Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Healthy Pets

Font Size

Naming Your Dog or Cat

The science and fun of choosing a name for your next pet.

How to Teach a Dog or Cat Its Name

Teaching (conditioning) a dog or cat to recognize its name takes time. Pets that have lived a solitary or low-interaction lifestyle first must learn that listening to your words pays off.

Whether it’s a few days or few weeks, the process of teaching a dog or cat its name is the same. Simply pair the chosen name with a positive experience.

That might mean a small, but high-value food reward such as real meat (chicken, beef, liver, fish) or perhaps an interactive game (fetch or tug with dogs, chasing toys for cats).

Keep it fun. Keep it light. Repetition and tone of voice matter. Use a happy tone of voice and say the name often. Immediately follow the name with a reward.

At first, a pet’s response to its name might be merely looking at you. You might need to add smooching noises or light clapping to encourage a response, but over time, the pet should learn to acknowledge its name alone.

Dog and Cat Name Science

Certain consonants (k, p, d) create broadband sounds with more energy across sound frequencies that get a pet’s attention. These sounds activate more audio receptors in the brain. Softer consonants and vowels trigger less of a brain response.

“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,” Pachel says.

People taking part in competitive dog sports often prefer short, one-syllable names. Others lean toward two-syllable names, with the first syllable as an introduction to the second, giving pets more warning that you want their attention. Some find great glee in creating long, unusual pet names such as Ginko Cornelius (one of my dog's names) or Beauregard Thibodaux.

From a pet-training perspective, Pachel says that the longer the time interval between when the name sounds begin and the delivery of the reward (food, play), the more repetitions it will take a pet to recognize its name. “It doesn’t mean they cannot or won’t make the connection to longer names,” he says, “but they’ll have to learn the whole name as one command. Shorter is much more direct, much more precise.”

Alexandra Horowitz, PhD, author of Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know, recommends picking names with some flexibility for both playful and serious uses, as the need arises. Often, two or more syllables provide for more vocal variations. She also suggests distinctive names that don’t sound like other words the pet often hears in daily life.

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.
Get the facts about prevention.
Woman holding puppy
Sad dog and guacamole
Siamese cat eating from bowl
cat on couch
Cat People vs Dog People Slideshow
Kitten playing
Orange cat nuzzling woman
German shephard reading a book