Skip to content

Healthy Pets

Naming Your Dog or Cat

The science and fun of choosing a name for your next pet.
Font Size
A
A
A
By Roxanne Hawn
WebMD Pet Health Feature
Reviewed by Audrey Cook, BVM&S

Your pet's name isn't just about fun and creativity. It's also key to training, which affects your pet's safety and health.

Taught properly, pets’ names get their attention and alert them to act upon whatever comes next. Dog and cat names also lay the foundation for the human-animal bond, often with numerous, humorous nicknames sprouting up. Nelly-belly or Anna-banana, anyone?

Recommended Related to Pets

Best Pet Deshedding Tools

It’s on the sofa. It’s all over your favorite sweater. Tufts of it drift across the living room floor like tumbleweeds. Face it. Our furry friends will shed. But fortunately, there's an ever-growing array of deshedding tools to help us handle the hairy onslaught.

Read the Best Pet Deshedding Tools article > >

“I almost always pick people names,” says Cathy Lester of Centennial, Colo. “I think it’s more dignified and adds a lot of personality. I like offbeat names, something I haven’t heard before.”

Lester trains her dog to compete in obedience, agility, tracking, and herding events and prefers shorter, distinct names - usually two syllables. She named her new border collie puppy Victor because of the movie Young Frankenstein, in which Victor pronounced “Wictor” cracked her up.

Beyond humor, check out the science behind choosing dog and cat names.

Dog and Cat Vocabularies

"Absolutely, dogs and cats can learn their names," says Christopher Pachel, DVM, a board-certified veterinary behaviorist in Portland, Ore.

Names, after all, are words. And a growing body of research is attempting to track the mental abilities of pets, and dogs in particular.

Chaser, a border collie trained by researchers at Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C., is the newest star of canine intelligence. She understands the names of 1,022 objects.

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, Pachel says.

1 | 2 | 3

Today on WebMD

Puppy digging hole
Are you putting your pet at risk?
Cat looking at fish
Things we can learn from our pets.
 
dog and kitten
27 ways pets help your health.
tick
Get the facts about prevention.
 
Woman holding puppy
Article
Sad dog and guacamole
Slideshow
 
Siamese cat eating from bowl
Slideshow
cat on couch
Evaluator
 

Love your pets, hate your allergies?

Get tips for relief.

Loading ...

Sending your email...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

Thanks!

Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

Cat People vs Dog People Slideshow
Slideshow
Kitten playing
Quiz
 
Orange cat nuzzling woman
Slideshow
German shephard reading a book
Quiz