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What’s in a Name? (Tips for Naming Pets)

While I think it is kind of fun to know the most common names (listed below) that people are naming their dogs and cats these days, illustrating these names was not my primary motivation for writing this article.  When it comes to naming dogs and cats, there are more effective and less effective methods to choose names for them, in terms of name recognition and response to their names.

Here is the list of the 10 most popular dog names:

10.) Buster
9.) Sam
8.) Rocky
7.) Bailey
6.) Charlie
5.) Cody
4.) Jack
3.) Buddy
2.) Jake
1.)  Max

Here is the list of the most popular cat names:

10,) Kitty
9.) Leo
8.) Jack
7.) Smokey
6.) Milo
5.) Charlie
4.) Simba
3.) Tiger
2.) Oliver
1.) Max

While canines and felines can seem so human like, we do not really actually know that they are aware that they are identified by the names we give them.  It could be perhaps that dogs and cats simply associate the sounds that we make in enunciating their names know that is our way of summoning them.  Since we cannot ask them, we will never really know.

Either way, what we do know is that both dogs and cats seem to learn their names and recognize them often very effectively.  However, how effectively they will respond to and recognize their names will vary depending on the name that is chosen.  You can maximize the effectiveness of pet names them by following some simple rules.

While we all like to have the freedom to choose whatever names we want for our pets whether because of personality traits, physical traits, or naming one after a favorite athlete, you can still have fun naming your pet yet make it so that he/she is minimally confused in recognizing it/responding to it.

– Pick 2 syllable words.  2 syllable words resonate better with the pet’s recognition by adding more uniqueness to the name.
– Dogs and cats tend to more readily recognize names that end with an “ee” sound.   From our lists of most popular dog and cat names, Smokey, Buddy, Bailey, Rocky would fit these criteria.
– Having a “ck” sound in the name seems to improve a pet’s recognition of its name as this sound is very recognizable to dogs and cats from a auditory strandpoint.  Thus a name like Smokey or Kitty would be good choices.
– Avoid choosing names that sound similarly to other pets or humans in the home.  For example, if you have a daughter in the home named “Hailey,” it would not be wise to name a pet “Kailey.”  I actually have friends that did this, and the confusion for both human child and dog cannot be overstated.
– Never scold a pet using its name.  Doing so could confuse the pet and make them fear their name.   Verbally scolding is best accomplished by catching the pet in the midst of the inappropriate act, clapping your hands and verbalizing a loud, “No!”

Naming a new pet is fun, and a big part of the joy of pet adoption.  It is an important decision that deserves a lot of thought, and one that should not be made in haste.  Whatever your method for choosing a name, always remember that it is best to follow the few simple rules outlined above to maximize the effectiveness and enjoyment of the name.

Dr. Roger Welton is the President of Maybeck Animal Hospital and CEO/Chief Editor of the veterinary information and blog online community, Web-DVM.

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