Football player Tim Tebow ‘s every action seems to attract attention, so it’s no surprise that when he changed his Rhodesian Ridgeback’s name recently, it made the news. The name Bronco, which was such a great name when he played for the Denver Broncos, became awkward once they traded him to the New York Jets.
Many sportswriters are discussing how cruel it was to make this name change and claiming that the dog will suffer terribly as a result. Most dog professionals, myself included, think that changing a dog’s name is fine, even if the new name is nothing like the old one.
Bronco to Bronx is a minor change, which makes me suspect that Tebow made a real effort to change his dog’s name to something similar. Most people do think that it’s a big deal for a dog, so this gesture may have been prompted by a thoughtful attempt to minimize any issues for his dog.
Love him or hate him, Tebow’s big news is a sign of many things: his status as a cultural icon, the pattern of naming our dogs after what’s important to us, and the ever-increasing importance of dogs in our culture.
Karen B. London, PhD, is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer whose clinical work over the last 17 years has focused on the evaluation and treatment of serious behavioral problems in dogs, especially aggression. Karen has been writing the behavior column for The Bark since 2012 and wrote The Bark’s training column and various other articles for eight years before that. She is an adjunct professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Northern Arizona University, and teaches a tropical field biology course in Costa Rica. Karen writes an animal column, The London Zoo, which appear in The Arizona Daily Sun and is the author of five books on canine training and behavior. She is working on her next book, which she expects to be published in 2017.