When we decided to adopt a puppy, we spent hours reviewing possible names. But we almost made the wrong choice.
What would have happened if we had named Honey Stella instead?
Choosing A Dog’s Name
When it comes to naming my dog, I’m tempted by sly references and word play.
No surprises, right? After all, I did name my blog Something Wagging This Way Comes (English majors get it right away).
You know those weird dog names you hear when you watch a dog show? Well they use the breeder’s last name followed by some string of silliness.
If we bred dogs, you might see a dog named “Webster’s Dances For Cookies.” Or “Webster’s Farts On The Couch.”
The dog’s “call name” is what her family calls her around the house.
Honey’s breeders have a last name related to art.
So I thought it would be clever to give our new pup a name with an art reference and I had just the thing: “[Breeder’s Name] Starry Nights.” And her call name would be “Stella” from the Latin word for star.
Except for one thing. It didn’t suit the dog we were getting.
Fit The Dog To The Name
I love the name Stella.
But it feels a little larger than life.
We had a choice of two dogs in Honey’s litter.
The breeder suggested we take the quieter, more mellow of the two pups. And with some reluctance I agreed with her advice (smartest thing I ever did).
And this quiet, sweet, tiny girl was no Stella.
What to call our new pup? And could my husband and I agree on a name before we were due to pick her up in two weeks?
For some reason we liked food names: Sugar, Peaches, Salami (just kidding about that last one).
It didn’t take long for us to come up with Honey.
Honey is registered with the AKC as [Breeder’s Name] Life’s Sweet Moments.
But to us, she’s our own sweet Honey.
How To Name A Dog
When I was in high school, I worked in an auto parts store.
One of the regulars used to come in and put his dachshund (always wearing a leather biker’s vest) on the counter to say hello to me.
The doxie’s name was “Killer.”
Even then I wondered why this customer named his dog ironically. And what it meant for their relationship (yeah, I was a weird kid who really did think about those things; explains why I wasn’t more popular, right?)
If I were the head of the dog naming bureau, I’d suggest people think about a few things before naming their dogs.
Names are attention-getters.
I keep reminding my husband that “Honey” does not mean “come.” It means “pay attention, I’m going to tell you something important.”
If the name you choose for your dog is too long or hard to say, will your dog ever learn his name?
And you’d be amazed to realize how few dogs know their names. The next time you meet a stranger with a dog, try using the dog’s name and see if he looks at you. I bet that most of the time you’ll get nothing.
Oh, and two-syllable names are easiest to call out.
Dogs can confuse names and words.
Never name your dog something that sounds like another cue you frequently use. You’ll just confuse your poor pup.
Name your dog “Pitt” and then asking him to sit is just begging for confusion.
Names affect how other people treat your dog.
Everybody laughed to see the dachshund named Killer.
Name your pit mix that and you’re likely to see even more moms dragging their kids to the other side of the street.
Yes, it’s unfair that some types of dogs are maligned without any regard for their temperament or training. But it’s a fact of life.
And if you want people to learn how affectionate pitties are, don’t name yours Spike or Fang. Or Killer.
And if you want your search and rescue poodle to be taken seriously, don’t name her Fifi or Misses Fluffy.
Names say something about your relationship.
If you name your dog ironically, are you creating distance? Will naming your dog something baby-like make it harder for you to treat him like an adult?
And if you name your dog something ridiculous or jokey, will it make you less likely to use her name in public?
In the end, we have dogs to share relationships with creatures different from (and yet remarkably similar to) ourselves.
I guess the best name we can choose for our dogs are the ones that foster the best relationships.
Honey is a Honey
When a stranger asks me my dog’s name and I tell them she’s “Honey,” they’ll often reply, “Of course, what a perfect name.”
It really suits her.
Yes, she’s honey colored. And she’s very sweet.
But she’s also natural and never spoiled (did you know honey never goes bad?).
So I think we made the right choice in naming her Honey instead of Stella.
Especially since I’d have had to divorce my husband after his third bad Marlon Brando impression.
Yep, good decision.
Your Turn: How do you choose names for your pets? Is it important to you that the name suit your dog’s personality?