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Naming Dogs

Choices, decisions and compromise
By Karen B. London PhD, August 2018, Updated June 2021

In Blake Shelton’s “I’ll Name the Dogs” he sings about his desire to make a life with the woman he loves, saying, “You name the babies and I’ll name the dogs.” Dogs receive equal billing with kids in the lyrics of this hit song, and they beat out the children for the song’s title. This makes sense to anyone who truly understands the prominent role of dogs in our lives. It’s a love song, but Shelton proposes something practical—a division of labor for the naming duties. Though most people prefer to work together when naming dogs or babies, splitting the decisions could prevent a lot of conflict.

Choosing dog names is a big deal, and it’s not always easy to agree a name. Many couples struggle to find a name that both of them like. In some cases, people like very different kinds of names. If one person’s favorites are Peaches, Fluffy and Bandit, but the other member of the couple loves Sam, Maggie and Jake, there are few options that allow them to meet in the middle. What’s the compromise between typical old-fashioned dog names and the common human names so often favored now? Similarly, if one person proposes names such as Baby and Sprinkles, while the other person’s suggestions are Brutus and Spike, there could be trouble.

Sometimes the name that one person wants is one that the other person likes but doesn’t think is a good fit for that particular dog. For example, one family had planned to name their next dog Armani, but the pup they chose had crazy wild fur. The husband felt that choosing an elegant, fashion-related name would border on making fun of the dog. They ended up calling her Dulce—Spanish for sweet—but her full name is Dolce Gabbana.

There are certainly ways to avoid the discord that often comes with the process of deciding what to name a dog. Some families insist that everyone has to agree on the dog’s name and they keep offering options until they have a name that satisfies everyone. Some couples have split the decisions so that one person chooses the dog and the other one selects the name.

How are dog names chosen in your house? What happens when you disagree and how have you compromised?

photo by Ruth Ellison/Flickr

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