Those tiny paws, big eyes and little snout are absolutely perfect – how will you possibly choose a name that is just as perfect as your new addition? Whether you have dozens of names that you can’t choose between, or you’re completely drawing a blank when thinking up names, it won’t be long until you find a name that just “sticks.” Keep in mind your pet’s personality, how they’ll change as they grow, and what that name will sound like after the twelfth time you’ve yelled it from your back porch.
The Science Of Pet Naming
Both cats and dogs can be taught to quickly respond to the sound of their name with the help of their preferred positive reinforcement. For most animals, this means food, but your cat or dog may also be motivated by a scratch behind the ears, happy praise or their favorite toy. For best results, mix up the rewards.
To make it even easier for your pet to respond to their name, choose one that uses sounds that are likely to pique their attention. Renowned animal behaviorist Patricia McConnell, Phd, suggests that dogs respond well to hard consonant sounds like “k,” “p,” and “d.”
Some experts suggest that animals respond to names that end in long vowel sounds like “ee.” Some names that include a hard consonant and ends with a long vowel sounds are “Kenny,” “Lucky,” “Freddy,” and “Dotty.”
Does It Fit?
It’s perfectly fine to experiment with new names for the first few days after you bring your pet home. It can take up to two weeks for them to settle in and show their true personality. You may find that your timid Mary is actually a loud and proud Fiona.
Try saying your pet’s experimental name in a conversational tone while they’re near, but looking elsewhere. A good name will provoke an ear twitch even if you do not raise your voice.
Renaming Your Pet
If your adopted pet is an adult that has had one name their whole life, it will take a while for them to adjust to a new name. You may want to choose a similar-sounding name to help them pick it up more quickly. Even so, after a few months of only using the new name, most pets will adjust without any trouble.
Teaching Your New Pet To Respond To Their Name
Whether you’re naming a young animal or an older one that already has a name, you can use the same technique to teach them to respond to their name.
Simply pair their name with their favorite things. Call your cat or dog from just a few feet away and toss them a treat. Praise them when they simply look your way. Over time, gradually practice calling them from a greater distance, and only give them a treat when they come to you. Do not call your pet more than once, or they will learn to respond to “Spot-Spot-Spot!” instead of coming the first time you call.
Do not call your pet by name when it is time for a bath, nail trimming or other unpleasant experience. Instead, simply retrieve your pet. Calling your pet over for something unpleasant “poisons” the sound of their name and makes them less likely to come to you when you call them over. Also avoid yelling your pet’s name to punish them. The sound of your pet’s name should be, to them, the best sound in the whole world.
Where To Find Your Pet’s Name
- Your favorite foods and beverages (Taco, Sushi, Eggroll, Chicken, Cookie, Honey, Tater, Mocha)
- Your favorite book characters (Harry, Hermione, Huck, Sherlock, Darcy, Pippi, Matilda)
- Your favorite celebrities (Johnny, Miley, Beyonce, Elvis, Kanye, Fergie)
- Your favorite scientists (Einstein, Hawking, Tesla, Edison, Marie)
- Your pet’s physical traits (Spot, Blanca, Espresso, Snow, Ember, Rusty, Cashew)
- Your pet’s birthday or adoption day (May, Tuesday, April, Friday)