Feedback is always let me know whatchya' think. Leave a comment!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

How Did You Choose Your Puppy's Name?

"L-Sqared" is a talented photographer and blogger with two Physics degrees, who also happens to be vision impaired.  "L-Squared" lives with her now-retired guide dog, Willow, while waiting for a successor from Guide Dogs of America.  (Check out her blog:  "Dog's Eye View.")

I've been thinking a lot about a comment "L-Squared" made on my post from Monday, about guide dogs having "human" names.  She brings up a valid point, one that us puppy-raisers should keep in mind when we name our puppies.

Here is her comment:
This is actually a really good example of why people shouldn't give dogs (especially future working dogs) common people names.  It can be very confusing and distracting for both dog and owner/handler (or other people who share the name).  In fact, I know several guide-dogs that ended up being renamed, because it was just too confusing for everyone involved-usually because a friend or family member had the same or a similar name as the dog.  A lot of guide-dog programs used to actively discourage raisers from giving their pups common human first names, but apparently (judging by all the puppy-raiser blogs I read) a lot of them don't bother to do so anymore.

When my husband, Andy, and I picked up our second Future Leader Dog puppy from Leader Dogs for the Blind last November, we were asked what name we chose so it could be recorded on our contract.  Andy answered, "Mike."  (Andy had originally agreed to  my raising a puppy for Leader Dogs if HE could name the puppy.  He selected "Mike," because, in his words, "It just came to me; it reminds me of a good friend.")  This name was dutifully recorded.

As far as I can remember, the only recommendation for naming our puppy was that some trainers prefer using "a two-syllable word with a hard consonant," and to "avoid names that sound like commands."  We never gave much thought to potential issues arising from a "human" name.

After hearing FLD Mike's name, someone from Leader Dogs casually remarked to us, "We had a dog name 'Bob' that ended up being issued to a handler named 'Bob,' so we changed the dog's name."  I know of at least one other instance that a dog's name was changed, to no ill effect.

I haven't done much research on the drawbacks of changing a dog's name, but it seems that most dogs are adaptable and would soon get used to a new name, especially if the new name comes with a new "owner."  Perhaps this is why "human" names are not discouraged.

All of this led to a discussion between Andy and myself today, on our drive home from a few relaxing days in northern Michigan.  I had told him about "L-Squared's" comment.  We talked about how other puppy raisers have selected names--some chose names with a common "theme," such as names that all start with the same letter, or names from Greek mythology, or from favorite books.

Would you consider not using a human's name for our next puppy?  I asked him.  Being the kind and sensitive guy that he is, I knew he would consider this request thoughtfully.

"What?!  I can name it anything I want!"  He blurted out.  "Although," he added, with a sidelong wink, "I am open to negotiations."

I won't go into any more detail about the rest of our conversation due to its "x-rated" nature; suffice to say that our next Future Leader dog will most probably not have a "human" name.

A question now, to all of you reading this post:


Whether or not you are raising a Future Leader Dog, or just have a pet dog, I am truly interested!


  1. I wish we could name our own dogs, but we have sponsers who pay $6,000 to name our pups. So far so good I have had a Jake (we also had a friend named Jake, though we never called him that), Rei, Midnight and now Pompei. SO far so good!
    Though with other organizations I have had my share of "human" names such as: Tim, Ben,Hope, Ira,Daniel, Victoria (Veda, Gideon and Eden were the closest too "non-human" names I had out of that school) though we haven't had too much problem with them not knowing who we were talking too. :))

  2. Haha... I didn't mean to stir up trouble! ;-)

    My recommendations for guide dog naming are thus: no common human names (like Jack, Sam, John, Sara, Anne, Julie, etc); no "cutesy" names (like Muffin, Popcorn, Barefoot or Buddy); and of course, no complicated to spell or pronounce names.

    I agree with the two syllable name recommendation too. I've been told it has a lot to do with voice inflection (which is something that was emphasized quite a bit when I was in training with Willow at LDB). One syllable names tend to sound more like commands, whereas two syllable names are naturally easier to give a more positive inflection. I know of several pups right now that have 3 or more syllable names, which to me seems excessively long for a dog.

    With that said, if there is a human name you would really love to give a dog, by all means go for it! Everyone has their own opinions when it comes to names. You can't please everyone all the time. And like you said, it's not terribly difficult to change a dog's name if it ends up being necessary to do so.

    I sort of went against my non-human name preference when I named my (former) pet dog, but at that time Stella was no longer a common name at all. I chose it specifically because it was old-fashioned (and thus not commonly used anymore), and because it means "star" in Latin and Italian. Over the last six years though Stella has become very popular again - I can't tell you how many people and dogs I've heard of with that name now.

    Willow's raiser was one of those that had a system for naming her Leader Dog pups. She sort of went with a reverse alphabetical theme: She had Sandi, Zosha, Yukon, Xana(x), Willow, Comet (who was a finishing dog, so she didn't choose his name), Vonnie, Uta, and Tilly. Most of those were unique enough to not be used by others too often while at the same time not so unusual that they were awkward to say.

  3. P.S. The Word Verification thing on your blog is not at all blind-user friendly. Please read THIS post about it, and consider removing that feature - it is really unnecessary since you already moderate your comments.

  4. L-Squared: Thanks for keying me into the "word verification" on comments...I am so new to blogging that I wasn't even aware it was "on" here--so, hopefully it is now "off!"

    And good for you to get a conversation going about names! I like your ideas about uncomplicated spelling and pronunciations.

    Erin: I'm sorry you aren't able to name your puppy, but it is an interesting fund-raising idea to "sell" the right to name them!

    Thank you both for commenting!

  5. Here is some help to choose some puppy name:
    Choose a puppy name