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Tips for Naming Your New Puppy

Updated: Feb 13


What's more exciting than adding a puppy to your family? Bringing home a new pup is as good as it gets. 

Amid the excitement, you'll have to make one momentous decision: choosing a name.  

Naming a pet is fun--but while there's nothing wrong with choosing a name that's a little bit silly, you should also be practical and thoughtful. The name you choose should be one you'll be using every day, for a lifetime. 

Selecting a great name makes training easier and helps your dog settle into the family. Before picking a name, consider these tried and true tips. 

Pick a Name That Ends in a Vowel 

Generally speaking, dogs have a stronger sense of hearing than humans do. They can hear noises that are further away and they can hear sounds at higher frequencies (thus the existence of "dog whistles" that emit sounds in the ultrasonic range, undetectable by human ears). 

While canine ears have no trouble hearing us, comprehending our words is a different matter. Dogs are often said to "understand" between 50 and a few hundred words. However, that range might be more accurately thought of as the number of verbal sounds that they recognize. 

Research (and lots of anecdotal evidence) suggests that dogs have a bias for vowels. 

A study from the University of Maryland investigated this idea by playing recordings of dogs' names to them--with either the consonants or the vowels mispronounced. The pooches didn't mind too much when the consonants were altered but showed less recognition when the vowels were changed. In other words, the vowel sounds are the parts of names that dogs self-associate with. 

To capitalize on this knowledge, you can help your dog understand his or her name by using strong vowel sounds, especially at the end of the name. When the name ends in a vowel, that sound can be elongated and emphasized in a way that your pet will learn to recognize. 

Pet insurance company Nationwide tracks the most popular names for dogs in the US. Here are the top 10 for female dog names, showing that pet owners are on board with vowel sound name endings: 

• Bella 

• Lucy 

• Daisy 

• Molly 

• Maggie 

• Lola 

• Sophie 

• Chloe 

• Sadie 

• Bailey 

Each of the top 10 female dog names abides by the vowel-ending rule. Most commonly, a long E sound is the preferred ending.  

To see how natural these names sound when calling out to your dog, say a few of them out loud. The concluding vowel sounds are easy to stretch out, unlike hard consonants that form an abrupt stop when spoken aloud. 

Limit the Name Length to Two Syllables 

Along with a vowel sound ending, the best dog names consist of two syllables. Two-syllable words are easy to say, and you're more likely to say them the same way every time. Longer names are harder for dogs to recognize. 

A nice two-syllable name goes consonant/vowel/consonant/vowel. For example, CHAR-LIE or LU-CY. These names have two elongated vowel sounds. That's an ideal sequence for a sound that a dog can easily learn to recognize. 

Let's see how well the top 10 most popular male dog names stick to this guideline: 

• Charlie 

• Cooper 

• Max 

• Milo 

• Oliver  

• Buddy 

• Rocky 

• Teddy 

• Bently 

• Tucker 

Eight of the top 10 have two syllables, one has one syllable, and one has three. Meanwhile, male dog owners are a bit less in tune with the vowel sound endings, with Cooper, Max, Oliver, and Tucker all straying from that suggestion. 

Names like Charlie, Milo, Buddy, and Rocky are all excellent choices for names that a dog will quickly learn to recognize. 

Additional Considerations For Dog Naming 

Here are a few more tips for choosing a great dog name: 

• Avoid names that could be confused with common commands (e.g. "Moe" and "no"). 

• Avoid names that are extra silly or vulgar--remember, you'll be saying this name in public, and might need to shout it out through the neighborhood if your pup slips out of a leash. 

• Pick a name that you can use as-is. While people often have full and shortened versions of their names (Katherine/Katie), your dog will fare best with a single version that's used consistently.  

Dogs recognize their names. A name may not be attached to a sense of self, but it definitely functions as a cue. Dogs hear their name and know that they're being addressed. 

Thoughtfully choosing a name that your dog can easily recognize provides a great boost to training, helping your new pet to quickly feel like part of the family. 

This article was written by Kelly J Miller for Top Gun Dog Training.

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