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Choosing Your Dog’s Name

By: Dennis Fetko, Ph.D., “Dr. Dog”

Because dog confusion is a major obstacle to training success, what you name your dog and how you use that name can determine your success in his training and behavior.

Dogs are vocal, not verbal. How words sound is important to them, so consider that then choosing names and commands. To your dog, the words "No," "Know," "Beau" and "Joe" are the same sound; the dog will have trouble knowing which you mean.

If you name him "Beau" and use "No!" as a reprimand, saying, "Beau, you know what I want!" reprimands him twice although you didn't intend a single one!

You always want your dog to come to you when you call him, so how much sense does it make to name your dog "Beau" and use "NO!" as your reprimand? He'll have trouble knowing whether you called him or yelled at him.

I like to have a dog choose his name.

There are two ways to do this. First, spend enough time with the dog to really get to know his personality and select a suitable name.

For example, when new to us my Husky-mix not only jumped on me, he pinned me to the wall and took stuff out of my shirt pocket! I said to my wife: "Look at this! I'm getting mugged!" Naturally, he became Mugger!

A client had a very rambunctious Great Dane pup and I love the name she chose: Chaos! Let the dog earn his name!

Another way is to make a list of your favorite names and--in a playful and animated voice--try them on the dog. The one to which the dog reacts best is IT! And he WILL react differently to different names! Try it!

Contrary to popular belief, a dog's name should change with every new owner.

The old thought was that once a dog recognized hits name, you couldn't or shouldn't change it. Wrong!

Since many owners make the mistake of using the name with a reprimand, or even AS the reprimand, if you keep the old name you tell the dog you're one of THEM--the former crew. If the dog is now yours, you can't presume former owners did everything right. If they did, you probably wouldn't have him.

And you're trying to tell the dog this is a new start in a new home, right? Then why use the old name--especially when it was likely used negatively in the past?

Be sure to teach the dog his new name by using it only with things the dog likes such as treats, praise, meals and love and affection. And don’t choose a new name that sounds a lot like the old one, like “Bo” and “Noah”.

Use the new name consistently and positively ONLY with things the dog likes and within a week or two he should respond nicely.

We changed the names of two of our dogs and now they ignore the old names.

The author, Dr. Dennis Fetko, “Dr. Dog” is a world-renowned animal behaviorist who has appeared on the 20/20 television show, managed the reintroduction of captive-bred Arabian Oryx into the Saudi Arabian National Wildlife Research Center, and made a presentation at the South American Veterinary Congress. His ebook, Dr. Dog’s FAST, EASY FUN Behavior Solutions, reveals his proven methods for eliminating barking, jumping, chewing, digging, pulling and his puppy housetraining methods. Click Here for more information.