Choosing a name for your furry friend is an exciting responsibility–one that includes recognizing that some inappropriate dog names that might not be the best choice. Whether it’s because they’re overused, carry negative connotations or simply might cause confusion, let’s look at the worst dog names.
Names that Create Confusion in Training
Avoid any dog name that sounds like a command you intend to use–or you’ll just confuse your dog.
At a minimum, you’ll want your dog to learn these basic commands:
- Leave It
Now you could substitute other words for these commands, say them in a different language or just make up words as commands–your dog doesn’t care.
However, every vet tech, groomer, boarding tech and neighbor you run into throughout your dog’s life will attempt to use the commands–and, if they sound like your dog’s name, confusion will ensue.
Let’s look at each of these commands and names that you should avoid that sound just too similar:
- Mit (or Mitt)
- Whit (short for Whitney)
Down has a lot fewer names that rhyme or even sound like the command–but try to avoid these dog names:
- Brown or Brownie
- Clown or Clowny
- Frown or Frowny
- Town or Towny
“Come” is one of the most crucial commands your dog can learn so you definitely don’t want to create any confusion between your dog’s name and this command!
“Leave it”, a command to ensure your dog doesn’t scarf up that melted chocolate on the sidewalk, doesn’t rhyme with too many words but avoid these possibilities:
- Bevitt (a rare name, but it fits the rhyme)
Those are the basic commands but you’ll probably be adding these commands as well:
“Heel” is a common dog command used in training to instruct the dog to walk closely and attentively beside the handler. If you plan to use “heel” as a command, think twice before you choose one of these dog names:
“Settle” is a term often used in dog training to instruct a dog to calm down or lie down in a specific spot. Naming a dog with a word that rhymes with a common command might make training slightly more challenging, so you may want to avoid these names:
- Sital (a name of Indian origin meaning “cool”)
- Fletch (short for Fletcher)
- Gretchen (more of a stretch, but it has the “etch” sound)
“Drop it” is a common dog command, especially when playing fetch–and it sounds a bit too much like these names:
Inappropriate Dog Names that Might Offend Others
Names of people you know.
OK, some people will be happy to share their name with your dog–some will not. Besides the fact that it may offend the person, consider the confusion you will create when you call your dog or talk about your dog. Are you talking about the person or the dog? And what if your relationship with the person changes and suddenly that name is not on your list of faves?! Yes, you can change your dog’s name later in life but it’s a process.
Names that could be mistaken for profanity or a racial slur.
You do NOT want to be shouting your dog’s name across the neighborhood and have someone misunderstand and think you are saying something else. Before you settle on a name, say it out loud–loudly. Could it be misunderstood and offend someone?
Also, if you have gotten creative and used a unique dog name, do some quick searches to make sure the name isn’t slang for something you really don’t want to be saying to every veterinarian and groomer. While you may not recognize the word as offensive slang, someone, sometime will!
Gross Pet Names.
If the name you are considering is–or sounds like–any bodily function, just move on. The rest of the world will not think gross pet names are cute.
Hershey was named in the pre-Internet days. Now I’d avoid trademarked words.
If you are considering becoming a pet influencer, you might want to avoid trademarked names. Yes, we’ve shared our home with a Hershey, a Yoda and a Pepsi through the years–but those names pre-dated our online activity. Now I’d avoid a trademarked term.
Overused Dog Names
Do you mind your dog having the same name as many other dogs? It may or may not make any difference to you.
Some names–Max, Charlie, Luna, Bella–consistently come up every year on the list of most popular dog names which means that many other dogs will share the same name.
Does that matter? It doesn’t matter to your dog but it can create confusion if you regularly board your dog–or even drop her off for grooming. And if you shout the name at the dog park, will half the dogs come running?
Other names–like Fido, Spot or D.O.G.–don’t turn up on the most popular list but they’re just plain overdone.
Names that Will Confuse Your Dog
Names that rhyme with the name of another dog in your household–or human members of your family–will confuse your dog.
If you have a dog named Gary and a human named Jerry or Larry, expect confusion every time you call out either name.
Names that Send the Wrong Message
While you may think it’s cute to name that eight-pound puppy Killer or Monster, what’s it going to be like when he’s 80 pounds–and you decide that you’d like to do therapy work with him? He may be the sweetest dog on earth but consider how people will react to the dog’s name the first time they hear it.
If the name causes them to freeze when they hear it, your dog will pick up on that body language and his reaction to the person will change. If you want to raise a dog who enjoys getting out in public with you, choose a name that doesn’t cause people to worry.
Dog Names that are Difficult to Learn
One syllable and two syllable names typically work best for dogs and are easy to learn. (The easiest names to learn are repetitive names like Coco or Gigi.)
Long, complex names or names with multiple syllables can be more difficult. For instance, “Maximiliano” or “Constantinople” could be harder for a dog to learn than “Max” or “Con.”
And dog names with multiple words really increase the difficulty factor so think twice about King Thunder Bolt or Sir Fluffy Paws unless you consider using a nickname (much like how show dogs have a registered name like Starlight’s Galactic Guardian and a call name (that is actually used in day-to-day life).
Names that have clear, hard consonants can be easier for dogs to distinguish. Soft-sounding names or names that blend into the surrounding environment’s ambient noise might be harder for them to pick up on. Here are some examples:
Names with Clear, Hard Consonants:
- Jack: The “J” and “ck” sounds are clear and distinct.
- Rex: The “R” and “x” provide strong consonant sounds.
- Toby: The “T” and “b” sounds stand out.
- Duke: The “D” and “k” sounds are very recognizable.
- Bark: Though a playful and perhaps too on-the-nose name, “B” and “rk” are distinct sounds.
Soft-sounding Names or Names that Blend More Easily:
- Mia: The soft “M” and the short “ia” sound might not be as easily distinguishable, especially if called in a higher pitch.
- Lia: Similarly, “L” is a softer sound, and combined with “ia,” it might not stand out as much.
- Sue: The soft “S” and “ue” sound could easily blend with ambient noise.
- Fae: The “F” sound, especially when softly spoken, might not grab a dog’s attention as effectively.
- Shea: The “Sh” sound can blend easily, especially in environments with rustling leaves or other soft noises.
Keep in mind, these are general guidelines, and individual dogs might have different levels of responsiveness based on various factors including training, hearing acuity, and owner-dog bond. Also, the way you say the name, with intonation and emphasis, can make a significant difference. For example, we recently named our puppy Isla (using the Spanish pronunciation ee-sla, not the Scottish eye-la). Those are soft sounds–but she had no trouble learning it or responding to it.
Naming faux pas aside, remember that whatever you choose, it will be the call you’ll be using multiple times a day, every day, for many years. Make sure it’s a name that you can live with and one that fits your dog’s personality and your family’s sensibilities. Whatever you choose, your dog will wag its tail just the same. Just choose wisely and with love!