Can You Change a Dog's Name?

Adrienne Farricelli

Whether you can change a dog's name is something that owners of newly rescued dogs may be wondering about.

If you're wondering whether you can change a dog's name most likely you just rescued a dog and you are not very happy of his name. No worries! You don't need to be stuck with ugly dog names such as Squiggly Dog, Sir Wiggle Butt or Mr. Snausage. All it takes to change your dog's name is a little bit of patience and the right strategy. Yes, because it takes a specific method to help your dog drop his old name and respond to his new one.

Keep it Short and Simple

If you haven't picked yet a new name, you are still in time to make a good decision you won't regret later. Skip as much as possible long names which, by the time you finish saying, your dog has already left the scene and is long going, going, gone. Sure, show dogs boast some particular long and fancy names, but not many people know that those names are just for show.

For instance, the 2019 Best in Show American Kennel Club winner was a Pekingese going b the name of " GCH CH Pequest Wasabi ." The GCH stands for "Grand Champion " while CH stands for "champion. Breeders and seasoned exhibitors are very familiar with such long and fancy names. Indeed, the practice is not frowned upon, the American Kennel Club allows registration of names up to a maximum of 36 characters long, but if owners need more (for a $10 fee), they are authorized to use up to 50!

As one may imagine, it would be quite unrealistic to call a dog using such a long name. That' s where what is known as a "call name," or a working name, comes to play. A call name is simply a shorter version of the dog's name that dog owners can use to call their dogs in informal settings such as when the dog is home.

Moral of the story: If you want a dog who easily and promptly responds to its name, keep it simple and short, ideally no longer than two syllables. With two syllable names, the first syllable allow you to alert your dog triggering an orienting response, while the second one gets him running in your direction. Sort of like you noticing a red traffic light which triggers you to put pressure on the brake pedal.

Choose Sharp-Sounding Consonants

When it comes to picking a good name, think about it from your dog's perspective rather than yours. To leave an impact on your dog and be an attention grabber, look for names that contain sharp-sounding consonants such as the letters P, K, and D. According to Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist Patricia McConnell, these consonants work well because their sounds create more energy.

How to Change a Dog's Name in 3 Steps

So you just got a new dog from the shelter and you want to change his name because it's too long or perhaps it's just embarrassing, how do you proceed? Well, the process is rather easy. Just stick to this procedure if your new dog responds well to his old name. If he doesn't respond to his old name move on to the next paragraphs.

  1. In a quiet room with little distractions, call your dog using his usual name and toss him a treat.
  2. When he wanders away, rinse and repeat. Do this several times, then in the midst of these reps, be ready to add the new name to his current one. Basically, simply pronounce his new name immediately followed by the current one. Your dog may initially hesitate a bit when you pronounce his new name, but upon hearing the old one you wish to replace, he should act interested. When he does, again, toss him a treat. Repeat several times.
  3. Start to fade the old name by saying it in a lower tone of voice until it's barely perceptible. Finally, just say the new name dropping the old name completely and following up with a jackpot of treats when your dog responds (toss several treats at once).

If your dog doesn't respond to his old name, you have nothing to lose, just start fresh creating positive associations with his new name. You want to make great things happen as soon as your dog hears his name until it becomes music to his ears. Here are some tips.

  • Use Food as an Incentive: work in a quiet area with little distractions and start pronouncing your dog's new name. Every time you say the new name, toss a treat on the floor. Then wait for your dog to wander away a bit, say his name again, and the moment he turns around toss a treat. Repeat several times.
  • Use it for your dog's meals. Have a helper hold your dog on leash and let him watch you from a distance as you prepare his food bowl. Once ready, place the food bowl behind your back, call your dog (have the helper drop the leash) and provide him the food bowl.
  • Use it for life rewards: life rewards are all the things your dog loves naturally , such as going for a car ride, going on a walk, or just heading out in the yard for some sniffing or play. Make sure that you provide access to these great situations immediately when he comes to you, so that the association is clear.