Addicted to novelty since 2001

How To Name a Pet

In my life, I’ve had one dog, one cat, one turtle, many fish and a half-dozen hamsters. I only named the cat. The dog was older than me, the turtle belonged to a girlfriend and I didn’t grow attached enough to any of the fish. The hamsters weren’t with me for long, as they were part of a Science 7 experiment in the effects of music on hamsters. I had the easy listening hamsters, so they were Simon and Garfunkel.

I was probably about 11 when I named my cat Muggles. Not, of course, after the Harry Potter books (which hadn’t yet been conceived, presumably, in a young Englishwoman’s mind), but after the lead character in The Gammage Cup (some discussion of the name). As a name for a cat, you could do better, you could do worse. I stand by my 11-year=old self.

Now Bree’s seeking feedback on her forthcoming miniature schnauzer puppy. I don’t know much about naming pets, but here’s what I think:

  • Avoid common human names. Not only does this confuse similarly-named humans when you’re out and about, but a dog’s not a human, is it?
  • Avoid one-syllable names. Dogs apparently can hear their names better when they can include pitch changes.
  • Embrace humour. Pets are fun, and their names should be fun too. A little irony can’t hurt.
  • Consider naming your pet after a thing, like Spatula or Breadstick.

Of Bree’s suggested names, my favourites are Ludwig and Ajax. Coincidentally, our family dog was a miniature schnauzer. My parents named him General, which suited his haughty manner.

18 Responses to “How To Name a Pet”

  1. bree

    Thanks Darren. We’ll wait to decide until we get to see more of his personality, but it’s good to get some feedback.

    Hmmm … maybe Bearfoot?

    Kidding. Mostly.

  2. gillian

    I’ve been told that if you give a pet a human name, it means you see it as a “person”. And if you give a pet an object name (Spatula? Come on, that’s just cruel), it means you see the pet as an object that you own.

  3. jd

    there is no need to sweat too much about deciding on a name. i think that people tend to give the dog one name and then call it by a bunch of others.

    my dog’s name is hunter (hunt for short) but i usually call him doomer. i have no idea why i call him that. it just seems to fit some of the time.

    he has this strange thing with his head where he’ll knock it against my wife’s lower jaw by accident when they’re watching tv together, she’ll be on the floor nearly blacked out, and he’ll be walking around like nothing happened. at those times, i call him cannonball. the wife, once her eyes focus again, has other names for him.

  4. Jordan

    After I got my way-too-clever polydactyl cat Smokey from a woman in Halifax who was about to be evicted if she didn’t start getting rid of some pets (either that or the kids), I seriously thought about giving him a more original name. Some cool literary or historical reference, perhaps.

    Then we moved to Malaysia, where there aren’t too many Smokeys. Now we’re in China, where there probably aren’t any Smokeys at all except mine. Suddenly Smokey is a unique name.

    My advice, then: Bree should name her dog Fido or Spot and move to China.

    Just kidding. Any name will do. Then again, how many Fidos or Spots are there these days? Or Sparky, or…OK, I’ll shut up now.

  5. Ianiv

    My uncle (in Argentina) used to have a dog named “Cual?” which is Spanish for “Wich one?”

    -What’s your dog’s name?
    -Which one?
    -That one right there!
    -Which one?

  6. jd

    that last post reminded me of this girl i saw in a park with a dog named “go-yang-ee,” which is the korean word for cat.

    odd that she would go to the trouble, because most koreans give their dogs the same name, mari.

    it sounds a bit like the name mary, which is why my wife refuses to give the name to any of our future daughters.

    my uncle claims to have had a roommate with a cat named groin. the whole reason was because this guy’s mother was this nice Italian woman who spoke almost no english. he would hide the cat in the closet, tell his mom the cat was missing and send her out into the neighborhood, telling her to shout its name so it would come home.

  7. Mark

    Our dog’s name is Elvis, after the singer, not the figure skater.

    We got him from the pound. He wiggle so much that he reminded us of Elvis dancing the next day my wife tried it and he responded.
    One friend said that if we sit with the animal for a while and ask it what its name is the animal will then tell you.
    I have not tried it but they swore by it.

  8. bree

    So far, the dog seems to like Siegfried and Wagner best. We’ve tried calling him by other names, including Sigmund (my preferred ‘Sig’ name) but no response. For now we’re alternating, seeing what seems most natural.

    We like Ajax, but it just doesn’t suit him well enough. Ludwig doesn’t seem right for him either, now that he’s in here with us.

  9. Natasha

    My cat came to me because a friend had heard that the cat’s original owner was going to get rid of it, by any means necessary! So, of course, I took it. We discovered that there was something wrong with her, but we didn’t know if it was mild retardation, or a problem with her eyesight. After experimenting with flicking the lights on and off, and waving hands in front of her face, we figured it was her eyes. The vet later confirmed this. After a few weeks of hiding under the couch, and only coming out for the occasional food, she got used to things and started moving around more, slightly more confident with herself. NOW, 2.5 years later, she runs willy-nilly down corridors, around corners, frequently bashing her head on things along the way. I wonder if this acconts for her recently discovered epileptic seizures? – Anyway, her name! The day I got her, we sat around throwing stupid names around. I can’t remember any of the rejected ones, but I decided that Alfalfa sounded just silly and cute enough for her. She know her name now, and responds to it…. usually running into a chair or door along her way!

  10. marlo

    my dog’s name is asker. a la:

    person: “what’s your dog’s name?”

    me: “asker.”

    person to dog: “what’s your name?”

  11. five blue

    i like Taxi. it is the name of my oldest cat’s brother, but i think it would be even better for a dog, because dogs actually tend to be outside and can run away. then you’re on the sidewalk yelling “taxi! taxiiiiii!”. i like it.

  12. nur adilah

    Hi!I don even know how 2 name a pet because i don know much about animals.There was once my father had a cat n he did not know how 2 name so i said “hey daddy lets name him cubby?”He said no lah i dowan 2 name him juz call him nameless ok!!”N now im having a turtle wat shoudl i name him n her??? PLZ HELP ME!!!!

  13. dog

    This is a great post, I really am enjoying your blog. Just thought I should say you’re doing a great job.

  14. jay

    hey you shud name yur turtle soup get it turtle soup so you can say to your friedns i hae a turlte named soup i know corny joke but anyways im gettin a pigeon wut shud i name him im kinda stuck

  15. Ashely

    I think that he was right and wrong! So I don’t blame him, because we all make mistakes and non of us are perfect in this world. The pet names are important and they can’t be made fun of at all. They have to be the right ones. I mean you got to admit there are a lot of choices, and they are so unique. We all have different taste in things, like pet names….. Thanks for keeping us posted!!!

  16. jenn

    actually, my cat’s name IS breadstick. he’s a great little guy and doesn’t mind being named after an object at all.

    he was born with a 3/4-length tail, about the length of a breadstick.

    :)

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