A pet by any other name
Want just YOUR dog to come when you call them? When it comes to the pet naming game, choose wisely...
Just like human names, monikers for our animal mates go in and out of fashion. That’s why, if you want your dog to have a name that stands out from the crowd (so that only your four-legged friend responds when you call them) you may have to seek out a name that’s not so in vogue.
According to Agria Pet Insurance, over the last five years, puppy names in the UK’s top 10 have largely stayed consistent with Bella, Willow, Daisy and Lola leading the charge for female pets, whilst Teddy, Milo, Buddy and Reggie maintain the top spots for male dogs.
This means, if you opt for Bella or Teddy, when you call out for your dog in the park, rather than just your own canine chum rocking up, you could also be greeted by the Cockerpoo from down the road, a friendly Frenchie and a curious crossbreed you’ve never seen before.
A name less ordinary
Agria suggests that if you’re looking for a less common name, female names with the biggest fall from grace include Roxi, Libby and Peach, in addition to male names Spike, Nacho and Alan (have you ever met a dog called Alan?).
To really stand out in the dog park you could opt for human names which, according to research by language learning platform Babbel, have become extinct over recent decades. For the boys, these include Graeme, Horace, Melvyn, Nigel and Royston. For female dogs, how about Bertha, Beverley, Hilary, Kerry, Mandy or Phyllis?
The top 10 male puppy names, according to Agria Pet Insurance, are: Teddy, Milo, Buddy, Puppy, Reggie, Cooper, Loki, Max, Charlie and Bailey
Naming our pets creates an important bond with them
Giving our pets names is what lays the foundation for the human-animal bond. It’s also key to training. Dogs Trust states: “If you can get your dog’s attention as soon as you need it, by using their name, you can help to keep them safe. Remember, it takes time to build focus, so patience is important. Being able to gain your dog’s attention at any time is an important life skill. It will give you both confidence, wherever you are and whatever adventures you might be having.”
The top 10 female puppy names, according to Agria Pet Insurance, are: Bella, Willow, Daisy, Lola, Ruby, Poppy, Rosie, Mabel, Bonnie and Nala
What’s more, according to experts, our pets really do learn their names.
"Absolutely, dogs and cats can learn their names," says Dr Christopher Pachel, a veterinary behaviourist in Portland, Oregon, USA. “Names, after all, are words. And a growing body of research is attempting to track the mental abilities of pets, and dogs in particular. It's not yet clear if pets understand the abstract concept of a personal identifier – that they hear their name and know that you mean them – or if they simply hear it as word that means certain things may happen next.”
The most popular male cat names, according to Joii online pet care are: Milo, Loki, Simba, Leo and Charlie
According to Dr Pachel, certain consonants such as K, P and D create sounds with more energy, which activate more audio receptors in the brain that get your pet’s attention. Softer consonants and vowels trigger less of a brain response. He advises: “We know that giving a short, choppy command in an up-tone of voice is something that encourages motor activity (movement), whereas long, slow, soothing tones generally do not.”
Nicole Ellis, a certified dog trainer – who named her dog Rossi – recommends choosing a name that ends with a vowel, stating: “This matters because dogs distinguish frequency ranges at a much higher level than we do. With a vowel name, it’s really easy to get their attention.”
The most popular female cat names, according to Joii online pet care are: Luna, Bella, Nala, Lola and Willow
However, it’s advisable to avoid picking a name that’s similar to those of other pets and family members, as this could lead to confusion. If you’re Rita and Peter with a cat called Rosita, then naming your dog Zeta is probably not going to work too well. Likewise, a name that sounds like cue – Kit and sit, Beau and no, or Nate and wait – may also puzzle your pets.
How to teach your pet their name
Animals learn by association, so if your pet does something and is rewarded, the action is much more likely to be repeated. Use positive reinforcement so your pet learns that hearing their name means that something good is about to happen – such as a walk or a game.
The Dog People’s Irene Keliher advises: “Your dog will hear their name over and over and will learn to respond to it when learning commands. In fact, veterinary behaviourists agree that dogs recognise their names because something happens after they hear them. In other words, it can be more of a ‘cue’ word than a personal identifier. That means your dog needs to respond to her name and associate it with good things – so teach her to recognise her name with plenty of treats.”
Here are some top tips on teaching your pet to recognise their name:
- Use positive reinforcement to teach your pet name recognition. The idea is to teach your pet that their name means something good is about to happen, such as a walk, a game or a tasty treat.
- Remember that animals don’t speak English, so keeping an upbeat tone of voice and friendly, unthreatening body movements is essential.
- With some treats on hand, say your pet’s name and then using an indicator, such as a word like ‘yes’, immediately give them a treat. Wait a few seconds and then repeat. Do this for five minutes several times a day.
- After a few sessions your pet will begin to associate the sound of their name with a tasty treat. Now you can begin to call them when they are busy doing something else. Call your pet’s name and as soon as they turn or move towards you, say ‘yes!’ and immediately given them a treat.
- Repeat this exercise several times a day and in as many different environments as possible and your pet will begin to respond to their name reliably.
- Avoid using your pet’s name too casually, otherwise it will become like white noise and easy to ignore.
- Never use your pet’s name to correct them as they should always associate it with good things.
Helping you to help your pets live their best lives
Burgess Pet Care is a British, family-owned company and one of the UK's leading pet food manufacturers – and its story goes back more than 300 years. Using the expertise and experience built over the centuries, today Burgess produces high-quality, award-winning pet foods.
At Burgess Pet Care, we’re focused on helping pets and pet people understand more about the importance of healthy nutrition and caring for their animal companions in the best way possible. Here are some of the ways we can help:
- Got a question about caring for your pets or about the best way of feeding them? Ask our vet >>
- Looking for helpful advice for your pets? We’ve lots of great tips to help you give your animals the best life on our pet care pages >>
- Want to stay up to date with the latest news, trends and pet care advice? Head over to our Pet Talk blog >>
Is your pet a Burgess pet? Join the Burgess Pet Club for exclusive offers and rewards.
If you found this interesting, you may also like:
CALL ME BY MY (PET) NAME How do you decide on the perfect dog name that suits your canine chum’s personality to a tee? Or what about a sweet and sassy cat name that’s just right for your favourite feline? Not forgetting choosing exactly the right names for your small pets. Where can you get some pet name inspiration? Read on to find out more...
DOES YOUR CAT KNOW THEIR NAME? Does your cat know their name? Poppy? Molly? Charlie? Luna? If you've called your favourite feline one of these names, then you're totally on point
YOU’RE MY BEST FRIEND Recent research has revealed that half of the UK sees their dog as their best friend, rather than a pet, which probably comes as no surprise to many a devoted dog owner...
HOW TRENDY IS YOUR DOG? If you have a Labrador, French Bulldog, Cocker Spaniel, Pug, English Springer Spaniel or Bulldog, then you’re the proud owner of one of the six most popular breeds in the UK.
NEW PETS ON THE BLOCK From dogs to degus, cats to chinchillas – when did these awesome and amazing animals become our furry companions?
HOW TO TELL IF YOU HAVE A HAPPY PET Wheek-wheeking, bruxing, dooking, chirping, binkying, popcorning – there are all sorts of ways our pets tell us they’re feeling good, once you know what to look for...
ARE YOU A PET EXPERT? How clever is your dog? Why do cats groom so much? How high can chinchillas jump? What do you call a group of rats? Test your pet general knowledge with our fun and informative 12-question quiz. Answers at the end – but no peeking!
ARE YOU READY FOR A DOG? If you’re thinking of adding four paws, an inquisitive nose and a waggy tail to your life, make sure you really know what you’re taking on. Things to consider include cost, time, exercise and training – and the fact that your life will never be quite the same again...
ARE YOU READY FOR A CAT? If you’re thinking of bringing a feline into your life, make sure you know what you’re taking on. Cats may have a reputation for being self-sufficient and independent, but their world revolves around their human...
ARE YOU READY FOR RABBITS? If you’re thinking of adding some fluffy nose twitchers to your life, make sure you know what you’re taking on. Rabbits have a reputation for being ideal pets for children, but in fact, they need a great deal of looking after...
WHICH SMALL PET IS RIGHT FOR YOU? What’s your ideal small furry? There are so many adorable rodents – guinea pigs, hamsters, degus, gerbils, chinchillas, rats and mice – how do you make the right choice?
THE MERITS OF FERRETS Captivatingly curious and bristling with intelligence, ferrets are domesticated animals that have been adapted from wild. As pets, they are endlessly entertaining and respond well to human interaction and affection.
SHOW YOUR PETS THE LOVE Every pet deserves the best – from the right environment to the correct nutrition and plenty of attention from their human. This year, why not make a pledge to be the best pet owner you can possibly be?