luke’s name brings up one more thing to think about when you’re naming your dog (and yes, of course you can change a dog’s name if you don’t like the one she came with!). I named Luke’s daughter “Lassie,” not because of the acoustics of the name, but because she came to me as a dog rejected by two people who had missed her potential to be as devoted and responsive as the television star of the same name. But listen to the consequence of that choice—say the names out loud: Luke. Lassie. I gave two dogs in the same household names that start with the same sound, and as hard I tried to keep things clear, it made life a little bit more confusing for the two of them. You can see it for yourself in a video I made, Feeling Outnumbered, in which I tell all my dogs to “Wait” at the door of the car, and then release Lassie by calling her name. If you watch carefully, you can see Luke start to move forward when he hears the “L—,” and then self-correct when the rest of his daughter’s name comes out. Luke and Lassie were so amenable and responsive that my mistake barely mattered, but keep this in mind when you’re naming a new dog. I sure will. Living with humans is confusing enough for dogs, why make it any harder?

In summary, there are several facets of a dog’s name that bear consideration. It’s good to be informed about all of them, but I have to admit: When push comes to shove, I’d vote every time for the name that fit my dog’s personality and that made me happy to say over a name with the “proper” acoustics. It’s good to be aware of all the ways a name can affect your dog’s behavior, but nonetheless, a dog by any other name … will still roll in cow pies.

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Patricia McConnell, PhD, is an animal behaviorist and ethologist and an adjunct associate professor in zoology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, as well as the author of numerous books on behavior and training.

patriciamcconnell.com
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