Should you rename your newly-adopted dog if you don’t like his or her name?
Let’s face it: some names just don’t roll off our tongues with ease. Other names bring up unpleasant memories of previous connections. And some names just don’t seem a good fit for your newest family member.
In all our years of adopting cats and dogs, we’ve only kept the shelter name for one of our pets. Yoda, a Terrier mix, came to us with his name that seemed just right for the wise and spritely little fellow that he was.
In every other case, however, we’ve changed our pet’s shelter name. Irie was originally known as Abby. Tiki was Doris. Barli was Baby Bear.
Our cats have also had a name switcheroo: Inca was originally Snitch, Lucky was Tuxie, Ochi was Gummy Bear, Jetty was Sunday. None of the names fit the personalities that we were discovering in the early days after their adoption.
Should you change your dog’s shelter name? In many cases, it’s really a non-issue because often the dogs don’t really know their shelter names. Irie and Tiki didn’t react at all when we called them by their shelter monikers. Like all our other dogs and cats, both Irie and Tiki were previous strays so they had no attachment to their newly-given shelter names. Barli had the longest shelter stay (three months) of any of our dogs but he, too, didn’t react when we called his shelter name. (Shelter names are used for recordkeeping and to promote the pet on the shelter’s website, Petfinder, Adopt-a-Pet, and more.)
There are two notable exceptions: dogs who were living in a foster home situation and dogs who were surrendered by previous owners will know their names so changing the name will be trickier–but definitely not impossible.
A new name can signal a new start–sometimes a good decision for your pet’s happiness and for the success of future training. If your new dog or cat came from an abusive situation, that name may be tied to memories of bad times. In that case, it’s always better to rename.
Or your decision to change your pet’s assigned name may be based solely on your own personal likes and dislikes. (Who wants a dog that shares a name with an ex? Or that boss you couldn’t tolerate?) That’s OK, too.
If your dog knows his previous name and you’d like to change it, you’ll want to gradually fade out the old name and introduce the new name. There are two easy tricks for making the transition:
Use a Double Name for a While
Try a double name while your dog makes the transition. If your dog was named Tommy and you want to name him Jake, he can become Tommy Jake. After a period of using both names, just start calling your dog Jake.
Rename with a Rhyming Name
Another solution is to choose a new name that rhymes with the old name. Jerry can become Harry, Bella came become Nella. It’s super easy…yes, easy peasy…to change your dog’s name this way.
Be sure to associate your dog’s new name with lots of praise and joy (and some tasty training treats will help, too). Associating your dog’s new name with good things and happy times will help your new dog learn his new name and, most importantly, the place he holds in his new forever home.