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What’s in a name? How to name your new pet

Approx. 4 minutes read

Naming our pets has played a huge role in their domestication over the centuries. For humans, pet names are a great way to flex our creativity while also giving our furry friends titles and tags that express their looks and personalities. Some pet owners have a fantastic knack for giving their pets the appropriate moniker, while others may need to go back to the pawing board.

Here are some tips on how to give your pet the best name they deserve.

How your pet ‘remembers’ their name

Like any interaction your pet has with you, it needs effective communication and a positive experience. For instance, teaching your dog (or cat…) to sit means giving a command (sit), a gesture (raising your hand above their head), waiting for their bum to touch the floor and then providing the treat and some praise. After one or two tries, the connection is made: If I hear “sit” and put my bum down, I get a tasty treat! I’mma do it!

Your pet will learn their name in a similar fashion. In the first few days, when you say your new pet’s name and they look at you or come towards you or wag their tail, give them treats and praise and the connection will soon be made! Some pets understand that this strange yet consistent noise coming out of your mouth is their cue to approach you (a command word), while others truly comprehend the word – their name – as uniquely belonging to them.

Tips for choosing a name for your pet   

Since early Grecian times, pets – especially dogs – have been given two-syllable names that imbue their identities with significance, from Fury to Fencer to Dagger to Butcher and Killer (translated from their Greek titles). Then along came the movie The Mask and everyone’s naming their Jack Russell ‘Milo’.

  • Jokes aside, the rule stands: a one- or two-syllable name with sharp consonants and quick vowels will give your pet the unmistakable cue that their name has been called and they need to act. ‘Mikey’, ‘Patches’, ‘Kitty’, ‘Pickle’, etc.
  • ‘Cinderella’ or ‘Rumpelstiltskin’ will also be pretty hard to shout across the dog park while you’re running after your furry fairytale character. You might find that over time these long names naturally evolve into ‘Cindy’, ‘Ella’, ‘Rumpy’ or ‘Skinny’ just for their ease of use.
  • Choose a name you like because you will be saying it for the rest of your pet’s life and they will pick up on any positive or negative vibes around their name.
  • Similarly, don’t pick a quirky or offensive name just to get a reaction out of others. While it’s not to be wished on any pet or pet owner, imagine your vet needing to solemnly tell you that the best option for ‘Sir Fartsalot’ or ‘Buttface’ is a merciful end.
  • Pencil your pet’s name in for a few days and see if it fits. If not, you can always change it.
  • Avoid names that sound like the commands you plan to teach your pet. Don’t use anything that rhymes with ‘sit’, ‘stay’, ‘heel’, ‘fetch’, ‘paw’, ‘down’, etc. Choosing a name where the emphasis might rhyme with ‘no’ might also have dire consequences when it comes to obedience training…

Pet name ideas

Since your pet will be your closest buddy, choose a name that aligns with your personality and interests, but still matches his own personality. For instance:

  • Star Wars fanatics have been known to name their pets ‘Jedi’, ‘Obi’, ‘Darth’, ‘Chewie’, ‘Leia’, ‘Solo’, ‘Ewok’, etc. Think of your movie or band interests and name your pet accordingly. Hopefully your tastes won’t change too much in the long run!
  • If you’re a chef or kitchen connoisseur, what about ‘Foodie’, ‘Carrot’, ‘Pasta’, ‘Filet’ (the French way), ‘Saucy’, ‘Pudding’, etc.?
  • Does your pet’s name suit his appearance? A Dalmatian or German pointer can be ‘Dotty’, a dachshund can be ‘Stubby’ or ‘Shorty’, and a mixed breed could be ‘Mutty’.
  • Your pet’s name could also be ironic, e.g. a huge dog could be named ‘Tiny’ or ‘Mouse’, while a cat could be called ‘Fish’, ‘Parrot’, ‘Puppy’ or ‘Bunny’.
  • If you’re a word person, your pet’s name could be ‘Typo’, ‘Qwerty’, ‘Shakespeare’, or ‘Hemmie’ (for Hemmingway). Artists could enjoy their dogspiration or catspiration walking around as ‘Picasso’, ‘Dali’, ‘Frieda’, ‘Monet’, ‘O’Keeffe’ or what about ‘Pencil’, ‘Gesso’ or ‘Cyan’?
  • An armchair traveller or a global aficionado could name their pets after their favourite geographical locations: ‘London’, ‘Paris’, ‘India’, ‘Italy’, ‘Mecca’, ‘Prague’, ‘Miami’, ‘Vegas’, ‘Berlin’, ‘Moscow’, ‘Dublin’… all lovely pet names if you’re into travel (just don’t go away for too long and leave your pet alone).
  • Fancy yourself a sommelier? What about ‘Merlot’, ‘Pinot’ or ‘Pinotage’, ‘Syrah’, ‘Cabbie’, ‘Champagne’ or ‘Bubbles’?

Whatever you decide to name your new pet, have fun with it and make sure it’s a good fit for the animal and their personality. And if there’s a story behind their name, we hope it’s a good one to tell!

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