Were you labeled as a child, the smart one, the pretty one, the drama queen, the trouble maker?  Labels hurt.  Even the ones that sound positive tend to put you in a slot.  After all, if you are the smart one, does that mean you can’t get attention for your good looks or your sense of humor?  And if you’re the pretty one, does that mean people will think you’re as dumb as a post? But you have to be human to be hurt by labels, don’t you?

You don’t.  Labels, in this case names, can hurt dogs, too, because they color how people see the dog.  Name your Doberman “Killer” and you’ll see what I mean.  I once had a Doberman in class named “Master.”  But I digress.  Naming a dog is a serious issue.  Perhaps the dog himself will not get the joke in a joke name.  Perhaps he doesn’t know the meaning of Killer or Bullet or Gangster or (shudder) Master.  But he will “get it” when you react to what you’ve named him.  He will get it when he reads what’s really behind his name.  So then what?  What if you name your dog Muffin or Lady or Lady Muffin?  Will a cute name hurt a cute dog?  Will you see your dog’s full potential despite a colorful name?

Like our own names, families sometimes choose to name a dog for a long ago canine (or sometimes human) relative, a name that brings with it good memories and a sense of being connected.  Others name dogs after favorite ball players, musicians, characters in fiction, names with an aura of talent, of achievement.  Some of us use human names, plain names like Jack or Sam or Lily, short names that are quick to say.  We use dog names, too, names that may reflect a personality trait or a quirky appearance, names, at best, that are easy for a dog to learn.

A dog should have a name that suits him, not a name that pigeonholes him.  A good name for a good dog requires lots of thought.  But sometimes, after you have chosen the perfect name for your perfect pup, your dog may disagree.  Some dogs prefer to choose their own names, and if you listen carefully, they will let you know what they’d like to be called.

I think I'll call him Buddy...

I think I’ll call him Buddy…