How to Name A Dog

Skip the arguments with a new dog-naming app
By Karen B. London PhD, June 2021
How Choose A Dog Name

Choosing dog names can be a source of conflict for couples. It’s not so bad if you like Jack and your partner wants to go with Jake, or if one of you likes Wren and the other likes Robin. Common ground may even exist when the choices are between Bogey and Divot or perhaps Inverse and Vector. But what if one person’s top choice is Killer or Gamora and the other has their heart set on Baby or Zoe? Those differences can be harder to resolve.

Enter Dogname, a new app that helps people choose (with minimal wrangling) the perfect name for their dog. Each of the app’s 30,000 names is listed with its meaning and origin, and users go through as many of the listings as they want, swiping right if they like the name and left if they don’t. The names that both people like are saved as matches, facilitating the choice of a mutually acceptable moniker.

I’ve seen the results of many what-shall-we-name-the-dog battles, and they’re not always pretty. One couple was unable to agree about either the type of dog to get or what to name the dog when they got it. They resolved their fight (and it became quite a fight!) by flipping a coin; the winner chose the dog’s name and the other person chose the dog. As a result, they wound up with a tiny fluffy dog named Thor—a mismatch between dog and name that made people laugh when they met him.

In a similar but happier story, another couple also decided to have one person choose the dog and the other person choose the name, but were both pleased with the outcome. They welcomed a 170-pound English Mastiff into their family and named her Chiclet. They loved it when people who might have been leery of their giant dog were clearly more comfortable with her because of her non-threatening name.

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Back in 1997, two astronomy buffs were very excited about the appearance of the Hale-Bopp comet. Not surprisingly, they wanted to name the puppy they were about to get in honor of the record-breaking fireball. But from that common ground, they got into a big fight over whether to call her Halley or Comet. (Neither considered Hale, Bopp or Hale-Bopp a suitable option.)

After weeks of bickering, unable to resolve their disagreement, they adopted two female littermates and named one Halley and the other Comet. The dogs fought with each other to the point of causing serious injuries. The couple’s puppy-naming dispute led to more household conflict than you’d think possible.

Sometimes, compromise leads to a good dog name. One person in a pair wanted to go with Hershey or Cocoa for their chocolate Lab puppy, but the other worried that those names were too common or too popular with this breed. But both loved to cook and also loved the idea of a food-related name, so they ended up calling their puppy Rosemary.

Another couple argued over the names Max and Xavier. The first person liked the meaning of Max (“greatest”), but the other really wanted a name that started with the letter X. They finally agreed to call their dog Xander, a shout-out to Alexander the Great that satisfied both of them.

I love a happy ending based on compromise! Do you have a tale about how your family arrived at the name for your dog after some friction during the decision-making process?

Photo: iStock

Karen B. London, Ph.D. is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer who specializes in working with dogs with serious behavioral issues, including aggression. Karen writes the animal column for the Arizona Daily Sun and is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Northern Arizona University. She is the author of six books about canine training and behavior, including her most recent, Treat Everyone Like a Dog: How a Dog Trainer’s World View Can Improve Your Life

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