The Science Behind Choosing the Best Puppy Name
There is plenty to plan for when bringing home a new pup—from learning how to puppy-proof your home to finding them a cozy bed. And one of the most fun aspects of welcoming a new furry family member is giving them a name! There are various avenues you can take when naming a puppy, such as opting for a classic like “Buddy,” or honoring your favorite breakfast food (we like the sound of “Waffles”).
Showing off your creativity isn’t the only way to name your pup. There is also science on how to pick a dog name they likely will respond to…and that you’ll love! Whether you just brought home your dog or are awaiting their arrival, we have some helpful guidelines for choosing the best puppy name.
Follow the Rules of Furry Phonetics
The most important factor when deciding on a dog name is considering your furry friend’s ability to identify it. Guidelines related to phonetics—the study of how sounds are made and perceived— will help give your best friend a name they will recognize.
Use One or Two Syllables
One-syllable names are a win-win: they’re easy for your puppy to comprehend—and for you to say! These types of names, such as “Rex” or “Bear,” have short and choppy sounds, which make dogs respond quickly, according to Rover.
Names with two syllables are ideal as well. Dogs’ hearing is about four times more sensitive than ours, according to Psychology Today. Therefore, because two-syllable names create a change in pitch frequency when said, they capture a pup’s attention. Plus, two-syllable names allow for emphasis, which helps display emotion. For instance, when saying, “Luna,” you can say “Lun” with a higher pitch than “a,” to convey affection. If you start with a lower note and then ascend to a higher pitch, you can communicate that you’re displeased with your furry friend’s behavior.
Incorporate Hard Consonants and End with Vowel Sounds
Another useful tidbit is that names including a hard consonant such as “c” or “k” help dogs clearly recognize their name amid surrounding sounds, according to The New York Times. Names with consonants, such as “Lucky” or “Charlie,” make sharp sounds that pups easily understand.
Along with including consonant sounds, long vowel sounds (“ay” or “ee”) at the end of the name further help grab your dog’s attention. These words change tone when you pronounce them. “Lucky” and “Charlie” are applicable here as well; some more names that end with long vowel sounds include “Bailey” and “Dixie.”
Find A Name That Stands Out!
It should be clear that your pup’s name is, well, your pup’s name! This means ruling out any name your dog may confuse with other phrases they often hear. Below we have listed some instances to consider.
Names Similar to Commands
Steer clear of names that sound similar to obedience commands, as this may complicate training your dog. If you name your pup “Shay,” they may get thrown off when trying to learn the “stay” command. Especially avoid names that sound like commands with a negative connotation; for example, the name “Mo” may be too close to “No.” Your dog should have a positive association with their name, and it should be unrelated to when you are displeased with them.
Names Similar to Other Household Pets
Consider the other pets in your home when deciding on the new pup’s name as well. If you have a cat named “Grover,” think twice about naming your pooch “Rover.” Names starting with the same letters and sounds may be difficult for dogs to differentiate, too, such as if you have one pup named “Darcy” and another named “Daisy.”
Kickstart Your Name Brainstorm
We covered the science of how to pick a dog name, but we can’t forget about creativity! Sometimes, the best names come when you least expect it. Here are some ideas to get you thinking about your dog’s potential namesake:
A street you lived on
- A fictional television character
- A member of a famous duo (to complement another pet!)
- A historical figure
- A food or drink you love
- A city or country you have traveled to
- A personality trait your pooch possesses
- A classic or popular name
- A sports team
- A zodiac sign
Put the Name to the Test
Once you have some name options, try calling them out in a variety of tones. This way, you can determine if they are easy to repeat without stumbling. If you already welcomed home your furry friend, test out the name with them, too. Do they perk their ears or wag their tail when you say “Lucy”? If so, this is likely a great contender and means they will respond to it during training!
No matter which best puppy name you decide on, it’s most important that you, your family members, and your pup all love it. You will be calling your dog by this and sharing the story of how they received their name for years to come!
Now that you have your dog’s name taken care of, check out our ultimate new puppy checklist to stock up on essential items for your new best friend.