Can you have 2 names for a dog?
The Science Behind Choosing the Best Puppy Name
There is plenty to plan for when bringing home a new pup—from learning how to puppy-proof your home to finding them a cozy bed. And one of the most fun aspects of welcoming a new furry family member is giving them a name! There are various avenues you can take when naming a puppy, such as opting for a classic like «Buddy,» or honoring your favorite breakfast food (we like the sound of «Waffles»).
Showing off your creativity isn’t the only way to name your pup. There is also science on how to pick a dog name they likely will respond to…and that you’ll love! Whether you just brought home your dog or are awaiting their arrival, we have some helpful guidelines for choosing the best puppy name.
Follow the Rules of Furry Phonetics
The most important factor when deciding on a dog name is considering your furry friend’s ability to identify it. Guidelines related to phonetics—the study of how sounds are made and perceived— will help give your best friend a name they will recognize.
Use One or Two Syllables
One-syllable names are a win-win: they’re easy for your puppy to comprehend—and for you to say! These types of names, such as «Rex» or «Bear,» have short and choppy sounds, which make dogs respond quickly, according to Rover.
Names with two syllables are ideal as well. Dogs’ hearing is about four times more sensitive than ours, according to Psychology Today. Therefore, because two-syllable names create a change in pitch frequency when said, they capture a pup’s attention. Plus, two-syllable names allow for emphasis, which helps display emotion. For instance, when saying, «Luna,» you can say «Lun» with a higher pitch than «a,» to convey affection. If you start with a lower note and then ascend to a higher pitch, you can communicate that you’re displeased with your furry friend’s behavior.
Incorporate Hard Consonants and End with Vowel Sounds
Another useful tidbit is that names including a hard consonant such as «c» or «k» help dogs clearly recognize their name amid surrounding sounds, according to The New York Times. Names with consonants, such as «Lucky» or «Charlie,» make sharp sounds that pups easily understand.
Along with including consonant sounds, long vowel sounds («ay» or «ee») at the end of the name further help grab your dog’s attention. These words change tone when you pronounce them. «Lucky» and «Charlie» are applicable here as well; some more names that end with long vowel sounds include «Bailey» and «Dixie.»
Find A Name That Stands Out!
It should be clear that your pup’s name is, well, your pup’s name! This means ruling out any name your dog may confuse with other phrases they often hear. Below we have listed some instances to consider.
Names Similar to Commands
Steer clear of names that sound similar to obedience commands, as this may complicate training your dog. If you name your pup «Shay,» they may get thrown off when trying to learn the «stay» command. Especially avoid names that sound like commands with a negative connotation; for example, the name «Mo» may be too close to «No.» Your dog should have a positive association with their name, and it should be unrelated to when you are displeased with them.
Names Similar to Other Household Pets
Consider the other pets in your home when deciding on the new pup’s name as well. If you have a cat named «Grover,» think twice about naming your pooch «Rover.» Names starting with the same letters and sounds may be difficult for dogs to differentiate, too, such as if you have one pup named «Darcy» and another named «Daisy.»
Kickstart Your Name Brainstorm
We covered the science of how to pick a dog name, but we can’t forget about creativity! Sometimes, the best names come when you least expect it. Here are some ideas to get you thinking about your dog’s potential namesake:
A street you lived on
- A fictional television character
- A member of a famous duo (to complement another pet!)
- A historical figure
- A food or drink you love
- A city or country you have traveled to
- A personality trait your pooch possesses
- A classic or popular name
- A sports team
- A zodiac sign
Put the Name to the Test
Once you have some name options, try calling them out in a variety of tones. This way, you can determine if they are easy to repeat without stumbling. If you already welcomed home your furry friend, test out the name with them, too. Do they perk their ears or wag their tail when you say «Lucy»? If so, this is likely a great contender and means they will respond to it during training!
No matter which best puppy name you decide on, it’s most important that you, your family members, and your pup all love it. You will be calling your dog by this and sharing the story of how they received their name for years to come!
Now that you have your dog’s name taken care of, check out our ultimate new puppy checklist to stock up on essential items for your new best friend.
Each of My Pets Has Multiple Nicknames, and What Can I Say? I Just Can’t Help It!
As someone who fancies themselves to be a full-blown pet-lover, I never found it strange that over the years I’ve always had multiple names for each of my pets. Sometimes they do something funny or just have a particular disposition that lends itself to a brand-new nickname. Although harmless to the animal — aside from maybe confusing them a bit initially — referring to my cats and dogs by various monikers certainly raises some eyebrows, not to mention baffles the hell out of people. But alas, I love my collection of nicknames for my animals, and I won’t be sticking to one name per pet anytime soon.
Growing up in a rural New Jersey town, having multiple pets was just a part of life. There was always a gaggle of cats slinking around our house and at least one dog nabbing treats from the mailman. And because these were childhood family pets, they were always christened with a name I usually didn’t approve of. My Golden Retriever, for example, was initially named Rafter — after the famous tennis player Pat Rafter — but I later changed it to Big Boy, because he was actually a large dope and it just plain suited him.
When I moved out and claimed five cats off the street as my own, I assumed that because I was in control of their names, they’d actually stick. Boy was I wrong. It all started with my cat Big Momma, a particularly skeletal orange kitty I found in college who my roommates initially wanted to name Whiskey Cat. Because of the color of her fur, I initially thought she was male, as most orange cats are due to genetics. It wasn’t until she led me to her brand-new litter of kittens that I realized the Whiskey Cat wasn’t exactly a fitting name for a breastfeeding mom, so she became Big Momma. Today she oscillates between Big Momma and Queen Beauty, rules the roost in my home, and refuses to leave my husband alone for more than five minutes.
As for my other four cats? They’ve rotated and cycled through a handful of names each, and rarely ever go by what I’d originally named them. My oldest male — Big Momma’s son — was initially named George, after the royal baby. But as I got to know him, I realized he wasn’t a George at all. Given his happy-go-lucky nature, he earned the nickname Moonbeam, and because he’s my only cat with a jingle collar — he prances around in it! — Mr. Jingles felt like a natural fit. And his nickname of Bebe? Well, he’s just a clingy little baby who has a habit of waiting outside the shower for me.
The same goes for his sister, whom I called Bella at the beginning of her life because she’s a beautiful Calico. While she’s still a gorgeous feline, I spent most of one Fall college semester waking up every three hours to feed her out of the bottle. She had a tongue infection that wouldn’t allow her to nurse properly, and given the fact that she was as close to a human baby as I’ve ever gotten, I changed her name to Baby Girl. It stuck for a few years.
Like people, their personalities grow and change, and sometimes that means their names change, too.
My other two cats went through the same growing pains, mostly because I mixed up their sexes when I first adopted them. It wasn’t until Minnie — now Little Mister Minnie — grew to full-on chonk size after a few months that I realized he was, indeed, a male. His sister goes by the name Mrs. Butterworth (previously Gandalf, and sometimes Mrs. B for short) because she’s an old soul with big eyes and the cutest meow.
My humungous Black Lab, Yogi, is the only one who has just two names, mostly because my husband had him long before we met. However, given his tendency to sit by the window and sulk when his dad leaves for work, I sometimes refer to him as Weeping Rino. Honestly, just play a little Sarah McLachlan in the background and you’ll have a great backdrop for an angsty ’90s music video.
Though I’m aware that having multiple names for my pets can make it confusing for friends and the occasional pet sitter, I truly feel the more nicknames you have for your pets, the more you love them. Like people, their personalities grow and change, and sometimes that means their names change, too. Am I in trouble when it comes to naming my first human baby? Most definitely. But I have a feeling my child will want to shake any embarrassing nicknames once he or she hits grade school, so I might not have a choice!