Love the dog - hate the name!

New dog, new rescue dog, new puppy, dog behavior | Love the dog, hate the name? Here's how to give him a new name that you all love! | FREE EMAIL COURSE | #newrescuedog, #newpuppy, #dognames |

You’ve been visiting your new dog in the shelter for weeks. You’ve been longing for the moment when you can bring him home. And it’s today!

You’ve got everything prepared. Beds, food, toys, training classes booked … You’re ready to help this little dog forget his past and settle into your home as your pet. 

There’s only one snag … you hate his name. 

The good news - that’s ok: just change it!

You all need to love your new dog's name - especially him!

The name the dog came in to the shelter with could have a long history of association with bad things. It will constantly remind him of his previous owners (who were either neglectful, uncaring, incapable, dead, or positively nasty), and his ambivalent feelings about that word will be revealed in his response to it. Total lack of response, quite often. The name has become meaningless through being meaningless - or worse - perhaps it has become “poisoned” by always signifying a punishment of some kind. Would you respond to a name which meant “Get over here you bad dog”? I don’t think so!

We all have a history

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Some dogs come with no history (they always come with baggage though!) so the shelter staff give him a name. They are very busy and there are often many volunteers at a dogs’ home, so there’s no guarantee that his name was never barked out in frustration or as a telling-off by someone who didn’t realise what a huge effect this could have.

However good and kind the staff and carers were in the shelter; however enlightened and nurturing the system they had - there’s no doubt that a stay in a shelter is a very stressful experience for most dogs. 

So the best plan is to start from scratch.

Choose a name which you like, which represents the perfect dog to you, and which sounds quite different from his previous moniker. 

And be careful what you wish for! Do you really want your dog to be “Trouble”, or “Rumpus”, or “Chaos” …….. These names can become self-fulfilling prophecies - really not what you want! A softer, prettier, name coming out of your mouth will carry softer, gentler thoughts with it. 

I was once told by someone who worked at a shelter in a particularly bad area of her city, that all the dogs that came in were Staffies (NO! Don’t send me hate-mail: I don’t dislike Staffies! It’s just that a lot of people think they’ll fight and that’s why they want them), and she told me that all the males were called “Killer” and all the females were called “Bitch”. Their names clearly show what their owners thought of them. Poor, poor, dogs.

So once you’ve decided on a lovely name which the whole family loves, simply pair that name with good things (more help in this post).

So it’s

“Rover!” - treat

“Rover!” - treat

“Rover!” - open garden door to go out

“Rover!” - get lead for a walk

“Rover!” - treat

“Rover!” - muss up his hair

“Rover!” - present dinner bowl

“Rover!” - “get your ball!”, and so on.

It will take Rover no time at all to learn that this new word means very good things when he hears it, giving you the start of your super recall

And you’ll feel that Rover really is your dog. For ever.


Want to create an immediate and lasting bond with your new dog? Have a look at our online course specially for new dogs, or dogs whose training needs a bit of a brush-up!