STOP! 6 Things Every Pet Owner Should Know About Changing a Dog Name

What’s in a name? For humans, names are of the utmost importance. Significant research suggests that our names determine how others perceive and interact with us, determining our personalities to some degree. For a dog, a name can be very important. Whether it is shouted, sniffled, or joyously yelled, a name can be a thing of excitement, recognition, or even upset. So consider changing a dog name, or even your own if you are stuck with a name you do not like.

There are many reasons you may want to consider changing a dog name to something more palatable. Maybe you named it when you were into your cups, or let your youngest daughter pick out the nickname. Many owners rescue dogs from pounds or acquaintances that come with less-than-excellent monikers. It does not matter how you got here, now; it is time to change a dog name.

Changing a Dog Name

There are a few key things to know and consider before you change the name of your furry, four-legged, best friend. A couple of these reasons may even surprise you!

6 Things Every Pet Owner Should Know About Changing a Dog Name

  1. The Dog’s Opinion
  2. Adjustment Time
  3. Is it Necessary to Change Your Dog’s Name
  4. Tips on Changing a Dog Name
  5. Strategies for Changing a Dog Name
  6. Resources for Changing a Dog Name

The Dog’s Opinion

How your pooch feels about the oncoming change is probably your biggest concern with the name change. Well, worry no further. Experts and amateurs can agree changing a dog name is no big deal. While dogs need to know what human utterances mean that it’s time for food or for exercise, they don’t share our same egos, which could be sorely bruised if someone in authority refused to call us by our given name.

There will be no rebellion of furry feet, puppy dog pouting, or even a sly look from your pooch. The dog simply does not care. Dogs have a much bigger fish to fry, leaving them with no time to have an identity crisis about a pending name change

Adjustment Time

However, there is an adjustment time for the animal getting used to the new utterance. You are attempting to train a new behavior, so you will need to be patient and understanding of the dog’s initial failures to respond. Later in this article, we will explain strategies for training the new name into your dog’s responses.

Another consideration is your own adjustment time to the name. You and your family may not be the quickest to make this name shift, if not done naturally. So be patient and kind when your grandmother continues to call the dog, now named Pumpkin, by the old name, Squash.
Is it Necessary to Change your Dog’s Name?
As we have already glanced, there are many valid and pressing reasons for changing a dog name. Many of which are aesthetic, but today is the age of Instagram! So lean into the zeitgeist and update your dog’s branding. Trust us, they need it.

While researching this article, we came across some strange reasons to change your best friend’s name for the better. One of which was the dog’s celebrity status. Without naming any names, there were certain dogs that could no longer appear at the dog park without being hounded (no pun intended).

Other dogs were adopted from shelters with a flair for the creative name, leaving dogs with nominal scars of nomen that would have given them a bone to pick with future owners.

But the worst of all the dog names belonged to Toodles, the previously, badly named poodle, formerly known as Toodles, the dog that just will not leave. Toodles has a sad story.

Someone dropped Toodles over the fence of a family who did not want a dog, but did not have the guts to abandon her after she was so forcefully adopted. Toodles had a good life despite being unwanted. She had bones, a dog hut, everything was all good. Except for the name.

Trapped in an unfortunate linguistic loop, Toodles was forced to live out all but the last week of her life with a name showing her unwanted status. The story has a happy ending. For the last week of Toodles life, she had a house sitter who renamed her Poochatoola, a punny name combining the great lake outside New Orleans with pooch.

Tips on Changing a Dog Name

The only rule of thumb to follow here: Pick a name you really enjoy. A name even that fills your heart with joy and compliments the little man’s (or woman’s) personality.

Consider the Unique

Imagine this scene. You are standing at the edge of the dog park, leash in hand. You call out, “Bella! Bella! Come here! Bella!” Well, what have you done now? Every dog in the park turns and runs to you. Why? Because everyone names their four-legged friend, Bella.

Ponder a name other than Bella, that is so 2013; it is a cliche! Do you really want to be just one of the crowd, lost in the mist of conformity? No, this is not good enough for your new dog name. In fact, your dog needs a name that will make people sit up and listen as you shout at the dog park.

Inspiration From Anywhere

The sky’s the limit when picking your dog’s new name! Television shows, movies, obscure books, and novelty toys can be the inspiration for a name that speaks to both you and your dog’s unique personalities.

For example. You could name your dog after your favorite food: lemon jello. Write it like a proper name: Lemonjello. Get cookey and pronounce the name: La-mon-ja-low. Now, no one will ever forget either you or your dog.

The boundaries are limitless.

Strategies for Changing a Dog Name

There are two main ways to go about changing your dog’s name. Both operate on similar principles and can be used in conjunction to change the dog’s name successfully.

The Cold Turkey Method

First, you can quit the old name cold turkey. By using this strategy, you will need to use a lot of treats to help train the dog on the new name, otherwise it may take a lot longer than you would like.

There is some worry here about your dog getting gaining weight as you plump them up with a treat. Head, belly, and back scratched may work just as well depending on your pooch.

Another concern is the lack of a quick reaction time for training the new name. Let’s say your dog is about to run into a wall, the road, or even another dog. Well, in these circumstances, you might use the old name for a time or two to avoid disaster.

Otherwise, when using the new name you will need to be consistent. Flip-flopping back and forth between the new and old name is only going to confuse you, the dog, and any unfortunate house guests.

The Science Approved Method

The cold turkey method is not appealing for everyone, so another method has been developed. Almost everyone has heard of behavioral conditioning, a type of behavioral modification discovered during the 20th century.

One type of this behavioral modification will be very useful to dog owners wishing for a smooth transition between names. Operant conditioning is the process of training an organism to change its responses. In this case the change is the dog’s response to the new name.

Without understanding any of the hard science, you can use this method to change your dog’s name successfully. Start, by saying the new name before the old name every time you call your dog. For example, “Here, Duck! Come here Floofer!”

Then, slowly switch the emphasis from Floofer, the old name, to Duck, the new name. The most important part of this whole process is the reward. After every time the dog successfully responds to the new name, you must reward the dog.
The behavior of the dog will only change through positive reward of the behavior.

Resources for Changing a Dog Name

Many of you are reading this article because you’ve realized your dog’s current name is unworkable. However, just because you realize that canine names such as Bill Dogsby haven’t aged as well as you would’ve liked, it does not mean that you have a suitable new name already lined up. Fortunately, the internet provides many resources for picking a new name for a dog, and we’re happy to share these with you, if it means the world is spared one more cringe-worthy canine cognomen.

Behind the Name

The good folks at have created a vast database of names and their meanings. Dogs don’t understand the meanings behind the sounds that make up their moniker, but that won’t stop your friends from commenting on the background and denotation of the name. It’s always best to be up on these things. That way, you can avoid the situation where you’re calling your dog, Mary, a “sweety” and your know-it-all friend pipes in to inform you that Mary is derived from the Hebrew word for “sea of bitterness.”

Behind the Name doesn’t offer a specific category of dog names. However, classics like “Fido” appear in their catalog. You can search the site by meaning of name. Their database can be browsed by gender, language of origin, country of use, as well as more exotic categories such as names from multiple mythologies, astronomy, literature, and popular culture. You could even go extra old school with your dogs name and chose a designation from Ancient Anglo-Saxon, Medieval Slavic, or Ancient Egyptian.

Pet Names

While not as extensive as Behind the Name, offers an impressive catalog of potential names for your dog. Their site offers a dog specific category, which is great for narrowing down their 20,000 unique pet names to the one that will be right for your furry friend.

You can organize their names by origin, gender, and even breed. This is a great help in picking a name, but even more impressive is that names are tagged with categories. There are names for big dogs and those specialized to small ones, plus names that come from cartoons and celebrities. Like Behind the Name, you can organize the list by language of origin, if you feel like your Irish Setter needs an Irish name. While not immediately relevant to dog-owners, this site even lists names for alpacas, which just goes to show its extent.


After considering all that we have put forth here you will be properly set to alter the name of your pooch for the better. Don’t forget to think outside the box, train the pooch well as you shift the name, and stick to your guns after you make the shift.

The better you are at remembering to reward your dog after every successful response to the new name, the better the dog will make the transition to the better name.

In short, if you want to change your dog’s name, then you should do it! Let go of the days where you must yell into the foggy morning, “Weiner! Weiner! Come back! Weiner!” From this moment forth you have permission to yell whatever you like when that darn pooch will not bring your paper.


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