May 01, 2021
As I write this, my family of four is in a heated, ongoing debate over what to name our newest pup. We haven’t met her yet, but she’s busy wrestling with her littermates and will soon be ready for pick up at eight weeks. That means we need to get this naming thing nailed down.
My original plan was for Tess, an homage to a character in a novel I wrote a long time ago that has bounced back and forth in the editorial stage for years. The personal attachment there doesn’t extend to my wife and twin daughters, however, and they voted it down.
Although I’m a big fan of monosyllabic names, we’re leaning toward Sydney or Sadie. There really isn’t any reason for either, other than we just like them. They also don’t break any of my personal naming rules, so I’m guessing that little black Lab pup will answer to one or the other.
Obviously, naming a dog is highly personal and really only guided by the heart for non-working dogs. Sporting dogs might require a bit more mind-grinding, if only to avoid some issues in the field.
Play It Safe
Sammy Livingston, owner of Livingston Gun Dogs, says that there are a few considerations gun dog owners should make when deciding on a name. “I always struggle with names, but I generally think the shorter the better. I also tend to try to avoid any name that is also a word you might happen to shout in the field while you’re training or hunting.”
This might include Drake, for example. I think we can all agree that Drake is a fine name for a duck dog, but it’s also entirely possible you might have the occasion to shout, “Shoot that drake!” This would be like naming your GSP something like Rooster. You do you, but naming a dog a word that is bound to be part of hunting conversations has the potential to bring on some confusion in the field.
Think about this from the hunting perspective, but also from the training perspective. What if you plan to use a lot of hand signals tied to verbal commands and you name your dog Jack, which sounds like back? When a dog is running through the cattails at Mach 3, it’s not going to be able to hear you as well as it should, and this dynamic environment is where commands need to be clearest.
Stand Out of the Pack
This is a stretch as well, but something Livingston commented on that I wholly agree with— watch out for super popular names. My current Lab is named Luna, which was the most popular dog name a few years back. We meet Lunas everywhere, and while I don’t hunt with anyone else who owns a Luna, the odds aren’t zero that I eventually will.
That would obviously lead to some confusion in the pheasant field or the duck blind. Of course, none of this might matter if you’ve got a pup ordered up and you’re dead set on a name. If so, go for it. It’s your dog and your prerogative. But if you’re on the fence about what to call your new four-legged hunting partner, there are a few other things worth considering as well.
Let Out a Shout
How long is the name, and if it is long, should you shorten it? One trainer I chatted with said a client of his named their dog Valentina, which is a mouthful in the field. Maybe Val is a better option, or maybe not since it’s personal. Maybe, when you’ve got a pared down list of names you should head to the neighborhood park. Once there, shout your potential dog names at the top of your lungs to try them out. If you don’t end up in a straitjacket, you’ll probably realize some names are just clunky while others come out more naturally.
Treat naming a dog like training a dog. You should have fun with it, but you should also structure the process to consider potential future problems and how to get ahead of them. While it might seem like there is a lot of runway between what you call your new buddy and teaching him to flawlessly work a triple-blind or staunchly honor another dog’s point, the parallels are there.